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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Guess I Won't Bother Starting a Tomb Kings Army

 

The internet exploded this week with talk of GW's impending implosion because of the stock drop. I've been reading all kinds of rumors about the future of Games Workshop and what it means for the the hobby. Having been doing this since the late 90's and even working at GW for a time, of course I have my own opinions on the matter.



"Because it's Wreckable, Alright!"

First off, GW isn't going anywhere. There have been ups and downs throughout its history. When GW US was hemmorhaging money back around 2004, they gutted US HQ, rearranged things, and got back on track. Does anyone remember Marvel Comics? Remember when they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy back in '96? No one was concerned that there weren't going to be Spider-Man comics anymore. Marvel made it through their rough patch and is doing pretty well (and it wasn't from the Disney purchase, because that didn't happen for another 10 years).

This sort of thing is cyclical; GW will bounce back. If anything, I would say now is a good time to buy stock in GW if you have the means. Buy low, wait a couple years and maybe make a few bucks. If another company does come in and buy them (like people suspect) stock prices will probably skyrocket.

*For legal purposes it should be noted that I am not a financial adviser, licensed or otherwise, and none of my investment advice should be listened to. It's solely speculation, based on no evidence or analysis whatsoever.

On the subject of a buyout, I keep reading that Hasbro could come in and buy them. To which I say: Is Hasbro even aware of GW's existence?* I mean, Hasbro is a household name. Take a poll of people exiting a movie theater– I'll bet almost all of them have heard of Hasbro and none of them have heard of Games Workshop. Those that do will think you meant Game Stop, the video game store.

What I'm getting at is that five years ago people weren't sure if GW was even aware of a "small" game company like Privateer Press (I'm sure that they've taken notice by now). So if people actually thought GW wasn't aware of the 2nd largest company in their same industry, what makes them think that a corporate juggernaut like Hasbro would be aware of a comparatively small toy soldier company. Maybe things are different at the corporate level where rival companies are concerned, but I don't know if I'd even consider GW competition for Hasbro. If this is a move Hasbro has been considering all along, this stock drop would probably be the time to do it. So if it doesn't happen soon, it's not going to happen. 


*Edit: When writing this I overlooked the fact that Hasbro owns Wizards of the Coast, D'oh! So they're already in the gaming community. But I stand by my point that unless a buyout is something they'd been preparing for, it won't happen; D&D and Magic: The Gathering are much bigger cash cows, more commonly known, and more easily marketable than our little toy soldier games.


The GW haters' fantasy of another game company purchasing and liquidating GW isn't going to happen either. Remember, they wouldn't just be buying a factory that they could convert to produce their own products (which they wouldn't have enough of a market share to make efficient use of, anyway) they would also be paying for the perceived value of the IP. To buy "Warhammer" just so you can liquidate it is literally throwing money away.



Forge-Workshop... World

Another bit to come out of this is that GW and Forgeworld (Warhammer Forge?) are merging into a single company and that Forgeworld will be available in GW hobby centers.

Maybe it's just me, but I find the idea of Forgeworld products being readily available in GW stores absurd. Isn't that kind of a niche market within a niche market? And if I'm not mistaken, FW doesn't produce resin kits at the same rate as the plastic kits. Can they really produce enough product to stock GW stores everywhere? At the same level of quality?

I'm not saying the two won't merge (I think that's even been officially announced, and not merely a rumor), but if they do carry FW products in GW shops, my bet is that it will be limited to the Forgeworld 40K vehicles, since they have all become part of the standard "official" army lists. I can't imagine them stocking every iteration of Guardsmen & chapter-specific Space Marines, or Warhammer terrain. How many of the $400 Tau Orca dropships will each store carry, I wonder? I foresee a lot of special orders requiring return visits.

And I'm sure the line between Finecast and Forgeworld will begin to blur. If we start seeing Forgeworld-labeled blister packs of previously metal Warhammer models, I think we'll all know what's really going on there. 



Warhammer: The Game of Fantasy Rumors

Aside from the future of GW corporate & stores, there's the future of the games themselves. I've heard rumors about everything from Warhammer Fantasy Battles getting phased out all together, to select armies being eliminated (specifically Tomb Kings, Beastmen, Bretonnians, and Wood Elves). I wonder how this ties into the other rumors about 9th edition– The one where there are no individual army books, just a few all-encompassing tomes like Evil Armies and Good Armies.

Having Beastmen folded back into the Chaos army book isn't much of a stretch, and means Beastmen armies can still continue to exist. If Warriors of Chaos players could field Beastmen troops it would also help help boost sales of those kits. Maybe two books: Chaos Mortals (focusing on Warriors and Beastmen) and Chaos Daemons.

The same is true for Wood Elves. They could be rolled into the High Elf book, and call it Elves of Light or something. That's actually a prospect I'd considered before. In fact, here's an excerpt from a Facebook discussion I had in back in February of 2012:

"I know its a bit of a catch-22: Wood elves would get more support if more people played them, and more people would play them if their books were kept current. I just don't think they were ever that popular to begin with, even dating back to 5th edition when they had a solid, current book. Ravening Hordes brought their rules in line with 6th edition, and then they were pretty much neglected until the end of the run (as I said, I suspect because there wasn't a large enough player base to warrant attention.) Same thing with Chaos Dwarfs. The people that play them love them, but the fact is, there just aren't enough players to make generating models and rules profitable, and so they were eventually dropped as a line. I'd hate to see the Wood Elves go the same route, but I wonder if 3 Elven armies is one too many."

The loss of the Tomb Kings army would be a bit of a blow for me, as it's the only army on the alleged chopping block that I eventually plan to build. I guess those Khemri Skeletons I've been hoarding will just have to find their way into my Vampire Counts army.

But, if GW really will be consolidating army books, maybe we will have come full circle back to when I began in 5th edition, and the Tomb Kings and Vampires will be consolidated into a single Undead force. Which would be great if it still allows the player to build either of the two individually-themed armies, or a combination of the two. Maybe they could even bring back Nagash in the fluff.

Or maybe those four armies will simply get new books this year as another rumor suggests. Maybe having multiple armies folded into a single book would be a way to simultaneously encourage and limit/ balance allied forces. Personally, I prefer the individual, thematic armies, and do not miss the "good old" days of "take whatever monster you want!"



The Future of Warhammer for Me

I've often said that I'd keep painting models for my Vampire Counts army even if I stopped playing games with them. So if Warhammer as we know it comes to an end The Legion of the Infernal Skull will continue to grow and evolve, although it might become a little more difficult to find new models (fortunately, it will be a while before I run out).


My friends and I are meeting this week to hash out the framework for our upcoming campaign and I have seriously considered recommending that we use the current army books with WFB 6th edition core rules (the best rules edition, with all of the currently available unit entries and points costs) We'll probably stick with the current rules because that's what everyone is used to, but if things take a turn for the worst I'd happily go back to an earlier edition.

Since I don't play in tournaments or get many pickup games, there's absolutely no not reason to use whatever edition (or combination of editions) I and my gaming group prefer. But I do miss the days of the old Grand Tournaments.

'Til next time!

13 comments:

  1. I think it's a bit naive to think that Hasbro doesn't know who Games Workshop is.

    I've long since quit playing GW games in favor of PP games due to things like support, game balance, and the way that GW generally treats its playerbase vs how PP does.

    I've sold almost all my 40k armies and have kept only my 1st and 2nd edition Marines and Eldar. If I want to play 40k, I'll play the old school rules because regardless of what rules are used, there will be arguments/discussions and I really like playing with the models that I first started with back when I was in high school.

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    1. As Steven Groom pointed out on my Facebook page, Hasbro/ Milton Bradley had even worked *with* GW to produce the old Battle Masters board game.

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  2. We haven't played GW games in Wales for almost five years. The way PP do things is simply much much better. The rules are better, the release mechanism is better, the miniatures are on a par, and in general, better.
    At one stage I owned a 10,000 point Fantasy Orc and Goblin army. All sold. Says it all really.

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  3. Me and some friends used to play only GW games.
    Then the support for the smaller games stopped, prices went way up and the rules for 40k (from 2nd to 4th edition in just a few years) changed very drastically. Some of my friends were left behind with no codex (orks) or a hastely thrown together codex (chaos 3th edition).
    Tired of the situation we broadened our vision and started playing Warmachine. Which was a huge succes.
    I still have some 4th edition Wordbearers. But the only games I have interest in playing are Blood Bowl, GorkaMorka or Mordheim.
    I still used GW paints, until they changed their whole line. I can't really say GW has been trying to keep their older players happy and instead kept on changing to attract new ones.

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  5. I agree with your post entirely. I am a former hardcore GW fanboy who has drifted away from GW the past five years or so due to a combination of all the same old rants that many people have. Price, product support, changing dynamic in the 40K community in the US as well as a big change in the rules between 4th and 6th ed. That said I have no illusions that GW is going anywhere anytime soon.

    Even if they did I do not know of a single company that would want to "buy" games workshop at this time, unless they went firesale cheap and even then .... why the hell would someone want to own GW (other than us fanboy types). EA maybe … for the IP if GW was cheap enough … but after the Warhammer Online experience I don’t think EA has much faith in that. Fantasy Flight doesn’t have the financial resources to pull it off. Again I don’t believe that on any level Hasbro would even want GW, why load up on another D&D like product line.

    The fact is GW is a dominant player in an extremely niche market of the gaming industry. It is this selective attention that we gamers tend to have. GW is important to us, therefore it must be important to the world.

    In the business world GW is a pretty small company, selling a really strange product, to a very specific, fiddly, finicky market. They have no major competition true and yes historically their profit margins, debt load, etc. are all attractive. That said the industry the serve is not a very desirable one to enter, it is highly volatile with a very unpredictable future (with affordable digital scanning and rapid prototyping just around the corner, etc.). Point and case to this is ... how many huge companies are emerging from the tabletop gaming industry? How many fail every year? Tabletop gaming in general, including board games, card games, etc. is very chaotic and unpredictable.

    So if and when the "end" came for GW. Even then the only thing that would likely happen to GW would be them going into receivership/bankruptcy and then they'd simply have debts discharged and undergo a reorganization, cut their costs and re-emerge. They are always sitting on that. If push came to shove they could just dump all their manufacturing to China, make due with a small design staff and admin staff and layoff hundreds and hundreds of people. Their costs would drop dramatically and they'd be back in good shape. Again it would likely take a bankruptcy to do that ... but I don't see any reasonable scenario where someone like Hasbro buys them. For one thing I think Hasbro learned a lesson when they bought TSR, I think D&D anymore is nothing but a headache for them (at least that is how it seems).

    So only time will tell where they end up, I think net is chock full o' Schadenfreude when it comes to GW. There is just a lot of angst by bitter fans who used to have a love affair with GW that has somewhat soured (takes one to know them I guess, I mostly fit into that camp) and that will probably always be there. "

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    1. I thought about a video game company buying GW, too, but they wouldn't need the manufacturing facilities. That might be a case where they could keep the IP to make video games and sell off the factories.

      TONS of Schadenfreude. People love to hate GW. They don't have the best business practices and treat their managers poorly, so I can understand why a retailer would dislike them for making their livelihood difficult, or why ex-staff might be disgruntled.

      I'm one of the (probably very few) ex employees who didn't stop playing the games. I didn't suddenly hate Warhammer because the company that makes it is effed up. That would be like suddenly not liking Scrabble, a game I love to play with my wife and play with my family at every major holiday if Hasbro were to lay off a bunch of people, stop making Star Wars figures and the CEO gets accused of insider trading or something.

      I'm sure some of the people who complain about GW's management and business practices still buy stuff from Amazon, a company that is notorious for poor worker conditions and (in my opinion) being the leading cause of the death of the retail stores in general. I guess it doesn't matter what a company does behind the scenes as long as prices are cheap.

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  6. Rob, as another former GW employee I see your take on the situation in exactly the same way. Spot on.

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  7. Good rant, Rob, I approve ! I am curious as to why you prefer 6th edition over 7th. From what i recall 7th was mostly the same as 6th with some clarifications here and there and no sharing power dice ? Its been a while so my memory has gone all fuzzy as to what rules were from what past editions now.

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    1. The changes in 7th are tweaks to things I really never had problems with in 6th, like where and how units flee, overrunning on the charge only, A lot of the "fixes" only served to dumb it down a little. Units being destroyed if they flee into a building, and being immune to psychology if they're in combat (so flank charges didn't cause panic tests, for example.

      One of the things I thought would be a great compromise for the Fear rules (between auto breaking and the "nothing" that 7th had) would be that it works like a reverse Instability:

      If a unit loses combat to a Fear-causing unit that outnumbers them, take a break test as normal. If it's failed, the loser flees. If it's passed, the loser holds but suffers a number of casualties equal to the difference in combat resolution, those men having been "scared off."

      So you wouldn't have as many auto-breaks, but the unit would still lose some extra troops. I'd like to see that in a future edition.

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  8. One of the best things about this subject I read on another blog is that GW, by legitimizing Forge World, both models and rules sets, they've gone and shot their sales in the foot with their own IP. Even with the sales of Space Marines and 40K being what they are, Horus Heresy product is a force to be reckoned with.

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    1. I don't think that's true at all. FW doesn't sell whole armies. The tanks are mostly upgrade kits requiring the plastic GW kit. And if you go by what the majority of the gaming community seems to think is the main problem with GW, it's pricing. So, people are buying *more expensive* FW models instead of the regular GW kits? (5 FW Space Marines are $38/ 10 GW Marines are $40.)

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