The Lonesome Death of Games Workshop

First up, GW are not dying (a), nor do I wish them to be (b).

(a) The reports I hear suggest that while their business model may come in for some criticism, they are doing fine at the moment, thank you. Can they sustain this? Well that sort of business forecasting is not my speciality. Read their annual reports and decide for yourself.

(b) Regardless of whether I play their games, appreciate Finecast as a medium or believe in their business model, I actually think that GW as a whole does some good things for the tabletop gaming hobby. Chief among these is simply introducing people to the concept of gaming with model soldiers and raising the profile of this hobby (with a small h) in general.

Having said that, I was struck the other day, by a sense of a real change in the way the gaming industry feels about GW. Of course I haven’t spoken to everyone, but I do talk to lots of people from all sorts of positions and roles within gaming and it’s a sort of cumulative and gradual feeling that’s been growing over the last few years.

It’s about what would happen if GW imploded and disappeared.

GW is undeniably the big player in tabletop gaming. A decade ago, if they had disappeared then it would have been sackcloth and ashes all round. Disaster and calamity would have ben the order of the day. This was the flavour of discussions at the time: even people who did not like GW didn’t wish them away because of the collateral damage they imagined it would have done. Not so now.

Now I get the strong impression that after the initial surprise people would see GW’s demise as an opportunity rather than a problem.

This may seem like nothing worth noting to people who haven’t been involved in gaming for ages, and perhaps I’m playing catch up here. Maybe I’m the last to twig. Maybe not though. This, for me, is quite a big conceptual shift within the industry. Perhaps it’s a sign of it growing up and maturing. Possibly it’s just that there are now other big dogs snapping at GW’s heels. You can argue about how far behind they are, but what matters is that there are enough medium sized gaming entities that GW falling would create more openings to exploit than problems to resolve.

So why am I posting this? Well it’s not to bash GW. As I said, on reflection I think I’d rather they survived. I’m really just punting the thought out into the shark-infested waters of the internet because I thought it was interesting.

What do you guys think? Has the imagined impact of a dead GW changed?

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90 Responses to The Lonesome Death of Games Workshop

  1. Adam Poots says:

    Hm. This is rather Trolly.
    Personally I am more interested on your musings on anything but games workshop.

    • Nah says:

      It’s a person who works in the industry talking about the largest individual player in that industry. Seems relevant to the blog to me.

    • It’s a difficult thing to talk about though Adam. I was accused of mass trolling when I wrote my Imperium as metaphor article. I wasn’t trolling I was letting my disappointment at the direction the company was taking come flooding out. It seems to me that whenever anyone wants to talk GW we’re trolling and I’m not sure that’s a healthy position for the industry to be in. However, I agree with on the point I’d rather see Jake discuss other things.

      To answer you Jake has there been a shift? I don’t know. I’ve spoken to a few retailers, some big and some small and they talk of the big three. Privateer Press, Battlefront and obviously Games Workshop. Many have said to me over the last 12 months that they think they could now survive without GW. That was not the case over the previous 12 months or any period of time before that. Whether they are right or not remains untested, and hopefully will do for many more years yet.

      There is a sense though that there are small franchises beginning to snap at GW’s heels on shop shelves, things like Infinity, Malifaux and Dust Warfare are starting to make in roads into the marketplace and gain significant footholds. Warlord Games have also managed to do what many before them had struggled to do and seem to have made historical wargaming enticing to those who naturally wouldn’t have pursued the historical side of the hobby. And there are yet more cool games on the way… Relic Knights, the rebirth of Confrontation and many more besides.

      As somebody who has manfully tried convincing others of the delights that lay beyond the GW bubble for about 15 years now I can hand on heart say it has never been easier to get people to try other things. I think 8th Edition gave my campaign a boost of hungry and willing gamers, and 6th Edition 40K has just topped that up for me. However, here’s the problem as I see it. Without GW those gamers wouldn’t have existed for me to poach. They are the big recruitment tool in the industry and still remain so. I hear people prattle on about Beasts of War and Mini Wargaming video’s bringing people into the hobby. However, if you aren’t already in the hobby how the hell would you know to to look?

      As a sector we don’t try to push beyond the boundaries of the community that already exists and is largely made by GW’s retail presence. We don’t advertise the latest expansion for Malifaux on radio or TV. I’ve never seen a double page spread in a newspaper proclaiming the introduction of anew edition of Warmachine. It’s why so many distributrs and producers are so keen for there to be bricks and mortar stores, not in the middle of industrial estates where no passing trade is ever likely to happen, but in the center of our towns and cities. So long story short, do we now have enough independent stores around the globe and indeed in the UK to survive the disastrous effects of a GW implosion?

      I’m not so sure we do, certainly not in the UK. It would certainly provide a short term cash boost to online retailers as people flocked to find other games. It might even allow a number of them to expand. But it wouldn’t be sustainable because the model many of these larger online retailers use is not conducive to bring new people into the hobby. The irony is that the likes of Maelstrom and Waylands need the GW high street presence to thrive long-term, yet their business model harms the very thing which feeds them new customers. There will be a shake up at some point I’m sure, but whether it’ll be GW imploding, or them deciding to retract and not supply third parties again is anybodies guess.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      @ Adam Poots – This post is really about the rest of the games industry rather than GW per se. It seems that merely mentioning GW gets a knee-jerk label of “Troll”.

      If I were ranting about Finecast being rubbish or the abandonment of Specialist Games then you might have a point. But I’m not.

      What’s interesting here is the development of the industry as a whole and how its reaction to the fate of its biggest player seems to have changed. That seems like a legitimate subject for discussion to me.

      @ FLG: I’d generally rather talk about things other than GW too, and mostly I manage that. This was just a notion that’s been rattling round my head for a while and wasn’t going to go away till I aired it for discussion. I almost ended with “let the flame war commence”, but thought better of it. No need to encourage people 😉

      I agree with your assessment, and I don’t think that most people have thought about the practical market effects of GW disappearing. It’s all somewhat moot as I don’t see it happening, but the shift in perception is intriguing. At least, I find it so. People seem to think that they could get by without GW, but could they? Really? As you say, where would the next generation of gamers cut their teeth?

      • “The Lonesome Death of Games Workshop” is quite the title. I’ll stick to my guns about feeling that the title is “trolly”. I understand your intent was to invite discussion but a more direct title could have been just as effective. “What would happen if GW imploded and disappeared?” Talking about GW is not trolling, suggesting their death in a title while being a major ex part of the company well…

        I personally think it would be very bad for the independents. There should be another surge of game hungry nerds as the hobbit movies roll out. Games Workshop provides a very polished appetizer course and easy first step into the hobby.

        The video game industry might see effects in the long term too.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          The title is based on a Dylan song I was listening to at the time (The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carol), and is the kind of darling that should probably have been murdered.

          Actually, GW’s imagery would be an important loss too. However derivative one might think it is, they are good at popularising visual archetypes that subsequently turn up in both video games and even movies. I wonder who people would pick to plunder if that “resource” wasn’t available.

  2. Nah says:

    GW has changed their target audience to teenagers and older children and has largely abandoned their customer base of the 1990s. Other companies have stepped up to cater to those individuals and GW can keep doing it’s thing, churning through teenagers with their demo sales process and hoping they’ll buy a starter, a codex, some paints, WD and a unit or two before they quit.

    There are still areas in the world where the majority of GW’s customers are adults. And where large portions of the adult gaming population play GW’s games (or at the very least, collect their miniatures, even if they never play). So while GW doesn’t care about these customers, they are still having an impact on this market and GW’s demise would free them up to be other people’s customers.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      It would in the short term, but who would generate the next wave of potential customers? Do we, as an industry, need a certain number of physical stores on high streets to survive at this volume, or can we replace that with more online presence (or something else)?

    • Ben says:


      Are you saying that GW targeted an older or younger demographic in the 1990’s than they do now? I get the impression you mean it was an older one but either way as someone who gamed in GW regularly in both the 80’s and 90’s that was not the case. The target audience has always been c.11-14 year old boys (into which I fell when I began gaming Warhammer in 1986). Anyone who could be retained as a customer beyond that was a bonus. The main difference seems to me to be that as the company has grown it has had to squeeze increasing amounts of sales from that demograph before it loses them.

  3. I think the evolution of Blood Bowl is a good example of what would happen. In many respects, GW is dead in the BB community – sure they still own the rights and make some figures (but not covering the whole range of teams), but BB has come leaps and bounds in the last 10 years though Community involvement. As such it has also spawned a number of companies who make compatible “fantasy football” teams. Is this an anomaly? Perhaps, but its shows what a bunch of spirited people can do if they put their minds to it.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      The Blood Bowl community is amazing. I managed BB for GW for a while, and was always impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm of them as a group. DreadBall has put me back in contact with quite a few folk from the BB community and the story they tell me is one of slow stagnation. Even with the support of third parties making new models and suchlike, together with fan designed teams, it’s not as vibrant as it used to be. The fact that it’s done as well as it has it what is impressive though.

  4. jonahmaul says:

    I’m not sure whether GW are dying or going to any time soon (also not a business analyst!) but it does seem to me and a lot of other people that I talk to that GW’s target audience and marketing strategies have left a lot of people disillusioned with a company they used to love. I have more or less (not completely, but mostly) stopped buying GW figures now because the price increases have left me unable to afford to build new armies (I used to buy all the Codex’s and Army Books because I love the fluff but at £25-£30 a pop now this isn’t possible) and the issues with Finecast have left a very sour taste in my mouth. As a result I have now started looking elsewhere for my gaming products (facilitated by joining a club that gives me the opportunity to play other companies games, something I’ve not really had before). GW’s policies have turned me, a GW collector/gamer of over 15 years, to other companies and over the last few months I have bought, or pledged for, Super Dungeon Explore, Zombicide, Malifaux, Dreadball and Relic Knights.

    If GW were to go under, which I think is very unlikely, then there are plenty of other companies out there offering alternatives for people to play. For many years GW has been the clear market leader in the actual miniatures that are produced for tabletop gaming but this is no longer the case. Some of the miniatures produced by Wyrd, Mantic, Soda Pop etc. are on a par with GW’s now if not surpassing them. As I said, I don’t think GW will go under, their profits may decline and their position as market leader challenged but I think there are so many players out there who want to play GW games and purchase their miniatures that it’s hard to see them failing completely. Nevertheless, they should look at the business models of other companies who value the customer and not the profit margin (especially Mantic) if they want to regain the loyalty of some of the hobbyists, like myself, who have stopped spending their money on GW products.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Whilst that may all be true (and this is wandering slightly, if predictably, off topic), you are talking only about retaining existing gamers. GW have long since given up on worrying about that and focus on recruiting new ones.

      That is the key point: where does the new blood come from if GW no longer had their chains of stores and were, in many ways, the public face of tabletop gaming?

      • jonahmaul says:

        That’s true. Business isn’t really my area but I would think that brand loyalty should be a big part of business. If GW were retaining players such as myself and the other people I know who have become disillusioned recently we would be telling our friends, siblings, children etc. to go to GW and play their products. As it is we’re not. We are warning people away from them because we don’t want our friends etc. being the next ‘buy a codex, a few box sets and leave’. We want them to have the same enjoyment we do from our hobby so we are now telling them about the other companies who whilst not having the visible presence of GW produce games that are fun, more affordable, and have fans and support if you look around for gaming clubs etc. GW’s new store opening hours have seen the numbers at the club I go to double (and I only joined just before the change of hours too) and those people are going to be introduced to new systems at that club. I am sure the same is happening everywhere.

        • jonahmaul says:

          GW’s stores are very much the public face of gaming though, as witnessed by the media stories related to the company as in comparison to other companies. If they did not exist I do not know how it would affect the tabletop games industry as a whole but I suspect that somebody would open up their own chain of stores (probably Mantic or maybe an independent looking to branch out) to fill the gap in the market. Other companies want to increase their profits as well, they are businesses after all, but go about it in a different way.

  5. Quirkworthy says:

    Would increasing the number of clubs be a replacement for a loss of GW’s high street retail presence in terms of recruitment? It wold help, certainly. I doubt it would be enough.

    Gaming aside, the high street retail trade is dying on its feet anyway with shops closing everywhere – supposedly the victim of online trading. Whilst the articles I’ve read on the general problems of retail suggest that niche shops are dying less quickly, the new paradigm that we haven’t yet found but are groping towards will inevitably impact gaming just as it will every other business sector.

  6. bongoclive says:

    Surely there’s room for all.

    We shouldn’t wish any company away, we should simply wish more into existence, thereby increasing choice!!

    Now is a good time to be a gamer.

  7. Kristian says:

    I remember talking to my local games shop owner in the mid-to-late 1990’s. (Man, I spent too much time and money there …)
    His business was mainly GW, but that day he wasn’t very pleased. When they’d started, the unofficial GW motto had been “everyone can play our games, they’re fun”. It had just been updated to “upper middle class, please”.

    Basics, Flavour of the Month, Special Interest:
    * Basics is food, clothing, and – these days – cars. You can get it anywhere, easy to sell, hard to make a lot of money.
    * Flavour of the Month is currently smartphones and tablets – charge what you like. A clever idea will get you far if you’re first. High margins, temporarily high volume.
    * Special Interest Groups is Vinyl, Opera, and War Games – a small group of people with free time and money are prepared to pay. Not much profit because the customer base is too small.

    GW is like Microsoft (I won’t be the first to make that comparison). At one time people were “afraid” of that company. Today not so much. The focus has shifted to Google or Facebook – companies that wouldn’t exist if MS hadn’t put a reasonably easy to use computer in every home.

    Would suggest that as a Special Interest Group the “business” still needs big players like GW just to keep the logistics in place: manufacture, distribution, physical shops.

  8. Steve says:

    Very interesting topic of how GW will effect the rest of the hobby… It really is true that GW has a massive public face for wargaming, and they would bring a LOT of people into the hobby. I wonder now if some of the competitors have the resources to start stepping up a bit and marketing themselves in other industries such as video games, books and movies which GW has successfully done to increase awareness? Or begin making models of popular lines like Star Wars miniatures and the Batman game that Knight Miniatures is making then marketing them to the general public? These areas are what will help the hobby grow significantly.

    No doubt GW still easily has the richest universe and best range of complete armies for a full tabletop game, but in almost all other areas they are being at least equaled if not beaten by other companies, so they do need to change their ways to survive.

    I am another disenchanted ex GW player; I played GW games exclusively for about 10 years and do still occasionally have a game of WHFB but I have completely stopped buying from them and I’m not keeping up to date with rules or even rumours now. Its not just the constant steep price rises, their rules seem dumbed down now with too many over powered things, its lost its magic and seems far too corporate driven rather than driven by a love of the game that it used to have. Quite sad to see and I honestly do hope they make massive changes, but the damage may have already been done now.

    I definitely agree that there seems to be enough strong competition around now that the hobby will survive, and its always been a hobby where current players are the main driving force for bringing in new players. Lots of indie stores are quite well setup now with painting stations and gaming tables so the hobby could probably survive well without GW, but the influence would no doubt be felt. I really hadn’t considered the overall impact to everyone else before reading this blog post.

  9. chibipaul says:

    It would be a ripple after a big splash.
    There are too many top quality sculptors and rule sets out on the market with new ones coming through all the time. Kickstarters have really taken off making financing of new exciting projects easier.
    I would only feel sorry for the fans who get a lot of fun out of the game. But it would still be played.
    Fandoms are very adept at making sure their interests survive. Apart from which there is a likelihood of a takeover and the company continuing.

    • Steve says:

      Thats the only reason why I might feel happy if GW does run itself into the ground. There is a very high chance that their IP would be taken up by someone else, and if so we may well see a better managed and operated GW arise from the ashes with a whole new team in charge.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        On the whole it seems that games without active companies behind them die pretty quickly. Take Confrontation for example. Whilst it is still fondly remembered it is very little played. It will be interesting to see how much of that nostalgia can be carried over by the Phoenix edition.

  10. Douglas says:

    I never want GW to die. I would be very upset if they did. They’re a huge part of British culture and were a huge part of my early teenage life. I don’t think their products are as good or fun as they were in the mid 90s, but it’s important to me that the company still exists.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      But the nostalgia isn’t as good as it used to be.

      • Joshua says:

        “The present is half as pleasant as our nostalgia for the past as we present it.” BNL lyrics aside, I’ve spent the last few days trying to track down 5th Ed Bretonnian models, wishing GW still had their full collectors catalog available like they did back in 03-04.

    • Ben says:

      I don’t think their products are as good or fun as they were in the late 80’s. Coincidentally that’s also my first few years of playing their games.

      • Kristian says:

        Original Star Wars (which came out when I was young) is great, the prequels are rubbish. Etc.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          You forgot to mention that the original version is now emasculated after he went back and made a bunch of ill advised changes. And even though I do see the point you are making, it’s hard to argue against the prequels being rubbish 😉

  11. Well, then we’d have Fantasy Flight managing their legacy IP… and that would be sweet!

  12. tornquistd says:

    I think it is clear GW does a lot to make the hobby visible and that they have the capital to develop new products. For me looking any change in how useful GW is the the hobby is related the effectiveness of internet blogs, youtube and news. Currently is GW or the internet doing more to bring the hobby to the public? Hard to say however when you look at the growth in the internet publicity of the hobby I think it is clear that internet media is still growing quickly so no matter where the balance is today in the future the importance of GW’s hobby promotion function should diminish.

    The falling cost of production is also a factor that is clearly a game changer for anyone competing with GW with new products.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      As important as the Internet might be, there is so much available to look at. Too much, perhaps. The question is how do potential gamers know to look in the right place in the first instance?

      • tornquistd says:

        Gauging by my 9 year old and the things he can find on the internet the next generation might have better luck finding stuff compared to us oldsters. However he needs key words to work with. Somehow the narrative of what the hobby is and why it is fun needs to get out. A retail store is an expensive way to do this. As you have found out forums also have issues. Something has to catch the eye and to get someone new interested and a lot of what is currently on the web does not really meet that criteria. If the hobby needs to depend on GW to bring new people into the hobby I think that is a bit of a problem.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I think it’s an intriguing puzzle. Someone just needs to unravel this particular Gordian Knot and devise a better way for attracting people into the hobby.

        • Jake there’s no need to devise a better way of getting people into the hobby. It already exists. It’s called marketing. Unfortunately the likelihood is that to get similar results to a decent retail chain you’d arguably need to spend more money on it. I’ve thought around this conundrum for a number of years. There are options available to companies to go beyond the already converted… but none of them go for them. There must be a reason. I refuse to think that the idea’s I’ve had are massively revolutionary. They are probably far too expensive.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I’ll believe that if you’re thinking of traditional marketing tools. However, given the increasing number of technical options, many of them comms channels, I can’t help but wonder whether there isn’t a possibility that we’re (collectively) missing…

        • tornquistd says:

          Yes I think there is. I have noticed many other hobbies are much the same. How much of the internet bandwidth (foirms, blogs etc..) is used to complain about a product or company? Now think about how much content that is thoughtful “what I enjoy about wargamming” or “why wargamming is fun”. You also have violent backlash in forums where only the people who do the hobby “correctly” are accepted. I see a hobby as a form of goofing off and don’t think we need anyone telling us how to do it “correctly”. I think a focus on what works for us and makes the hobby fun in what we post would be a good start. I used to race r/c cars and that is now a hobby that has a lot of product available with any stores that have toys seem to carry r/c cars but not that many clubs that race them. Racing is much more interesting than running around a parking lot for a few minutes but racing requires structure that does not happen casually. I am hoping wargaming does not go that direction.

  13. thedauntless says:

    Nice concept, Jake – though pretty leading title! I think that a loss of GW, hypothetically speaking, would be very far reaching and overwhelmingly negative for the hobby – with or without a capital h.
    I think that the industry is what it is today thanks to the efforts of an earlier GW, and while I don’t anticipate their demise or even substantial reduction in the near future (regardless of the anticipated increased output), I feel that the pressure of competition that they might feel is both a curse and a blessing. That one company should hold a monopoly over all who wish to enter the market indefinitely is an impossibility – at least in the modern market; and GW paved the way for such a problem to exist for themselves – they are victim to their own success, but have also shown remarkable flexibility in how they remain in pole position. Their business model can afford some degree of risk when they are the top dog by some margin, and as it stands, they can easily campaign to bring in new consumers while maintaining their old fanbase where no other company truly can diversify and still see commercial profit. I’ve opened a games club in the school where I work, and when I raised the possibility of low-points lunchtime war-gaming, nobody had a clue what I was referencing. When I said “Warhammer”, I got a resounding excitement – or at least HOBBY recognition(Not brand, as my guys see Warhammer as synonymous with the hobby). My greater intention is to weave in Malifaux, Kings of War and Dreadball over the next term too, but to start there might not help further the hobby with those on the fence (No offence to any creators of the aforementioned systems!) GW remains the top draw, and as far as I can tell – competition is only a good thing for consumers and gamers alike. Now if the questions was “Is GW taking more than giving”, I’d agree wholeheartedly – it is the one fear I have that there will be little take up on the hobby in the school- as their retail cost is becoming prohibitive (especially to new gamers; established hobbyists tend to weather the storm in our OCD approach to the hobby). But that is an issue for another debate.
    GW occupy a position that brings an awareness,enrichment and accessibility that permeates more than the games systems themselves – video-gaming, literature and pop culture owe a lot to the grand old gent of war-gaming, and I’ anticipate more loss than gain in the vacuum of a GW collapse – certainly in the shorter term.

    There are however, elements that I don’t agree with here too – regarding the nostalgic argument about GW being indivisible from British/European culture – the same may be said of Hungry Hungry Hippos (that’s right, I went there) – but the market isn’t as emotionally attached to such things as human peoples are – it is purely driven on the value and profit that company/product sees. As it stands, people loves their Warhammer and their Hippo, so they still get made, and more importantly, still make money – a reason to continue existing. When GW gets bogged down by enough alternate systems that are COMPETITIVE, then we should review this thread; that scenario allows for someone or more companies to trump GW while GW are still marketable and operative – a more organic cross-over of hobbyists would take place – the same one, in fact, that would have allowed GW to ascend the throne in the first place – but again, an argument for another day!

    sorry for the length of the rant!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      No need for apologies Shane.

      That Warhammer is synonymous with war gaming for your audience is a common reflection of GW ‘s high street presence. It’s what young gamers encounter first and very often is the only thing they know. One of the marks that the Internet has made is by combining Warhammer with other games on the same sites. That way people who know only Warhammer are exposed to the many alternatives and GW inevitably lose a fraction of their flock. Before review sites such as BOW, BOLS, TGN and popular blogs such as FLG this was far less of an issue for GW and they could retain customers longer. I’d guess that this is part of the dynamic which means that GW has to extract more cash in a shorter time from the same audience. Just a guess though, and rather off the topic I had originally in mind.

      • thedauntless says:

        I realise that I just took your idea and moulded into something a little different – apologies again! I guess the sum of my INTENDED point was that I think that the short-term effect would be detrimental to hobbyists and the hobby itself. If other companies were competitive – and by that I mean financially competitive (as companies like Mantic etc. are certainly making real market headway and justifiably gaining support by the hour), then there will be something there to fill the void, but at the moment, I feel that GW carries the weight of the industry. If it were to fold, it’d be a scramble and we’d see far more companies bottom out in the rush than the support seen in the (percieved) second and third tier systems we see out there at the moment. Having a common market enemy (read:competition) in a giant like GW, we see smatterings of interest in existing gamers pretty evenly spread. In a few years time, if current trends continue, then GW will share a less influential balance of gaming interest to make such a difference – but like I said above, it’d take a company or companies success to really peak for a consistent period of time before that kind of organic take-over could happen.

  14. Sunfyre says:

    I believe that how GW ‘vanishing’ would affect the gaming community is largely regional based. In the UK, GW has a much greater footing with their stores and whatnot so they naturally would bring a lot of folks the wander into their stores. As I am not from the UK, I can’t say how the indy scene is there. That store GW labelled store network is a massive boon in that region, but something that, while seen in the USA, isn’t nearly as prominent nor effective.

    However, if you look at the Portland Oregon area of the West Coast USA (Can’t really talk about other indy scenes that I haven’t been involved in), that is much different. The indy scene is the only gaming scene. Granted, many stores have closed their doors within the last year, so GW isn’t a saviour of the hobby in this region. Ignoring that fact however, when Knightfall Games was up and running my wife and I would make a trip there every week to play Heavy Gear Blitz as that was our ‘socializing’. While there you would see maybe one game of Warhammer something, our game of HGB, a game of Infinity, usually one of WarmaHordes, and if someone was feeling froggy maybe even a Flames of War battle on an other table. This was in addition to the MTG and Pokemon players that frequented the store.

    It is that mix that players tend to find themselves introduced to new game types. I can’t count how many times people would wander over and simply watch my PRDF and my wife’s Black Talons maul each other with mortar rounds and autocannon shots for a few turns. There is also a very important factor between a decade ago and today, and that is the growth of the internet. A simple Google search will bring up local shops/clubs, various games can be found on wiki as well as their own forums, youtube is loaded with ‘how-to-play’ videos, ect, but 10 years ago the internet was just starting the explosive growth towards what it has become.

    So should GW ever actually vanish for one reason or another, it will become that particular regions responsibility to find something to bring new players in. For the UK maybe Mantic would step up to the plate (Who knows, maybe, just a dart thrown in the dark on my part), in the USA Privateer Press is doing respectably well in terms of growth, while even DP9 has been amazingly active lately. I don’t think however that a single entity, such as current GW, would be able to really grasp the hobby as a whole again. GW rose to fame when there simply wasn’t as many competitors as their is today, so they had their footing well established. PP, Mantic, DP9, Cipher Studios, ect will all be taking their own chunks of the industry, as they aim for different player types/genres.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Excellent points! Regional variations will be key. This is why I ask these silly questions here – comments like this that make me think.

      I wonder if the level of gaming in places where there a no GW stores now is a more “natural” level of gamers. Or perhaps I mean density rather than level. Or population.

  15. Ben says:

    It would be a disaster for the hobby. That it wouldn’t be quite the same size of disaster it would have been five years ago doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a disaster. Many current mini-gamers only play GW products, if GW were to go out of business then most of them would cease mini-gaming altogether rather than go elsewhere (if they were prepared to go elsewhere then they would already be doing so). Additionally, and has been pointed out, the biggest gateway into the hobby would be slammed shut. The hobby wouldn’t die but it would see the same mass contraction that the comic book industry has seen since it lost the newstands in the early 80’s. It would become an increasingly expensive specialist hobby which appealed to a minimal audience.

    • Steve says:

      How does that make sense? If the ‘hobby’ lost the GW exclusive players who right now aren’t spending any money on any other miniature gaming companies suddenly stopped as a result of GW failing any other companies would feel any profit change since they weren’t spending there anyway, right? The only ones that might notice are those that sell hobby supplies like blades and brushes. If anything it would be a short-term boost to other companies as some GW-only people switched to them while others left.

    • I quite agree with Ben.

      I continue to be astonished, in this Internet age, how many people not only still have their first encounter with miniatures wargaming at a Games Workshop but stay there, sometimes for years, never straying beyond its borders. I recently spoke to a great enthusiast of GW products – a teenager, very online-savvy, with a substantial collection of space marines who also has a Dad who is keen on the hobby who hadn’t even heard of Forge World. Whenever I explain what I do for a living the most common question is “You mean, like Warhammer?” The second most common question is “Do you work for Games Workshop?”

      Standing outside my local GW a couple of months ago I fell into conversation with a guy in his 20s – a soldier in the Royal Signals, as it happened – who had just come out of the shop. He had no idea that there was a wargaming presence online. He was a frequent user of social networks, did lots of online shopping and knew his YouTube from his Reddit but it had never occurred to him to look for wargamers online. As a result, he had no idea that there was an independent retailer (Total Wargamer) closer to him than Games Workshop. He had never heard of Warmachine or Privateer Press. He thought the only other sort of wargaming was done by old men with beards and fifty-year-old armies of lead spartans painted with Humbrol enamels.

      Even in my travels around wargaming clubs, where gamers come to congregate and share their enthusiasms, I am amazed at the pervading ignorance of things I consider to be positive ubiquitous: Beats of War, Tabletop Fix, Bell of Lost Souls, Rankings HQ, KR Multicase, The D6 Generation…

      Whilst the demise of GW may not be the blow to miniatures wargaming it once was, the strategy gaming community has a heck of a lot more to do if it or any other single body is going to be more than a larger-than-average remora clinging to the belly of the Great White* shark.


  16. Ben says:

    Those miniature companies get the bulk of their sales from the GW gamers who do want to try other games. Without the GW gateway much of their audience would gradually disappear (as per the comic book industry analogy where 20 years a comic selling 100,000 units per month would be an afterthought but now would be the top selling book overall). Then you have the lost sales to companies who depend on GW’s fanbase such as the hobby producers you mention but more importantly the retailers. It was mentioned in a comment above that some retailers have reached a point in the last year where they could lose GW and take a hit but maybe not go out of business. As sales retard for non-GW lines because of the loss of new intake GW generates then those retailers would go out of business. Both the market and the means of reaching the market would contract. Prices would go up which would further contract the market and what you would have left is an aging and gradually diminishing demographic.

    • Ben says:

      This should have been a reply to Steve’s reply above :s

      • Ben says:

        And the point I was trying to make but probably didn’t articulate clearly enough when I said I didn’t think the bulk of GW gamers would try other games is that their money would be lost to the industry permanently. It wouldn’t be the case that this money would be invested in other games and thus allow the industry to carry on as is. The loss of this significant amount of income (and not to mention the loss of playerbase which would also have a significant effect on retarding the recruitment of new gamers) coupled with the huge diminishing of new gamers would be a disaster for the industry.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I take your point Ben, though the regional comment is also important. My original thought was that GW was perceived as being far less important than it used to be, and following on from that I’m wondering now what would need to be done to make their loss not an issue at all. Finding a new gateway would seem the obvious and key issue, which in itself is also a worthwhile thought for parts of the world where GW does not have a lot of presence. If we assume that there are many more people out there who would enjoy gaming if only they were exposed to it, how do we do that? Is high street stores the only way? Could an enterprising soul corner a market in, say NZ, by working out the way to introduce sufficient new gamers?

        • Ben says:

          Whilst I’m happy to concede the point regarding regional variance to GW’s market dominance it’s a red herring to the broader point of the state of the hobby in their absence. If there are regions in which GW’s dominance appears not to be strong yet GW dominates the overall global market in the way they do then there can only be two explanations. That even in areas where GW’s market penetration appears comparatively weak it is still greatly outstripping its competitors or that the bulk of worldwide wargames sales (and by extension the bulk of wargamers) are situated in areas in which GW is strong. Either way their absence would be greatly felt, the best case scenario is that the second explanation is true and GW’s demise leaves oases of wargaming across the world which carry serenely on in their wake.

          Moving on to the question you pose there would seem to be, again, two scenarios which would allow the wargames market to absorb the loss of GW with minimal impact. The first is that a similarly gargantuation sales monolith has already replaced them or the market has fragmented to such an extent that overall sales remain stable but are spread between many different companies. Either way GW’s doom would be guaranteed and the market wouldn’t care. I can’t see the former happening any time soon (though important change tends to seem impossible in advance and inevitable in hindsight) and if it does then all we’ve done is replace one GW for another. The second seems much more likely of the two. Because I like drawing analogies I’ll draw another one here with sport on the telly. Back in the 80’s there were 3-4 channels in the UK and no internet so if you wanted to watch sport you were exremely limited in your choice. Any sport which could get itself on the telly was guaranteed popularity (snooker, darts and the NFL spring immediately to mind). Now the proliferation of digital channels and the internet means any sport can be watched by someone with the will to find it. No minority sport now commands the popularity that snooker and darts did in the 80’s but many more sports are able to find an audience. It’s not too difficult to see a scenario (and indeed much of this blog post and it’s feedback is predicated on it) wherein increased exposure via the internet leads to a fragmented marketplace. For that to happen though the internet would need to supercede GW as the gateway into the hobby which is again something I can’t see happening any time soon, if ever. A fragmented marketplace also brings its own issues with finding opponents and one of the reasons why GW was able to take over the market to begin with was because it provided new players with ready made opponents.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          The ease of finding opponents is something that’s been touched on, but we’ve probably not yet given it the importance it deserves. It’s a core and very practical issue for games, and again, it’s GW high street presence which acts as a common focus for many people who live within striking distance of one. There, at least, you know you’ll find opponents for Warhammer & 40K.

          The internet is all well and good, but if you’ve got dozens of games struggling for attention, how do you find a local opponent? It’s a tricky one.

        • Ben says:

          As the likes of Infinity, Empire of the Dead and much of Spartan Games’ rules catalogue has gathered dust on my shelves it’s a conundrum I’ve not yet been able to figure out.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          And you’re far from alone in that.


        • Ben says:

          In spirit of playing games gathering dust on the shelf, Tribes of Legend. I’ve a favour to ask about ToL, is there a way of contacitng you?

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I’ve sent you an email.

  17. Buhallin says:

    IMHO, Sunfyre’s point about regional differences above is the most important made here so far.

    While I understand the concerns over the loss of GW as a gateway, in the US they’re honestly nothing special in that regard. We don’t have much in the way of actual GW stores – they’ve grown lately, but they tend to be small, understaffed, and present no more presence than any other average LGS. And it’s that average LGS that brings people to gaming, not the GW stores. They may end up in GW anyway, because it’s generally the biggest, but that only happens once they’re in the store, and if GW were gone the store would steer the somewhere else.

    I think the loss of revenue is overstated as well, at least for the industry as a whole. GW gamers who are willing to try other things will put their gaming dollars elsewhere. Those who won’t aren’t likely to be spending anything on other games right now, so Privateer and Wyrd are unlikely to see a big impact from their departure. What it would do to the stores is another matter entirely, and one I can’t answer. Would enough GW-only players depart to cripple the game stores? I honestly don’t know, but I expect savvy stores would find ways to encourage people to experiment with new games.

    Would it be a net good for the industry? Depends on why you think GW is big in the first place. Personally, I think their overwhelming advantage comes in the existence of the playerbase. People don’t like buying expensive models for fringe games they’ll never get to play with anyone, or hanging out down at the LGS for two hours hoping someone will show up with – as someone who prefers smaller games and fights that a lot, I can’t really blame them. So if GW went away I fully expect that we’d see someone – probably Privateer – step up and fill that hole as we saw a mass transition to the next big thing.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      And we know how gamers do like the next big thing. Especially if it’s shiny…

    • tornquistd says:

      I will second that. In the western US GW as a gateway is nothing special and their retail stores are bland. I walked into the one in my area a few weeks ago and no one tried to find out anything about me. After a discrete wait they did sell me a box of figures my kids wanted. If I had come in looking for information on the hobby the other hobby shops are doing better at it and the store was in a strip mall so no danger of walk in traffic. Here the main impact of GW seems to be the oooh shiny covers on their rule books and the art work on their large boxed games. Also with a lot of space vs the number of people I think the impact of the internet increases. Hard not to envy the larger number of wargamers per square mile in UK

  18. LavaJohn says:

    Speaking from the perspective of a New Zealander, if GW disappeared tomorrow it would not effect wargaming locally. There are only 2 GW stores in the whole country (at opposite ends of a fairly long country mind you) most of the local GW sales come from indie retailers. In saying that there are 2 retailers in my town and neither of them rely on wargaming products for revenue. One is a comic store with a large section for GW, PP and FOW products (they also order in other game systems on demand and have a wide selection of niche board games) and the other is a more gaming focused store that survives on Magic: The Gathering and other card games. Both use wargaming to supplement profits, not as a primary source.

    From a community standpoint the largest tournaments in the country for GW products tend to equal turnout for PP only tournaments BUT the GW tournaments need 40k, fantasy and LotR to make up numbers. There are also lots of tournaments starting up for Malifaux and Dystopian wars. (I personally will be trying to bring Mantic games more into the scene next year.)

    So locally I would expect GW games to continue to be played after GW vanishes, there will be support internally within the community and models will be purchased from auction sites and online retailers until supplies dry up. What will really drown that community will be the unbalanced state the game will be left in. I highly doubt that most of the GW players will simply stop wargaming just because GW falls. Admit it, GW starts an addiction. They may disappear for a while (I stopped for a 3 year period) but they will be back, and looking for something new to play in the remnants of ‘the fall.’

    As to how to bring in new gamers? The business models of my local stores seems like a good bet. Walking into a store for one product, walking out with another. Not to mention all the existing gamers trying to get ‘fresh meat’ or people tired of TCGs or board games looking for a bigger challenge. We all started somewhere but not all of us in a GW store.

    The bigger threat I see is what would bring down GW? Aside from their business practices the most likely giant slayer is video games and the next generations short attention span. Why play 40k on a table when you can play a video game of the same thing?

    • Buhallin says:

      Why would the lingering unbalanced state of GW games following a collapse be any different than what players deal with now? 😛

      And to take on a tangent, I really wish tabletop gamers would stop acting like old men trying to shoo kids off their lawns. Are video games a threat? Yes. Is it some lack of attention span or unwillingness to put in effort on the part of the younger generation? Looking at the number of hours and massive achievement list my nephew racks up in the various CoDs, it’s really not.

      If there’s a difference in the newer generations, it’s that they’re less willing to put up with un-fun overhead to get to the good parts. This is, IMHO, more a function of the massive amount of entertainment at hand rather than anything generational. IMHO, this is a bigger threat to the future of minis games than GW’s failure would be. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to address without stumbling into arguments and sacred cows that make discussing GW’s demise look absolutely trivial by comparison.

      • LavaJohn says:

        It would be different in that whatever was most broken at the fall of the company would stay most broken, rather than changing every few months. So less powerful armies would be staying on dusty store shelves compared to the power armies. You would also see (even more) mirror match to the point where 40k/fantasy is entirely mirror matches (kind of like chess rather than a tabletop wargame.)

        Not trying to sound like an old man, you made my point better than I did, not sure you realise it though! Your nephew has a huge list of achievements across several games not just one. So he game hops just as much if not more than 40k players with flavour of the month armies. A new COD every year or so encourages such a mind set making a slow grow hobby like wargaming feel like it doesn’t have that instant gratification.

        I was simply trying to get across the idea that it may not be GW’s demise (via self implosion) that destroys the hobby but an outside force that takes out GW and then brings everything else with it. A domino effect as it were.

        • Buhallin says:

          Actually, he doesn’t – he’s pretty much dedicated to a single game. You can call the new CoD every year a different game, but it’s far more like upgrading 40K editions than anything else.

          Even for kids that do turn over new games, why is that a bad thing? We’ve already discussed here people who cling to GW with a death grip and refuse to ever look at something new. They consume it until it isn’t fun any more, and then they move on to a new game. Given the choice between that or hoary old guys going on about how much better it was back in the Rogue Trader days because you’d get beat up if you showed to an event with unpainted models… I’m not sure they don’t have the right idea.

          Regardless, I find that by the time you insert things like “instant gratification” and “short attention span” you have fundamentally failed to understand younger players. I can’t speak to everywhere, but anectdotally our gaming area is largely hoary old guys. You can rail against it all you want, but just insulting The Kids These Days isn’t going to do anything to figure out how to keep things rolling.

        • LavaJohn says:

          At the club I’m at we have 50% membership below 18. The majority of those players have models for just about every system we play (40k, fantasy, LotR, Warmachine, FOW, Dystopian wars and smaller systems like wings of war) but rarely enough to play a game with more than one system. I’m 26 BTW and recognise my own inability to stick to a system (I have enough for providing armies for both players for about 20+ systems). I remember one particular young guy stating “I want to play in the club champs for warmachine but I don’t like owning my own models, can I borrow yours or proxy?” He jumps systems without even buying models for them!

          I was trying to illustrate that leaving one COD version can be likened to, say, jumping from dystopian wars to firestorm armada to uncharted seas (or eternal battles supplements perhaps…?). They are mechanically the same game but with a different flavour. I’ve known diehard counterstrike players who are quite similar to GW fans at the end of the day.

          I see high game turnover as a bad thing in the wargaming sense. It is, after all, GW’s current sales model. If a young player doesn’t feel the same sense of achievement from the hobby they may well drop it forever. By comparison if a young person doesn’t like a video game they don’t stop playing video games, they just go buy a different one. Heh, it sounds like (in a few years) your nephew may be a ‘hoary old guy’ over COD. The franchise is bound to run out eventually, right?

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I’m half waiting for Frontline Gamer to wade in with a discussion we had the other day about younger tournament players, but I’ll leave that up to him.

          I think that there are real generational differences among gamers (and the ret of humanity) and I do not believe that this is just me being old and crumbly. Nor am I just saying that these young ‘uns are at fault or somehow need to be educated in the “right way” to do stuff. However, it is surely more helpful to try to understand the differences and deal with them than it is to pretend that there aren’t any.

          A shortening of attention span and a predilection for increasingly instant gratification is not just a problem of one generation either, it’s an issue with modern society and culture. If this means that people are less inclined to play tabletop games because it requires more effort and time investment than video games then OK, how do we tackle that? Pre-painted figures has been one tactic, and much as I think they have so far looked eye-bleedingly awful they were no worse than many armies I have seen at clubs. That tactic will come back, and increasingly so, as people try to make tabletop gaming as immediate and effort free as video games. Of course, it can never be the same, but tabletop gaming (and board gaming too) have benefits and fun things which video gaming lacks. I think there should be room for all 3. That said, if we want to promote tabletop gaming then we need to focus on the things that it does do well, whilst simultaneously shoring up any (perceived or real) weaknesses.

  19. Tim says:

    I used to game back in the early ’90s then had a big break and got back into it a couple of years ago, and I have to agree there has been a massive shift in the availability and quality of non-GW systems and miniatures… IMHO this will only continue with the availability of new technology – wait until 3D Printing becomes mainstream!!!

    As the top dog, I do think GW has played a massive role in not only getting the word out but also in allowing the development of all the professions necessary to support the growing wargames industry (painters/ sculptors/ designers/ etc) – when you look at the big names in the industry and the other companies snapping at GWs heals a massive number of people got their proper professional start (i.e. a full-time job) in the industry working for them… in another decade, I think this will filter through and it won’t be as big a factor… however, if GW were to disappear tomorrow I do think you’d see a drop in the quality, quantity and speed of development within the hobby 😉

  20. Chris says:

    GW inits present form is, basically, stuffed. 5 years perhaps to find another business model otherwise they are dead in the water. Why? 3D printing. We have now reached a stage where it is cheaper to 3D print some of the GW stuff than buy (having heard reports of 5 cavalry figures for £75, or £10,000 if you live in Australia) and that trend will only get worse. I have friends who wanted unique GW Epic armies and have 3D printed them (every infantry model slightly different, with many working out cheaper than the webstore, for example hollow 3D print Land Raiders cost less than the GW ones, though this is using machines at work). Hell if you have a high end device (beyond the reach of consumers currently) you can print in basic colours.

    Already for the upper end of the income bracket GW target the idea of a 3D printer being the must have present is gaining ground.

    Now of course this isn’t going to only affect GW…

    But what effect will this have? Taking the IP for a second they have had a big impact outside of wargaming, Blizzard et al, but I suspect those industries being so big will find other concepts to leach. Ones that aren’t so blind to the fairer sex (I mean how anti female trade can the GW back stories be!). For gaming? Well the GW model is quite destructive as has been pointed out. It doesn’t build brand loyalty, it doesn’t graduate (as it used to do) people from the style of game aimed at younger players (40k, Warhamster) to one which is more tactical and aimed at older people (excellent thread here to see that argument

    So everyone has an idea how GW could actually get more people into gaming longer term than they currently do, but as has been said above they are the only show in town in many places.

    The number of people wargaming has fallen (speaking at least from the UK experience, likewise incidentally for the model railway industry which has many similarities). From its peak in the 70’s and 80’s when there were many clubs and a wide range of people playing to today, where you have to have a fair amount of disposable income to get into it and less and less new people turning up. GW’s customer base is declining but they maintain their profit margin with their prices. The club I tend to attend in central London I have always thought is great. 2 nights a week, no fees, all the terrain and tables provided from behind the bar. And yet in the last 12 years I have pretty much remained the youngest regular (when living in London at least) no matter how much advertising is done (I never understood the Charing Cross club, paying £3 per game per night in a cramped basement in a pub when cheaper drinks and free tables were a few stops up the northern line). And the social mix is as diverse as it has always been with a wide variety of professions represented. Indeed when I started playing in the 80’s in a garden shed every week (using rules that would ensure games wouldn’t finish in a day and stuff, sadly no sane man plays challenger 2000 any more 🙂 ) the group included a couple of builders, a manager of waitrose, a bookie, allsorts.

    Contrast that with chatting to some of the kids in a GW about what their parents do and it is very different, and not surprising either, as the prices are well beyond what I could ever justify. The sort of kids I grew up with could never afford to get into GW gaming (somewhat ironic when you consider games like Jakes would be so much easier for them to understand and enjoy than some of the things we slogged through!). The comparison is made with computer games but sorry, once you have the console games are relatively cheap in second hand shops and swapping amongst friends, it costs a fraction of 40k unless you hit ebay and bring and buys from the get go and few do that. So GW has maintained their level of profit while targeting a shrinking customer base, which while the right call profits wise, probably has increased their vulnerability in the long run, but to be honest I don’t know if going the other way would have done much in the face of the other entertainments now available.

    So they aren’t an ideal introduction but without them even that trickle through would cease and the question is then can anyone else fill the breach? In both a slow decline and an implosion I can’t see anyone taking over. A combination of the scale needed and the factors that have caused GW to end would make it too difficult and who could get backing to enter a market where the big fish was dying? The only scenario I can see working is GW thinking up another business model that allows them to continue and I would hope this is one that has a lot more diversity to reduce risk. But I can’t see anything that would shock them onto it at any point before it is too late because I can’t envisage anything that has the same margins that they currently enjoy.

    I think without them wargaming would then decline more. I concur with the above that no one else really introduces people to games in the same way. Independent shops tend to sell to their customers, they can do very little to get new ones, relying instead on their customers to spread the word. It would be a slow decline happening as we all get older, but a decline all the same. For evidence of that look at the other similar hobby industries that are failing to recruit.

    Then again maybe the Chinese love of gaming will transfer into wargaming and as long as we can read Mandarin, we will all be fine 🙂

  21. Dave Yeeles says:

    Something that a few have touched on is the GW high street presence. If GW were to fall then would we see an increase in independant stores? Almost certainly not a one for one increase though.

    Is the competition from GW too much for independant stores at the moment and if that competition disapeares would that make them more viable?

    Would an increase in independants on the high street then bring in more customers?

    I think it would need support from the smaller companies to make them viable, something that would help them in the long term with recruitment to their gaming systems but would require something like cooperation so one company isn’t taking all the burden of supporting retailers while everyone else gets the benefits.

    In short, yes the death of GW would have an impact but probably not as much of an impact as many people think as independants step up to the plate and I don’t think it would mark the end of the hobby by any means.

  22. Kristian says:

    To clarify my comment on Star Wars and agree with what you said: Han Shot First.

  23. Christian says:

    While I would agree that by no means are GW a barrier to entry into the table top universe, I would argue that the young fledglings are dropped, as soon as they are ready to flee the nest. I.E GW no longer supports Local Clubs?
    At least that’s the general experience in Auld Reekie!!

    Oh slightly OT…Just reading though the reprint of the Dreadball PDF…….Absoloutly top drawer!!!

  24. Kevin Wesselby says:

    Hi all.The other thing that has changed is GW plcs target demographic.Mid 1990s GW plc was still focused on a wide range of gamers.But since about 2004,GW corperate managment seem to belive selling toy soldiers to children is thier core buisness.And so more and more gamers are moving to games companies.From GW plc minature company first and foremost.

    • Kevin Wesselby says:

      Sorry still useing a stupid phone.This is why more gamers percive the demise of GW plc having less impact.As GW plc is not realy targeting them any more…

      • Quirkworthy says:

        Possibly. What I found particularly intriguing was that this wasn’t just gamers, it was other industry professionals (who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons).

  25. I’m not totally sure if we are quite at the point where the industry could continue to flourish after a hypothetical collapse of Games Workshop.

    I think fantastic progress has been made in the last decade, when I started playing 40K way back in 1996 GW was pretty much the only option. There were other games, but getting the models and finding opponents was a real struggle. That’s not the case any more, there’s a lot more choice and alternatives are more readily available (of course the internet has helped with this in many ways).

    However, GW is still the largest player in the industry by quite some way and it seems to me that most of it’s customers play their games exclusively and are not particularly open to trying other games. Now, if GW did collapse some of these people might start playing Warmachine, Kings of War etc. but I think a lot more would simply keep playing the last edition of 40K/WHF or just drift away from it.

    Most importantly though, there would be less new people introduced to the hobby. Nearly everyone I’ve met through the hobby started off with GW (myself included) and this seems to be as much the case today as it was 15 years ago.

    I don’t think the collapse of Games Workshop would ‘kill’ the industry, but it would hurt it quite a bit and it would take time for it to recover. However, if the growth of competitors continues as it has done in recent years that might not be so much of a problem in the future.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      A fair analysis.

      Rather than waiting for the organic growth of other companies to happen, are there other ways to improve the stability of the industry as a whole? Short cuts, if you like? Ways to diversify routes for the intake of new blood, and perhaps reduce the outflow? Ways to diversify the dependance on a single company (which is never healthy for an industry)?

      • I think getting some of the newer companies to support (even sponsor) independent gaming clubs would be a good idea. Something I’ve found with the clubs is that GW games are far too dominant there, you might be able to play anything you like but if there’s an event on it’s nearly always 40K or WHF. To an extent that’s fair enough, they are the most popular, but it doesn’t help the diversity much, and if I’m not, say, a 40K player why would I bother going in the first place? I may as well just stay home and play against my mates. On the other hand if the clubs offered intro sessions to different games it would make people more aware of whats available and help the newer games to catch on. You could even throw in some special offers on products, e.g. “Wednesday night: Warmachine taster sessions. Come along and try the game and get a voucher for 5% off Privateer Press minis!”.

        Also, I think there needs to be more of the free-to-download rules. Lets face it, GW will never embrace that, but the newer companies can take advantage by offering free downloads (and I salute the companies that are doing this already). Having to pay £XX for a rulebook can be quite a barrier, especially if you don’t know if you will enjoy the game. People like an easy way in, and generous offers like that will help breed customer loyalty to other companies.

        • Chris says:

          Don’t see it myself. All that can do is get existing players to try something new. Wargames clubs don’t do much recruitment in my experience, they tend to attract people that have already started to play games.

  26. kevin Wesselby says:

    Ah .but there is the thing.Before GW came along most gamers sort of wandered in of thier own accord.
    Then from 1992 to 2004 \GW plc sort of had a near monopoly and massive world wide advertising from the MB games tie ins then LoTR films .So because GW plc had such a high profile, (due to third party advertising.)No wonder every one we know started with GW.
    10 years ago starting in non historical gaming without GW plc was practicaly unheard of.Now its quite common outside the UK at least.
    Perhaps GW plc have grown out of the natural pool of sustainable gamers. And that is why they focus on churn and burn of new ‘child’ customers.
    (A bit like the banks outgrowing demand with secure portfolios and greedily grabbing sub-prime ones perhaps?) Maybe the dissapearance of GW plc would simply let the population of the TTMG hobby settle down to its natural level?
    Rather than the artificaily inflated level GW plc needs it to be?Not every 11 to 16 year old turns into a long term gamer.Perhaps these ‘pre-determined’ long term gamers would find gaming any way, like they did before GW plc came along?
    And no one seems to have mentioned the negative effect of GW plc corperate managment has, despite the exellent work of the GW plc studio staff.How many potential gamers are turned off thier hobby because they think GW plc prices are representative of the whole hobby?

    • Ben says:

      I and my peers began wargaming in the 80’s and back then it was unheard of to get into the hobby via something other than GW or historicals, certainly in my part of the world. It’s also always been the case that GW have looked to milk the 11-16 male demographic for income. This demographic’s propensity to buy fantasy miniatures was something GW noticed very early on.

      You quite right to identify that as GW pushed to grow it’s consumer base it meant it had to increasingly catch that demographic and get ever increasing amounts of money from them. GW understand that the long-term appeal of the hobby is limited for the majority of this demographic so it makes little sense to focus resources on attempting to retain them long-term.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      @ Ben – do you think that the loss of gamers is inevitable at the current level, or do you think that there is more to be done to retain a greater fraction (not all – that’s unrealistic)? If so, would that offer a route towards an industry with greater diversity and less dependence on a single supplier for a customer base?

      @ Kevin – I think that GW’s prices and practices turn away far fewer than their high street stores and ubiquity attract, so they are a net attractant to tabletop gaming.

      I’m curious to know how similar pre-GW recruitment is to current recruitment into the hobby in areas where GW is not important. Perhaps we could get a comment from people in regions where GW has few/no shops.

      When I started gaming, back in the days of the dinosaurs, there was no GW in the sense it exists now. When it started it was just another game shop that sold all sorts of things – and none of their own games (because they didn’t exist). Rick Priestley was yet to write (with Richard Halliwell) Reaper – the precursor to Warhammer.

      I started gaming with historicals, WWII to be precise, and that was through Airfix. They made toy soldiers and model kits that every boy I knew had. When they started selling books on wargaming it was an easy way in. I also had a gaming club at my school and that was mostly historicals as well (though we did do the odd dungeon bash with home made rules). So for me and my peers, I suspect that historical gaming was the route into the hobby.

      When D&D came along, with its close wake of T&T, Traveller, Runequest, C&S and so on, that drew in many more people. Warhammer was not the only attempt to expand and exploit this crossover – it was just the most successful. By converting their stores to sell less and less of anyone else’s products, and by aggressively expanding their chain, they became the only game in town (as it were).

      GW’s omnipresence in certain regions masks much of the previous routes into the hobby as it’s more likely that someone will have heard via GW before they bump into historical gaming. If GW magically disappeared then it seems reasonable to imagine that those potential gamers would again find their way into the hobby via historical gaming, but this would probably be a mere drop in the barrel compared to the numbers that GW recruits.

  27. kevin Wesselby says:

    The thing is there are far more options available to start minature gaming than there was before GW plc came along.Its no longer GWplc or Historical.
    But Historical gaming or ,P.P, C.B, U.M, F.F,T.G, Mantic games , etc.
    (Too many to list here and I don’t know all of them!)

    The chain of GW plc shops brings in SOME passing trade.However are they still recruiting gamers like they did in the 1990s?

    IMO, Mantic have done more to generate interest and attract gamers into the TTMG hobby than GW plc has over the last 2 years.

    GW plc continue to sell toy soldiers to children , but is this the same as recruiting gamers?

    And as far as awareness goes, most people on the internet are aware G.W plc is pricing more gamers out of thier hobby every year.(lol)

    But I agree there is a natural level of gamers that would remain , and be around in a mainly internet only market place.(Indie Game Clubs/ FLGS would spring up to support this natural level. )

    • Chris says:

      Maybe this is why GW doesn’t have two intro box sets for 40k and Fantasy? I’ve never understood why there isn’t a cheapish (say around £30-£40) game in a box for each setting to ‘hook’ people. Something like a stripped down space hulk/space crusade and the equivalent Fantasy product (quest/heroquest). Whil I think it would get a lot more people in, pperhaps GW found it did get people interested, but then a large number checked out other games? So getter to push the core game starter set to a smaller number of people for better investment in the core game?

      • Kevin Wesselby says:

        Hi Chris.Game companies like Mantic make playing thier games as acessible as possible.Jakes excellent board games appeal to a wide range of gamers. And thier focus on great game play straight forward rules and affordable entry mean they atract gamers.Like GW used to do.GW just want to focus on selling core product for maximum profit short term.They are not looking for long term customers.They belive it requires too much effort.Despite all the evidence to the contrary….

  28. Anthony Caryl says:

    I think the the wargaming community would take a big hit from the loss of GW if the ceased to exist (or had to make a sudden dramatic change to their business model)

    Most of the current generation of wargamers would carry on, some would turn to other systems (attracted by the release of new models/rules), others would be loyal to warhammer using the most recent rule sets (perhaps supported a companies that had picked up the IP). A few would give up.

    The problem would be a dramatic fall in the amount of new blood (& money) getting into the hobby, and without new blood the hobby would begin to die. How many gamers do you know who basically have most of the models they need, they might want to pick up a few new bits now and then or a rule set when there is a change, but mainly they head to Ebay. Without ‘mature’ games moving on from warhammer a lot of the new systems would also beginn to suffer from reduced cash flow (although there would have been a reasonable initial boost when GW died)

    I think wargaming would end up going the way Roleplaying games went in the early 1990s. After years of growth the sector was full of new interesting games, challenging the established order dominated by D&D of one form or another in the USA, more diverse in the UK (& I think in Europe. There was little external marketing, companies relied heavily on word of mouth, clubs, and a few special interest magazines (by then White Dwarf had become GW only).

    Then came Magic the Gathering (& other CCGs). Old role players carried on playing, a few got into CCGs as well/instead, but the new player base crashed, most of them started of ccgs and never reached roleplaying. Independant stockists went to the wall (or ironicly dumped the RPGs for CCGs, boadgames and wargaming stuff), RPGs largely dissapeared from highstreet chains (WH Smiths, Virgin, HMV etc)

    Now there still is a roleplaying sector in the UK but it’s far smaller (I get the feeling it’s the same in the USA). It never really recovered, although ironically Kickstarter may end up giving it a boost by bringing out nostalgia editions of a wide variety of RPGs, as well as new (or translated) systems that but it’s taken 15-20 years to get that far.

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