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.
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.