Games Workshop Group (GAW)


Games Workshop AGM: A relentless profit machine

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Games Workshop is casting itself as a relentless profit making machine. Customers, staff, and investors who don’t like it better get out of the way.

On Tuesday, the day before Games Workshop’s annual general meeting, my twelve-year-old son burst into the office and noticed the proxy forms allowing me to attend and vote.

When he saw Games Workshop written in bold on the papers he asked what I was doing. I told him I was visiting headquarters to find out more about the company. “Good,” he replied, “Can you take back my set?”

I think he was hoping for some cash back. Joe had bought a kind of starter kit and had started painting the figures in preparation for his first fantasy wargame. But without friends who play the game, or a parent modeller, he ran out of steam and for the past year it’s been standing in a pile destined for eBay.

The failure of Warhammer to storm the ramparts of the Beddard household has not put me off Games Workshop as an investment, but it does add to my insecurity because my personal experience coincides with the experience of gamers protesting through various Internet channels including this web site, that the hobby is increasingly inaccessible to gamers.

I came to the AGM wondering whether Games Workshop was alive to the risk that it is serving a diminishing band of nostalgic modellers who are prepared to spend a lot of money on intricate miniatures they will probably never use in battle, while through price rises, rule changes, and staff reductions at Games Workshop stores, the company has alienated new recruits who cannot afford armies of figures, and frankly aren’t that bothered about how pretty they are.

Though it’s profitable now, such a strategy might not enhance Games Workshop’s ambition to stay in business forever.

Walking up Willow Lane in Nottingham, the company’s headquarters looms like a fortress, shuttered and battleship grey. Within the keep is the newly refurbished Warhammer World, venue for the AGM.

Shareholders are led up a wide arcing staircase through one of three shops into the events hall, a keep within the keep surrounded by mock castle walls and filled with tables for gaming and modelling, and then into Bugman’s Bar, named in honour of the greatest dwarfen brew-master. There, the AGM motions are passed without question, new chief executive Kevin Rountree gives a presentation and finance director Rachel Tongue take us through the numbers. We’re whisked through a permanent exhibition of miniatures, some standing alone, and others massed in battle on vast sets, so tumultuous sometimes its hard to work out what I’m looking at. Here we mingle with directors and other senior staff including chairman Tom Kirby, who has run the company for most of its history, and Games Workshop’s head of intellectual property. In the final chamber of the exhibition, he and the company’s head of product and supply talk about Warhammer Age of Sigmar, a complete reboot of the original Warhammer Fantasy game. Then it’s back to Bugman’s for a lunch of roast beef, syrup pudding, and a pint (and a half) of Bugman’s Best, which is a very fine beer.

As an AGM experience it beats an hour in an anonymous public relations company’s office in the City.

Touring the exhibition, I asked one of the board members if he played, or if he modelled. He used to do both, he said but now he finds running businesses is even more fun. Not for the first time that day the thought crossed my mind that Games Workshop’s management might view staff, customers, and investors as figures on a tabletop that they must manoeuvre ruthlessly to victory. Rountree’s main preoccupation is recruitment. He and Kirby have spent the last five years returning the business to high levels of profitability by taking out cost. Now, if it’s to grow, the new lean profit machine must recruit new storekeepers, particularly in continental Europe and North America. It’s a hard job, he says, running a one-man Warhammer store, and the company’s tough love, it supports managers who “want to continue in the job”, contributes to a 30% turnover rate. I’m not sure that’s bad for a retailer but considering for most of Games Workshop’s managers the job must start out a vocation, it could improve.

I’ve got bad news for disenchanted gamers complaining on the Internet. The company’s attitude towards customers is as clinical as its attitude towards staff. If you don’t like what it’s selling. You’re not a customer. The company believes only a fraction of the population are potential hobbyists, and it’s not interested in the others. The move to one-man stores has reduced the number of customers, sometimes by 30%, but the stores are profitable now.

Maybe you think you’re a customer, or a potential customer, because you like playing games. But this is the important bit. This is the bit written in every Games Workshop annual report. The company’s mission statement is “we make the best fantasy miniatures in the world and sell them globally at a profit and we intend to do this forever.”

It does not mention games. In conversation, I’m told that the word “Game” in Games Workshop encourages the misconception that games are its business, but that only about 20% of Games Workshop’s customers are gamers. The rest are modellers and collectors. Maybe half of them think about playing now and then. The other half have no intention. People actually walk into the stores because they’re curious about modelling fantastic armies.

When another shareholder asks if the company would sell games with pre-painted easy to assemble miniatures like the popular Star Wars themed X-Wing game, there’s a collective growl from the Games Workshop people. It wouldn’t be a hobby business then, it would be a toy company.

Games are easy to sell if they catch on, but it’s the modelling aspect of Warhammer that makes it a hobby, sometimes for life, and peculiarly lucrative to Games Workshop. Some of the individual models we’ve seen in glass cases, those from the company’s Forgeworld collection, retail at £1,250 each. Some customers spend many thousands of pounds a year and they paint them with incredible craftsmanship. These are good customers.

Though I’m left with little doubt where the businesses’ priorities lie there is hope for gamers who like to model. Kevin Rountree explains how introducing products at new price points is different to reducing the recommended retail price, something the company resolutely refuses to do. It’s considering “putting more value in the box”, discounting in other words, when people buy in number. That ought to encourage gamer-modellers.

The Age of Sigmar is something of a revelation too. I hadn’t appreciated how much it breaks with the past. Games Workshop has simplified the rules from 150 pages in an expensive rule book to four pages that are available for free download or in its free app. They’re easier to learn, easier to play and easier for the company to translate into many more languages. The game’s narrative will continuously unfold with associated product launches and in a trick borrowed from the Space Marines of Warhammer’s futuristic sister universe, Warhammer 40,000, gamers can employ heroes with superpowers (Stormcast Eternals). Purists think they unbalance the game, but Warhammer 40,000 grew to be a far more popular game than Warhammer Fantasy. The company cannot divulge sales figures, its in a closed period and Age of Sigmar is only in its third month, but in terms of other metrics, downloads and Sigmar themed magazine sales, management seems more than satisfied. Anyway, it’s at pains to point out, Warhammer Age of Sigmar is a long-term investment.

I leave the Games Workshop fortress confident of one thing. Managment have set a course and they will not be deviated. Ultimately, shareholders who question it come up against the mission statement. Games Workshop exists to make models, because that’s what it does well. Potentially lucrative income from licences granted to video games producers like the much anticipated and soon to be released Total War Warhammer will always be incidental because video gamers do not become modellers, and Games Workshop doesn’t know how to make good video games.

Niche businesses are often very profitable and the hard decisions they take is what makes them different, but they’re also vulnerable if unforeseen events reduce the attractiveness of the niche. That’s why most niche companies try to expand their niches, or develop related niches. Having defined itself so tightly, perhaps the only way Games Workshop can grow is geographically, which explains the emphasis on North America and Europe (where it already has a sizeable presences). It has a small team in China, sussing out the Asian market.

Sigmar sounds like a good product, and I think maybe I should buy it for Joe for Christmas. But as I walk back along a tow-path to the railway station the spell wears off.

He just wants to play. He’s not an anointed one. He doesn’t have Warhammer DNA. I don’t think he’ll ever walk into a Warhammer store because he wants to paint a Stormcast Eternal.

Maybe we’ll get him X-Wing instead.

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Valid point but the price point for Age of Sigmar is now $10 per model at retail undiscounted. We all thought GW was crazy when it increased to $3 to $4 per model in a multi-model unit box. You can buy from independent stores at a 20% discount, but that is still $8 per model for five models in a box. Also, other than in starter sets, GW gives no discount effectively for buying bundles. They sell sets online of boxes collected together in a theme for the same price as one would pay for the individual boxes. You can end up paying $500 just for a starter set of boxes, rules books, and models to effectively play Warhammer 40K or Warhmmer Fantasy at the typical points level played by guys in gaming stores.

By contrast, you can buy an entire army box of models and units and play Mantic's Kings of War for the cost of about $1 per base infantry model and for a total cost of entry of under $100. On average, the models are not as nice as those of GW, at least in most recent generations of models. Kings of War has rules written by some former GW game design experts (Alessio is highly regarded.) is a much simpler game to learn and play, much more balanced, but reasonably fun and faster to play with far fewer rules issue. Mantic encourages player feedback of and play testing of beta army lists for new armies and had a cycle of player testing and revisions for its most recent, next generation of game rules on its forum.

By not making Warhammer Fantasy scalable down to small scale battles (most armies are played with 80 to 100+ models on the table in 8th edition due to the rules favoring larger units), GW created a price point for entry so high that it failed to bring in many new players, even though it actually was a pretty fun and reasonably balanced game prior to the End Times silliness. In a complete lack of respect for its community, GW then stopped issuing FAQs and errata to fix and clarify rules toward the latter part of 8th edition Warhammer Fantasy even though the last army books printed had obvious rules issues and ambiguities the desperately needed resolution.

Age of Sigmar, ironically, fixes some of the issues with Warhammer Fantasy in that you can play a decent game with a more limited army and the rules are easier to learn, but there is no points system or balance in the game. Also, most people are just playing their old Warhammer Fantasy models and not buying new Age of Sigmar models to play. Thus, when one plays Age of Sigmar one has to search to find a set of house rules or a points system in order to play a game with a friend, assuming one can find a friend to play with. Then one has to pay $50 or more per unit one plays with (assuming one is content with a minimum sized unit) as compared with the prior costs of $25 to $35 per unit (typically with more models in the unit box) and $10 to $30 for single model units and characters (monsters and such). No one is fooled that GW just effectively doubled its prices for the same amount of plastic (perhaps the designs are outstanding for some models, but at what cost?).

The question of what actually drives sales would be easy to discern just by looking at sales in relation to rules releases. If rules are released that make certain models good in the game, if GW is correct, there is no corresponding upswing in sales of that model, or at best it's minimal. That appears to be quite demonstrably not the case. Recently they made a model, an Eldar transport, extremely powerful for its in-game cost. Stores could not keep them in stock because GW had not apparently expected the spike in sales of that model. And yet, it did not change their strategy. It seems very likely to me that they did not tell you Age of Sigmar has no point values for the models in the game. This means players do not have a way to balance their armies. Points are used in every game, tabletop and digital, to balance teams to create fair play. How this seems tenable from a game play standpoint is mind boggling. One of the biggest takeaways from Age of Sigmar is how Mantic has used the death of Warhammer Fantasy to draw in former Fantasy players. If you have not researched that company, I highly recommend it. They very shrewdly announced that they were fine with players using models from "any model company" (GW) and that they would release rules to cover "other armies players may have not currently in our model line" (every army GW stopped supporting in Fantasy). The result is that game play has shifted in a matter of months from Fantasy to Mantic's version of the game, Kings of War. Regionally we have seen large groups of players make the shift, but perhaps most damning of all, a coalition of the largest tournaments for Fantasy in the US have agreed to shift to Mantic's game this year and upcoming national tournaments. Mantic has leaped at the chance to meet that need, and did so by hiring rules writers formerly employed by GW to make games that are easier to learn and sells cheaper models to go along with them. The games that were previously mentioned that GW dropped in the late 90s have also been replaced by Mantic and other companies, and they sell well and successfully. GW has left millions of pounds on the table and a growing number of companies have stepped in to collect, in large part funded through Kickstarters that are explosively popular because of the vacuum GW has left and the enmity it has created. Many gamers are considering this a new golden age of gaming, grown large on the rigid corpse of GW. Another company that has been eating away at GW is Privateer Press. I suggest you research both.

Thanks, Timothy.

I will be investigating this to see if there is a similar type of conversion for 40K.

I really hope there is.

It would be nice to be a part of a community where the producers of the thing that have given rise to the community actually give a damn about that community.

I'm a long-time (say 25 years) GW customer and to be honest I hate the way the company treats people like me. It feels like they don't want me as a customer because I like to play the games that they sell.

In the last 18 months or so I've been playing x-wing far more than any GW game. I've really been struck by how much easier it is to be an x-wing player than to play GW games. It's far less expensive to get started, there's no painting obviously and there's much less stuff to physically carry around, store etc. playing GW games means a vast investment of time and money. And x-wing is a better game than anything GW makes. With x-wing you invest less and your return is higher.

I do really like painting the stuff and I've recently got good enough to win a few prizes. I'm definitely a gamer first though. The thing I don't understand is - why not make the games good? I can't imagine that it would add much to GW's costs to employ some really talented game designers as well as miniature designers. But at the moment it just doesn't seem like they treat the game side of things remotely seriously.

That's a problem for recruitment. Let's say you've got two kids. You buy them the age of sigmar or 40k starter set. They play a few games... and find that one side always wins because the armies in the starter sets aren't remotely balanced against each other. The fact is, these sets are marketed as games. How long would you keep playing any other £75 game you bought if one player always won - or you were just arguing over who got to play the stir cast externals each game. Oh and then by the way, hardly any of the models in the 40k starter set are actually useful in a competitive list, so even if you do play more they will be shelved. Is that good value?

I'm not happy with a company that is satisfied by doing a bad job with any part of its business. Why the hell would they not aspire to make the best games out there, as FFG and many others now do? GW grew up as a company on its own in the market but right now they have a large and growing number of competitors. GW's advantage in models is not insurmountable, especially with new tech always coming along. GW is actually marketing for other companies right now. Customers walk in their shops, quite like what they see but don't enjoy the game and go looking elsewhere. Many of them never look back.

This is massively interesting.

GW has indeed branded it self with disregard for hobbyists and not supporting great games it had in the past. I've always assumed the later called Specialist Games (Battle Fleet Gothic, Epic, Mordheim) were canned because they weren't enough profitable. All great games that are still played and their IP still sells computer games.

During the years GW has touched the lives of countless gamers and for that has a great portfolio for marketable IP:s. I've personally been in the hobby for over fifteen years and I have to admit I'm just their main interest group. Me and my friends spend thoulsands of pounds per year to their products and most of them never even get painted. Shure we play games and I buy models which have good rules but the feeling of being apart of and taking part of in the IP universe is what keeps us buing. In our view GW has been cranking hobbygold for the past years with Warhammer 40 000 7'th edition, Horus Heresy and multiple new releases for both lines. They have a massive fanbase and that's why many are mad at them for not making their games just like everyother game.

I believe they have a very solid foundation for their idea about focusing on the niche inside a niche.

Age of Sigmar is their answer to competitors like Warmachine and other publishers taking a part of their pie (Mantics Kings of war) by creating en even more unique IP which is harder for competitors to rip-off. At the same time they have made easier to acces and the style is similar to their flag ship Warhammer 40 000 that it is easy to start collecting both if you are in to it. Prepainted would kill the whole universe as was seen with Racham which didn't understand it played on the same field as GW and was quicly abandoned by its fan base after going prepainted. Racham made the mistake to think the game part was more important that the hobby part.

So I believe GW is going to make profit in the future but other more spread companies like Fantasy Flight games is going to make it faster.

So why was Age of Sigmar released with any rules at all? Why is it marketed as a game? Why does their website promote gaming boards, and gaming accessories? And why then in their web-exclusive-ripp-off AOS bundle does it say that it "nets you a fantastic set of miniatures and some exclusive rules with which to use them!"? That sounds like it is very much intended for use, not just for looking at.

Many people I know are turning away from 40k towards games like X-Wing. And it's a real shame because it can be so much fun. I don't think I've ever met a person who just collects 40k. As a matter of fact, most people I've ever met who have played don't even fully assemble or finish paining the models, because they JUST want to play.

But I guess when the Board runs the look-but-don't-touch-hobby into the ground they will be able to look back and know, it was the fault of the people who bought from the stores but were not really their customers who were to blame.

Interesting article, nice to see a neutral stance.

I have been a wargamer for around 31 years, and bought my first copy of Warhammer in 1984. I even worked for them in days gone by.

The attitude towards customers is nothing new. I remember one meeting where I was informed, tongue in cheek, that customers would buy dog poo if it had an Imperial Eagle emblazoned on it. It was of course a half joking comment, but the underlying emphasis was the attitude that seemed to fill the higher ups... People will buy anything that they make. The attitude towards staff was little better.

I long since left following GW, I stopped buying their stuff around 1989 as a customer, despite working for them after that period, I was always wedded to the older more immersive backgrounds of the game when I originally bought it, and then my expansion into historical gaming sidelined GW forever. However I still play the old games and spend a fair bit of money collecting and sourcing the old models from the 1980s. The new models of the last decade leave me cold.

Age of Sigmar, and to a degree the whole management response, is a quandry. If 80% of your target market are collectors, not gamers, why go out of your way to launch a new game system designed to be easier for GAMERS to interact with a get involved with. Despite the assertion they are a collectors company, their vast majority of consumers are collectors, they have gone out of their way to invest in a system aimed at encouraging more people to start playing games...

That to me belies the notion that they know that what will ultimately see the company succeed or fail, is the numbers of those playing the game, despite what bluff and bluster the management wish to suggest. The worry for an investor should be why the management say one thing, then do the opposite. That would concern me if I was a shareholder. They state their market is 80% of their market, so they revamp and release a whole new core business line designed to appeal to the 20% of their company?

Obviously they want to attract more gamers, they buy alot of product. The suggestion their market is mainly collectors seems more trying to cover up previous errors of judgement.

In my time at GW it was all about the games. Selling the core sets, running introductory games and the numbers of gamers on your store gaming events were all seen as key indicators of how the store was doing. More gamers meant more product going out the door. A thriving local community would play instore and few ever left without picking something up and selling new product to an existing and loyal consumer was always more easier than selling to a new stranger to the hobby.

Wargaming is a hobby for life. Of the ten gamers in my group, all but two started with GW games, and even those two have played them. But now, the GW games are rarely played, certainly the current ones are not played at all. When we do play, we use older versions as for us they offer what we are looking for. Age of Sigmar has passed all of us by as its not something any of us have any interest in. Part of the attraction of GW, and especially fantasy, was the immersive and expansive background. To some of the older gamers, losing that wealth of background might be the nail in the coffin. Of course for me, its no issue, my GW games are still stuck in 1984. Had the Age of Sigmar game been a more traditional GW skirmish style game, such as Mordheim that they released several years ago, we would likely have bought into it... As it is, we pass it by and look towards Frostgrave or Dragon Rampant as a new game to try while happily playing a thirty year old version of Warhammer with 30 year old figures. With the current GW prices and the huge expansion of hobby companies, it will be a long time before I feel the urge to step into a GW shop again.

Over 16,000 "Gamers" have something to say about this

This 20% figure is total nonsense.

I started the hobby back in the 90s and I did purchase the miniatures, in order to play the game. I fell in love with the IP (WH 40k lore), and the independent studio which was designing very original boardgames / wargames. Back in this time, there were two different companies: GW designing the games, Citadel producing lead miniatures. Then I stopped buying games (plural) because I didn't have enough time to play with them. As a consequence, I stopped buying miniatures.

20 years later (2010) I've started playing again, because I have much more time now and much more money. I may be considered as a "Grey Beard" customer (35+ with money) in GW customer targets. This is how they call us.
But without the game(s), I wouldn't even buy a box of ten *plastic* soldiers "just for collecting purpose" for 30€ (french prices). GW collectors are very rare, unlike Starwars collectors which are legion. Because the GW customer base are Players with a big "P" and most of them are originally wargamers.

GW should consider why people are looking for miniatures proxies with other brands or ebay. Because playing the game with their own products is too expensive, especially for younger players.
I'm still buying a few GW side products, but for the "hobby part" which seems to be their core activity "according to their sayings", many are looking at other brand (especially for paints and other materials).

I'm working as a Quality Manager, so I can tell that GW Quality policy is totally inexistent. They don't want to know whether their customers are happy or not with their products (I've never been asked if I was satisfied or not by the quality of their products/services).
So how could they be able to know that only 20% of their customers are gamers, and the other 80% are collectors?

Total nonsense.

Games Workshop have a Franchise as big as Star Wars: Middle Earth. But their flawed marketing strategy has wasted its potential. When the Strategy Battle Game game and minis for Lord of the Rings came out, they were at a reasonable price, and were strongly supported by Tom Sawyer's White Dwarf. There was also the D'Agonisti collaboration magazine Battle Games In Middle Earth that was so popular, that its edition run was extended. Lord of the Rings: Strategy Battle Game
paid for Warhammer World.

Then there came The Hobbit. Very little support in White Dwarf (Tom Sawyer having left and now running the highly successful Warlord Games), most of the GW's talented Rules and Miniatures designers had gone, and above all the ridiculous pricing strategy.

I was being told by GW store staff that 'Hobbit' wasn't selling because parents were complaining 'the film had lots of fights with knives' !! Since when did that stop kids? There were plenty of decapitations in Lord of the Rings!!

To me as a parent, the real reason was obvious. When LOTR:SBG first came out, it was £30. When it was complete and Mines of Moria starter set was introduced, it was £40. OK, for a Christmas present that my son would like, I could accept £50. But The Hobbit: Escape from Goblin Town was priced at £75 !! Psychologically, that is too close to £100 for me as a parent to spend for my child on something he may - or may not - take to.

Yes, the sets are loaded with minis and can be seen as 'good value' - but for a Starter Set, they are overpriced. FFG, in contrast, have gone with an opposite strategy: X-Wing is approx. £25. Wizards of the Coast have likewise successfully relaunched Dungeons & Dragons with a £20 Beginner Set. Both company then make their money as new people become players, and want to buy further into the games systems.

And The Hobbit: SBG is far from dead. This is shown by the extraordinary rise in the past two years of the Great British Hobbit League, and its counterparts across the world. They have come about without GW's help, and effectively in spite of. Simply because there people there who want to game JRR Tolkien's books, and Peter Jackson's films, not the derivative Warhammer.

The Interest in gaming in Middle Earth is still very much there - but GW have failed to capitalise on this. Should someone else, like Warlord Games, be awarded the Licence from Tolkien Enterprises, they may well show GW what a big strategic mistake they have made.

Well Steve, may I say your completely right. As a stalwart player of the Hobbit SBG for 2/3 years I have seen interest and gaming in it plummet to practically 0 in my local GW store (GW Glasgow). The staff are excellent and continue to advise me on new armies, paint schemes, new game tactics and are always more than happy to help me. However, there have been no tournaments or events run for the Hobbits SBG and there haven't been any for well over 6 months. I try to arrange my own games but most of the time I don't get any and sometimes I wait months (literally) between games whereas Fantasy/Age of Sigmar and 40k are both played just about whenever I am in the store.

I remember the first time I walked in and there were Sets of 24 infantry models available for about £20
Now you get 12 or sometimes 10 basic models for £15 pounds and finecast models are extortionate. No wonder people aren't joining the hobby. All I want are regular games, nice models and decent prices.

I don't blame the staff, I blame the people at the top.

Investors may have to consider another factor: what will the impact be on GW of the forthcoming 40K rival : Gates of Antares ? This is in its final stage of release by Warlord Games, which was established by and recruited ex-GW employees, including the likes of Rick Priestley. Rick originally wrote the Warhammer system. The Gates rule system is based on his highly-successful Bolt Action World War II game that already has quite a following in the wargames community, especially among veteran warhammer players.

I think that it's worth looking into the volume of off-brand product that people are buying to play Games Workshop games. There is a small, and growing, cottage industry out there of people selling off-brand Warhammer-style miniatures, and in particular the ones that give people an advantage in the game. A few years ago when the games frequently featured units that weren't available as model kits, the off-brand producers would fill that need too, leading to GW scaling back the rules available after the Chapterhouse lawsuit (Chapterhouse being one of those off-brand producers).

Likewise there exists a thriving industry of counterfeiters selling recasts of the more expensive (and in-game advantageous) resin models. Frequently these off-brand sellers and counterfeiters are both less expensive and higher quality, particularly when it comes to resin production. There's resin recasts of products that GW produces in plastic, and it's telling that people would both recasting a plastic product in resin and sell it cheaper.

There's also a thriving bits-market where online stores, usually with a presence on ebay, break Games Workshop products down into their component pieces and sell the in-demand pieces. Naturally the pieces in demand correspond to what's best in the games, and acts as something of a barometer of the state of the games.

I think offbrand manufacturing, counterfeiting, and parts-selling indicates that Games Workshop is both mishandling the relation of its miniatures product to its marketing material (and the game rules are very much marketing material), as well as mis-pricing its products.

As someone familiar with both the gaming and hobby community and a securities analyst (CFA), I can tell you that the title of this article is a lie. Go back and look at how GW was doing back in the period from 2000 through 2005. Look at how the company almost ran itself into the ground and then look at its sales and profits since then.

Without market research, GW missed the market and lost substantial market share. There was once a time when you could go to gaming stores and find 20 to 30 customers excitedly attending the release of a new Warhammer Fantasy or Warhammer 40K army book release. The managers would recruit players regularly with introductory courses and games for younger players. That store is now closed; the last few managers of that GW store can now be seen at other gaming stores playing other tabletop games and none of them speak well of GW or its strategy.

GW is slowly dying because of its own arrogance, pricing policies, and games design neglect and policies. GW keeps raising prices on a shrinking loyal customer base which masks it problems by temporarily boosting and maintain profits and margins while seeing its player base increasingly eroded to upstart competitors, Privateer Press; Kings of War; Fantasy Flight, etc. are growing rapidly at GW's expense. GW is following a familiar late stage, cash cow strategy of milking what little remaining goodwill and IP it has but when new people walk into most independent gaming, hobby, and other stores they do not choose GW products, they choose either the card games, the specialty games, or the table top games that they see people playing. Even if they see people playing GW games, they reject them due to the substantially greater cost of models and books.

It's just been announced that Games Workshop, and the Gamers Club Network (GCN) - that represents most wargames clubs across the UK - have just parted company

Great article!

And one that confirms what we have known for a while. GW is milking a cash cow, that is getting ever smaller I feel.

The figure of 20% is ridiculous. I know a handful of people who mainly just collect for the hobby, and a small horde who play the game.

If GW do not invest some serious time and effort into the 8th Edition of 40k, I think that will be the final nail in the coffin for them.

GW will never change - they are an aircraft carrier in a bathtub with no intention of changing direction.

Yes they are making profit now but in time it will become less and less - I'm of the opinion that they are looking for a buy out/take over and making themselves as attractive as possible for this option.

On a personal level I parted ways with GW along time ago. Love the IP and universe. It has the potential to be so huge, as big as star wars and equally as profit making but this would require GW management mentality to change and it simply wont now or ever.

Totally understand the passion and frustration from people who feel so strongly and care about the Warhammer Universe. Unfortunately i believe people just needs to come to terms that your dealing with a company that wants you money and isnt interested in your thoughts, opinion, feelings or more.

I would suggest to anyone that if your wanting a sense of community and being valued then to look to another gaming universe/company like Fantasy Flight Games etc.

Another option is for people just to vote with their pockets and wallets, that's the ultimate way to show your support/exercise your power as a consumer in any industry.....specially a Niche one like this!

(Apologies if this is somewhat negative but its simply cause and effect of GW management and policy over the last 5-10 years)

As GW continues to profess that they are a models company, I would like to know then why do they limit themselves to only making models suitable for such a niche market as their own games? That limitation seems like a very poor business choice.

Hi Richard,
Very good report. I am executive of a large european company who also happens to be a tabletop fan since 40 years.I know GW since their founding. Finally, I spend probably more than 2.000 EUR each year for new models, many of them from GW. But not because I am a modeller or collector only, no because I am also playing actively 40k, Flames of War and WHFB...

My gaming group does a lot to make AoS something we like to play instead of WHFB 6./7. Edition ( we skipped 8.). But somehow it doesn't really work without ending up with so many houserules that we easily could play WHFB instead.

So what we do now is porting our Fantasy Armies over to Kings of War2, kissing AoS good buy. For some of our human armies we find better and cheaper products from Perry, Fireforge and many other manufacturers.

A lot of correct things have been said here about GW so I don't want to repeat all that.

My question to you as an investor is simply : why would you buy shares of company who doesn't even care about their money cows and doesn't even think about investing some money in market and customer intelligence.

What GW does is like flying on autopilot without checking what the AP exactly does and with no backup if any thing goes wrong.

Sure they can do that, but certainly not with my money as an investor and, most probably much less money from me and my friends as customers.

From what I hear in the gaming club , lot of those having played WHFB will move on to KoW2...not being interested in Treemen, Sigmarites and so forth. Very sorrow seeing a company like GW, who had done a lot for the Fantasy culture and genre in the past, missing out on it's customers needs so badly nowadays.....

" a trick borrowed from the Space Marines of Warhammer’s futuristic sister universe, Warhammer 40,000, gamers can employ heroes with superpowers (Stormcast Eternals). Purists think they unbalance the game, but Warhammer 40,000 grew to be a far more popular game than Warhammer Fantasy."

It took physical effort to resist plowing my forehead firmly into the wood of my desk on reading the above excerpt.

Imagine a DVD manufacturer made a press release today. It announces "We have learnt a very clever trick from our competitor Netflix, and are going to start including *CHILDREN'S MEDIA" in our range of entertainment".

The sheer nonsensicality of the above statement - innocuous-looking perhaps to one with no awareness of DVDs, but complete kookaburra to the rest of the world - would perhaps match the beginning sentence in terms of foolishness. The writer of this article has been made a fool by Games Workshop.

As to why "purists"* "think"** "Stormcast Eternals"*** unbalance the game Age of Sigmar, the reason is that very simply there is NO points system in the game. There is nothing stopping one player from laying down a large collection of extremely powerful models down against another with only a few weak individuals, by virtue of a total lack of measuring these factors agaisnt each other. Game balance is literally insulted as a concept by Age of Sigmar, hence the universal backlash among gamers.

*people interested in playing a game. Games Workshop loves to pretend only bitter old timers ever have interest in playing games and playing good games to boot, for peculiar and awkward reasons.

**infer by very simple reasoning - that the game is lacking a simple and vital pillar of game design, costs

***every unit in the game. Stormcast Eternals are a target of humour for their over-the-top physical design, but in game terms are probably the least of Age of Sigmar's issues.

Interesting read. I was probably one of gw customers they are focussing on, middle aged, who spent about £100 a month in gw but did not have the time to play so mainly do painting/modelling (young family). However they are missing the point completely about my buying habits.

I do think the models are great, however I bought them for the narrative of the game behind the figures, not just for the figures. I bought the rules to have this narrative even though I do not have time to play games anymore.

However this recent insult to customers, in a long list of insults has turned me and many more of my kind against all games workshop products except the monthly magazine. I bought warhammer and 40k models but the recent AOS and the arrogant attitude to customers and staff, has stopped me buying both. If they do think that warhammer gamers/collectors played 40k then they are mistake and this attitude will effect both revenue streams.

So what has my £300 been spent on since AOS:

£100 on mantic KOW to try something different
£100 on eBay buying out of print rules (which I will probably not use other than for warhammer narrative)
£100 malifaux which has given me all the rules and enough models to play/consider multiple games.

The new figures have not made the game cheaper to get into, you just get fewer midels which are more expensive but that are game winners, teenagers are not daft and will soon get bored of this.

So for the future for me, I really feel sorry for the staff, minimun wages with loads of pressure. As for buying models, I have enough still boxed figures to make/paint to last probably four years. In the meantime I will look for something else to spark my interest, however old hammer will survive, with or without games workshop due to the internet.

Regards a customer for twenty eight years


Proof that GW was out to lunch on the scrapping of WHFB:

The most vocal members of the international community, the ETC and SwedeComp groups, are creating their own version and getting the entire global community involved. In this, there are also blog posts on other miniature companies for each faction, as to avoid paying money into the GW machine.

This is already wildly popular, despite its short life time.

So, there you have it. GW forgot lesson #1 of business: your long term clients are worth their weight in gold. They are there for the good times, the bad times, and all in between. Well, they've essentially said "we don't want you" and have lost thousands of diehards, who (like myself) are nowhere near small-spenders. A 2250 army can run into the thousands... and many of us put a new one together every year. No longer.

We're the people that recruit long term players- the community grows itself, in spite of GW, this has been a truism for a long, long time. No longer.

Even the 40k players are beginning to head for the exits as they see what happened to WHFB, and want nothing to do with GW. Mantic is about to release a 40k-esque game and, most likely in line with Kings of War, will sell out the ruleset in seconds.

How are those limited edition releases selling for AoS? Oh right, they were taken off the website, in shame, when they wouldn't move.

Beware investing in GW- they're heading for a cliff, and FFG and Mantic are liable to push them over ... and not in the long term.

If GW really believes that gamers are only 20% of their customer base, that explains everything about why they're making such boneheaded decisions. Within a decade at most, they'll be bankrupt and their IP will be owned by someone who will understand how to make actual GAMES with it again. Personally, I'd love it if that were to be Fantasy Flight Games, but we'll see how the market shakes out ten years from now. All I can say with confidence for now is, GW has forgotten their core business and is doomed.

Well I've been playing 40k since high school and even play fantasy as well.....well I use to play fantasy, and I often feel resented by games workshop for paying them to play a game they produce. I will soon be turning 30 so I am definitely a long time customer and just feel often very confused about why a company would except my loyalty and hard earned wages then treat me like a annoyance instead of welcomed supporter of their business which I have been for years. My current gaming community is a rather competitive one and as things are now with game workshop constantly raising the cost to support them he who has the fattest wallet is king, and that most of them buy there models recast from china it's even harder to keep up, so reluctantly I've thrown in the towel and will be sending $450 of my hard earned wages to china, and with that decision I bitterly choose to not spend any more money with gw excepting codex as a hard message to games workshop as to what part of the hobby is more important. Being one of the last in my group to do this means that they have actively pushed out another loyal group of fans because they could not be bothered to treat us not only as their customers but as one of the loyal ones who have allowed them to become the company they are today. If it were not for us gw would not be in the position to mistreat there customers like they are now doing. Any business that insults and angers their primary customers is not headed in a good direction, let alone one who openly insults them saying there not true customers. I have for years been a loyal customer, but feel like the days of loyalty are more at a end. It is foolish to be loyal to those who reject you.

There are certainly risks involved in holding GW shares and it is worth bearing in mind that no man is as exposed to the share price or dividend policy as the company's chairman. Mr Kirby is in his mid-sixties and one can only speculate on how an individual would wish to manage such a substantial stake in terms of maximizing his personal or family wealth.

Whilst GW's chairman retains both a large holding and also effective control of the company I would expect to see generous dividends where at all possible, and I would also expect all efforts to be made to maintain positive results that would support the share price.

So - my advice to anyone holding GW shares is simply watch this.

If you wonder why there was a sudden influx of people who seem to be very "into" the hobby, it's because your article was posted on a wargaming forum, and sparked quite a discussion.

Anyway, my two cent on where GW is going. And do keep in mind that this comes from someone who used to be quite into the hobby, and who does not have a background in marketing or economics.

Their current plan is not a very good one for long term growth. They state that only 20% of the community actually "play" the game, and while that might well be true, there are a good amount of people who used to game, but for one reason or another can't anymore, but who still buys models. The problem with targeting this part of the market is that it lacks a proper "entry point" other than through the game itself. And if GW does not put any effort in making the game worth playing, then the amount of people who just stick around and buy models will be shrinking.

And also, do note that while GW have made claims about the market for these kinds of things shrinking, that's not true. There are currently more large actors on the market than there was 10 years ago, it's just that they've lost market shares.

It is certainly interesting that topmanagement member(s) claim that 20% of GW customers are not playing their games, when GW also seems proud to not do any market research. I also think there are some interesting reflections on this that have not been adressed directly so far.

What would be really interesting, for an intelligent management, to know about customer segments is also how much of the companys turnover that particular customer segment represents. Without this knowledge, segment representation is a rather useless knowledge exept for risk and loyalty evaluation. Say gamers are 20% of the customers but represent 70% of the turnover on models, GW would have good reason to change their attitude towards them.

Also, why does GW topmanagement put out such a comment, as I understand it rather casually and not as part of an official presentation or statement? They must know it outright contradicts an official statement (annual report)?

Incompetence has been seen to bankrupt a world market leader in less than a decade. E.g. Kodak and Blockbuster.

As an investor (as well as a customer with a substantial investment in their products) I would ask myself: could there be other explanations for this?

Also, in that same context of motive guessing, what was the question that was answered by this unofficial comment? Who asked it? Was it the general complaints from that, according to GW, minority customer segment? Why does GW management feel they can not answer what they allready stated on this topic: that they dont know! Because they do not make market serveys.

One last thought. Immagine that DHL reacted to a general consensus that teleport devices would be as common as labtops in a decade by stating they dont make market serveys :)

Sadly, I think GW are too far down the road to ruin to correct themselves. Their problem is they seem to be preoccupied with pandering to today's kids who are not interested in tabletop wargaming and in the process have neglected their bread and butter - the 30 year old gamer with disposable income. Once they inevitably convert Warhammer 40k over to the current Age of Sigmar model of simplistic, childish rules and ridiculously priced models then they are done as a profitable company. Every decision they make seems to further alienate their current customers and drive them towards the myriad of other tabletop wargames now on the market. There is no way I would buy GW shares - they are operating on borrowed time.

GW have recently tryed to impose dbs checks on all the member clubs of the Gaming Club Network. If the clubs did this then they are breaking the law. Clubs generally have more than 1 over 18 and the GCNs child protection policy is comparable to the dbs if not better.

As a hobbyist and gamer of 30 years experience I have to ask the question "Why no market research?" It seems like hubris of almost Roman Emperor like proportion.

I find the 20% claim preposterous and I doubt even GW believe it. If it's right their business is doomed. Essentially their argument that 80% of their customers buy models to display in their living room for the benefit of their spouse or children means that 80% of their customer base is not widely promoting their products, or even interacting significantly with others who may buy their products. If this is the case they need to do more promotion.

In 30 years I have never met a GW customer who did not first discover the hobby as a teenager. They may exist but they must be hellishly thin on the ground. I would question how many teenagers have the cash to fund a GW hobby currently in the climate of escalating prices.

As someone who runs a gaming club, one of the things I spend time most often doing is helping young teenage lads (sadly not so many lasses) start a GW collection or army for a realistic amount of money using the secondary market or model alternatives.

While I can say that they are succeeding in their mission statement as they do produce some of the most exquisite hard plastic model kits in the world, I wonder why they don't throw themselves into this 'mission' more fully. The hobby miniature market is expanding as is the tabletop gaming market. Why are GW manufacturing and designing models for other companies on a contract basis. Surely they have sufficient experience, infrastructure and technology to do this profitably.

Hell, they could even open their retail outlets to 'customers' and take a further slice of this business, or drop tbe 'retailing' aspect of the business (which they frankly suck at) altogether.

All of this lack of direction, disco-ordination and unfulfilled potential arises from lack of market research. The senior managers are steering the Titanic in the dark of an Atlantic night and we all know how that ended.

When 3D printing goes mainstream these profit-mongers will go out of a job. Why pay for an army when for about the same price you can get a set-up that will print your own?

I used to field three armies until they nerfed my primary by halving the basic weapon and removing my manouverability advantage; it was downhill from there.

Hi, very interesting comments. Having both played and sold GW miniatures, then known as Citadel I can certainly see where people are coming from. GW are getting into the digital realms with countless new games based on their warhammer and warhammer franchises.this is happening on Android, AoS and PCs with news of new games coming out almost weekly. Is this a sign that the collectors and gamers side is looking shaky?
The gamer collector whichever you want to call them feels they are getting a raw deal with ever increasing prices and new rule books coming out like there's no tomorrow these are not cheap. For instance people who bought the space marine codex found there was a new one released within the year. Worse still those who invested in Warhammer found their universe destroyed overnight. What about all the codexes and rules they had bought? More to the point what about the independants dealer who had bought into this? What were they to do when GW said take those off your shelves?
It's all right giving the customer rules and data sheets for their cherished miniatures free of charge this does nothing for the retailer and possibly not only alienates players who do not want to play AoS but also the independants trader who invested in GW products.
With respect to the digital arena many of these games are free to buy but have the in app purchase. Fine you don't need to use this, well if you don't want to progress past a certain level yes you do! Once again even in this arena the monster that is GW appears to be coming to the fore. This has left many players leaving these games. Yes, there's always new players but when they come to this dilemma pay and progress what will they do?
The future of gaming is at a crossroads with GW preparing to kill the fatted cow. Forge World with their expensive models at least know their target audience and play to it very well. Games Workshop look at your child and learn.

ahahaha 20%. no way in hell. It's more like 20% do not play it. It's so easy to fix their problems and yet only they don't see it for some reason. The whole planet knows what to fix to make more profits and they don't? They keep making the same errors not only as miniatures goes but as a company in general. If they don't change, within 10 years or less we will turn around to them and say "We told you so".

Hey, I thank you very much for this thrilling insight! Very interesting...and discouraging. You see, you claim their sells strategy with Warhammer Fantasy Battles changing to Age of Sigmar could improve sales because this way it would get more like Warhammer 40.000. Well there you are completely wrong. The Warhammer40k rulebook is even bigger then the last WHFB rulebook, even more complicated with much more mission types. And the people love it. Ok the most, I don't really like it but that's beside the point. Fact is, the WHFB-community in my area has completely disintegrated. And my area was the whole federal state of Niedersachsen aka Lower Saxony in Germany. It is gone. Just look up on Ebay how many WHFB armies are on sale at the moment. You simply don't have to buy new models because you can get huge armies for some pounds or euros. They threw the core of the game, the incredible backgroundstory into the litterbox and replaced it with...well, nothing.

I know some collectors and yes the< bought the new box. Where some gamers I knew bought a whole army as soon as new models were available. I think they take the wrong path. While the X-Wing-Community is seriously exploding and even Warmachine getting an ever greater foothold on the market GW is shrinking and shrinking with lesser and lesser sales. I remeber the times with the great worldwide campaigns when you took some friends to an local event and wow you had 3-5 new 40k/WHFB gamers within the week. It was a bit like seeding. I played with 3 people in my city at the beginning. After 2 years we were 50. Today we are 2. Make a guess how often we play or buy new miniatures.

Interesting article, I would like to add tho, that I do think GW is a "safe" bet for atleast a year or two more, since they have a quite solid base to pay out dividends on when you consider that GW as a company has little to no debt, they can borrow money to keep the investors happy.. But.. When the AOS debacle burns to the ground in about a year or two (depending on how much in denial and thickheaded the board is) (Ok ok, 3 years, they are really that dumb and full of themselfs), Gw will decline rapidly, and if you get a whiff from the board that they are going to change 40k (their nr1 money maker) Into a AOS(Age of Sigmar)clone, run, run very fast. Imho, as a gamer and collector for the last 20 years (now its more of a collector since I got 2 kids under 5), I have basicly quit GW as a company, I do still buy a mini here and there, but nowhere close to what I used to, and I am soooo hesitent to buy more 40k stuff to, for I fear that GW will do unto 40k what they did unto Fantasy. By wetting my finger and holding it up into the air to gauge how the wind blows for GW, the answer is that ppl who are not living under a rock are scared, really scared about what GW will do next, we have watched out beloved Fantasy being burned to the ground and paved over by substandard materials, and we fear 40k is next. Their move to kill fantasy WILL have a impact on 40k sales.

I'm always reminded of that statement from one of Games Workshop's previous reports. - "Market research is otoise in a niche."

My question would, is what Games Workshop defines a collector as, *really* the reality? Or is it something else?

My own, personal gut instinct is, the 'Collectors' are really people like the authors son. People (Kids and 20-something adults), who buy sets, because it seems really good and exciting at the time. Then never touch it again.

Or others, who like the *idea* of having a warhammer army and collection. Buy all the bits, spend all the money, then never follow through with it. I have multiple friends who buy and continue to buy whole ranges of Games Workshop models who are actually buying them with the intention of following through into the games. They just... never get round to it... And the models stay in their boxes, for years at a time.

Which, yeah, means GW gets their money but ultimately, the models were bought with the intention of playing games. No games, or lack of interest in the games themselves by GW and yeah, that income source will, eventually, dry up.

But yes, it's a growing market, so many games companies are now pecking at GW's bases now. - Right now, Mantic Games (mentioned earlier) are crowdfunding a game called Warpath that's intended to be an alternative to Warhammer 40000. It currently has 2,291 backers pledging a total of $273,766 and is halfway through its funding period.

The take away point i get is that GW latest move is like Coca Cola re-inventing it core brand..... and we know how that went !

OK I have purchased their product and will not repeat the many valid points made here

As an investor I'd place this company on yellow alert tending to red - time to consider selling


Hi Richard,

After playing Warhammer 40,000 on and off for the last fourteen years of my life, I find the claim that only 20% of customers play the games mind-boggling. As others have asked, how can they possibly know if they don't conduct market research?

In my experience, nearly everyone I met at local hobby stores played the games and the community surrounding these systems were fantastic recruitment tools. After all, surely if you spend hours and hours painting these models you want to show them off and give the game a whirl?

This is why the one-man store set-up slightly worries me.. I see the size of some of these glorified boxes and wonder how in the world they can host games nights to sustain a community and to introduce fellow hobbyists... especially when each store is ran by one man, who might not want to give up his evenings after working all week. This change might have taken a slice out of operating costs, but are they shooting themselves in the foot long-term? I'm still not sure.

I keep intending to phone 30 or 40 random one-man stores (maybe more) around the country, or at least check their Facebook pages to see how many are still catering to gamers through beginners sessions, veterans nights etc.

The 30% turn-over in staff sounds worrying too, although I must admit I have never come across a rude or unfriendly Games Workshop employee - the guys that run the shops are truly excellent at dealing with customers and often bend over backwards to help - so hopefully the company can keep finding these amicable replacements.

The percentage of customers playing their games must be falling, surely, simply because of degeneration of balance in the games rules (which I have experienced myself and has put me off somewhat - in fact I haven't played for well over a year now).

I've not played Age of Sigmar so I can't comment on whether or not abandoning the Warhammer game was sensible, but even much smaller, although not insignificant, changes to the Warhammer 40,000 rules has seriously bothered me and a number of friends in the past. Who knows, perhaps the easier rules will help induct the next generation of gamers from a young age... Another worry is the change of aesthetic in the game - most of the new models look like Space Marines, which I'm presuming the company did because most people can't get enough of them..

In my mind, Games Workshop has all the potential in the world, but I worry that Kirby has been surrounded by too many yes-men in the past and that the new CEO, Kevin Rountree, spent too long working for Mr Kirby to make any serious deviations from his vision.

When I was young, I would race out and buy a new box set every week - especially if I lost and thought my army needed something new building an army this way was extremely rewarding as a kid - and new rules sets would prompt more buying too as different units would become more or less effective. On this note, if your son wants to play, would you consider having a few games with him? My father and I played and often took trips up to Nottingham together and it was great fun - he enjoyed it as much as me if not more!

PC Gamers most certainly would - and do - convert from strategy games like the Dawn of War series and the soon-to-be-released Total War to table-top games.. I have a friend who made the switch years ago (or at least they might do if Games Workshop hadn't destroyed the fictional world in which the Total War game is set to make way for Age of Sigmar, so any would-be AoS players are going to find the two worlds irreconcilable what a waste of an opportunity!)

I always want to invest in Games Workshop, because I know how dedicated the fan base can be, but right now I simply don't have enough conviction in management. I'm planning on doing a serious amount of scuttlebutt soon, contacting all my old circles, finding out if games nights are still held - and I'm even going to play a few games of Age of Sigmar if I get the chance. If I find anything interesting I'll come back and post it here or on a future article.

Sorry for the ramble - but it seems Games Workshop brings that out in a lot of people,
Zach Coffell - Analyst @ The Motley Fool

I started playing 40K at the onset, way back in '87, it was brilliant! In Truth it was Space Hulk that started me off. I dropped out of the 40k gaming for a while and picked it up just at the end of 4th edition this was midway through '08, since then there's been three more editions with only 2 years between 6 & 7. I have issues with pricing and quantity. When 5th edition came GW published Assault on Black Reach, the box contained two playable(ish) armies and over £200 in equivalent models, then 6th edition arrived, 4 years later bringing with it Dark Vengeance. Again a box overflowing with stunning models and incredible value for money. Two years later we got 7th edition Dark Vengeance was reboxed and it became a bargain. For £65 there's around £126 worth of Dark Angels models in the box. If you have a friend who is prepared to swap their Dark Angel models for your Chaos ones you will end up with a fair amount of models for a quarter of the cash you would have to pay out for separate boxes.
Todays releases are ridiculously expensive. £90 for one, albeit large, model. yes it's a "collectors" hobby, but I feel that GW are driving the gamer away from the "hobby". The big wigs at GW seem to disapprove of the word "Game", that being the case why bather with the games? Airfix and Revell are model companies plain and simple, no gaming, no rule sets just stunning models. The Age of Sigmar ang Warhammer 40,000 exist to give the model builders/painters something to do with their collections. I collected and painted, I have two painting standards, table top and display.
Due to the excessive price increases I can't afford to collect, I'm not alone in this issue, many members of the gaming group I'm part of, in fact all of them, have, more or less, given up on GW as the main source of table top and are turning to the smaller companies. Companies that could become a concern for GW, right now many of them are a spectre on the horizon, but they are growing in popularity. GWs "loyal fanbase" aren't as loyal as the company would believe. GW do produce very fine models, of that there is no denying, but they do need to alter the view on which customers are important. Of course any customer that is spending their hard earned wage on GW product is important, more customers means more profit, more profit means happy shareholders. I believe that the 20% figure is off and is considerably higher. I know more painters that play than painters that don't.
GW need the gamers and painters not the other way round. They are losing customers, my local store is very disillusioned with the company and the whole "we're the best and we don't care what you think" attitude. I like the models and I like the 40k game, am I a Games Workshop customer? No! I don't like that my friends and I are now priced out of an activity that has bought me so much joy over last 28 years. I'm not keen that GW don't seem to care about the customer, I think the company should do some market research and listen to what their "Target Demographic" does want, I think they would be surprised that only thing the customer would want is for the prices to be a little lower, and maybe have the return of the speciality games, we really miss those.
It seems to me that GW has its head in the sand where the customer is concerned and has this delusion that it is loved by the customer, maybe if they did the research and looked at the forums they would alter their perception and realise that things may not be as bright as they believe it to be. Fortunately I can still enjoy a game of 7th edition 40k with out further purchases, if every customer adopted that view, I know at least 20 people that have, that's 20 people who have spent a penny on GW product for at least a year, could GW survive?
Consider if two people per UK county a week stop buying, that's 8944 people a year, four years ago my average spend on GW was £25 per month. If every one of those 8944 had the same average spend stopped buying that's a loss of £2,683,200 per year, £2.6 million. If that figure is even remotely realistic I would be worried. I's time GW realised that the mission statement of “We make the best fantasy miniatures in the world and sell them globally at a profit and we intend to do this forever.” could be a bit of an overstatement, forever may not be as long as they think it to be.
However, despite the long rant above I hope that things get better and GW start to respect the value of its customers, whether they are just buying a pot of paint every few weeks or six £90 models a month.

Are there really that many more collectors than gamers these days, that you'd basically ignore the wants of gamers?
From my standpoint, the age of Sigmar models aren't even worth collecting, their not that special. I've always imagined collectors buying limited edition stuff, or enough to make a cool diorama, not a whole army's worth...? Maybe they do.
If there's a mistake in GW's strategy, its the loss of the free advertising and customer base expansion that comes from social gatherings of gamers. If you don't see it, you don't know about it and if your mates don't play it then neither do you. I doubt collectors get together on a regular bases and show off their endeavors, they probably spend most of their time alone in the spare room working furiously away, influencing no one else.

The gatherings of gamers are what built GW in it's early days, can they survive with out it now?
Thats the question.

The completely unsupportable "only 20% are gamers" fiction is a flat out lie aimed at protecting the copyrights of their models. In the UK its not possible to copyright gaming pieces/markers. This was discovered as a byproduct of GW's three year copyright lawsuit (millions spent/wasted) against Chapter House Studios in the US and DURING the suit GW started up its "We are a modelling company." mantra so that they can claim that the models are small sculptures, not gaming pieces.

Because the reality is that GW's models ARE gaming pieces, a well designed, well financed UK copyright lawsuit aimed at GW would find that none of their figures are copyrightable and the "walls" around their unsupportable copyrights would come crashing down, leaving the company in shambles, with anyone in the UK able to make copies of their models and sell them legally.

Games Workshop has lost its way...

I worked in one of their UK retail stores 1997 to 2002, we had a period of time where our store was very successful, often returning a monthly 100%+ on the 125% growth target of previous years like month. That was in a 2 man store with a couple of key time staff..... our customer base was made up of about 10% collectors, 10% new gaming recruits and the rest was made of established gamers, of these established gamers about 30%-40% were completely enveloped in all aspects of the hobby (gaming/painting/modeling/collecting).....

Since leaving the company I have seen its gradual shift from reliance on gamers to IP related ventures and high cost collectors models all the while slowly alienating its huge gamer following. At one time they could hold the mantle of best figure producer in the world and currently on mass scale production they can still shout that claim but the reality is that there are a lot of figure companies out there that can put out figures/miniatures/models of equal and sometimes better quality albeit on a much smaller production scale. This scenario will continue to increase as 3D digital modeling to 3D print becomes more readily available..

Alienating a long established customer base with an established loyalty is a risky move but this is the path they have chosen as they clearly see their IP as the companies saving grace....

In my time working for Games Workshop the companies slogan touted at retail staff meetings was 'Global Domination'....that was global domination of the tabletop wargaming market...the passage of time clearly shows how they have deviated from that forging in new path in hope to hide their failings..

Warhammer DNA as you put it used to be a love of the Warhammer background whether that be the fantasy or 40k universe, after all it draws from pretty much every fantasy/sci-fi movie/novel out there...find a local tabletop gaming club or independent store that runs a gaming night and take your son to test the water......sadly GW stores are no longer the hobby stores that they used to be, they are just retail stores with a thin hobby veil.

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