The dilemma with Games Workshop. The Telegraphed Gazette: Column
Going through the various forums and Facebook, it is quite easy to see that a lot of people are frustrated with Games Workshop and their continuous price increases over the past few years. Indeed there is even talk of petitioning a national government to put a cap on the price of miniatures coming from the company, while others simply either throw in the towel and quit war gaming altogether, or find an alternative game to play instead of Warhammer, or Warhammer 40,000. While all this talk and noise is going on, those of us who are in a grey zone – neither happy or unhappy with the current state of affairs – are left wondering: “where do we go from here?”
Games Workshop continues to dominate this niche market, and the evidence is literally right in front of your eyes. The quality of their products has never diminished, and indeed the new releases coming out are far better detailed than any of the items released back in 2003. Some would argue that other miniature companies can easily replicate the same level of detail, to which I will ask: “which ones?” Privateer Press mainly manufactures Warjacks, or combat robots, and the level of detail required for heavily armoured soldiers and war droids is not as demanding as a Tau HQ unit. Even with detail out of the equation, Games Workshop is able to manufacture their models at a reasonable rate, making re-stocking store shelves less painful – contrast that to Privateer Press who are constantly behind in their orders for new models and re-stocking existing ones. When it comes down to business, Games Workshop knows how to run the ship.
Now the less savoury aspect of the hobby is that the price of materials is steadily rising, as we see from time to time the increase in prices for miniatures from the said company. Games Workshop is no stranger to market forces, and indeed when the company cannot post profits, they are forced to reduce operations – in the case of the Specialist Games Range – and to increase their prices to match the inflation and cost of operation. The situation is not easily painted as black or white though, as those of us aware of Games Workshop and their situation understand that as a company, their first and foremost goal is to make money. Now jacking up the prices of their products to the point where they are unaffordable is ridiculous, but at the same time these miniatures are a luxury item, and are not needed in order for a person to stay alive in this world.
When people protest the rising cost of rice and wheat, there is good reason to ask a national government to intervene. Food and supplies related to food production are paramount to not only the survival of the people, but also the survival of the nation as a whole. Miniatures on the other hand are just like cars, jewelry, and toys: they are completely unnecessary, and if they were to stop being produced, no one will die because of it – though in the case of cars, that is debatable (think Taxis, and food delivery services). Games Workshop has no real responsibility to ensure the market does not top over, nor do they have to worry about international conflicts erupting because the cost of a box of Space Marines is no longer affordable for the average man. Now when the scenario of the 13 year old with his mother comes into play, remember that there are armies out there in the 40k and fantasy lineup that require less models to start up. Indeed Games Workshop tends to do a “blast radius” when it comes to business; that being they tend to target people willing to travel the distance to get to their store, or they aim to introduce the hobby to locals and get them involved. Distance or their “loyal customer fan base” is not an issue for them when it comes to marketing.
Now where does this leave us as the “grey area occupiers?” Well some of us have left the hobby, opting for other less expensive pastimes, while others have cut their losses and purchase what they can either from Ebay, or from the store whenever they have something that is within their budget – I know I have built an army on a budget before, and I can do so again if I wanted. The fact of the matter is war gaming is – by its very nature – inherently expensive. Some games can go for as low as 40 dollars a box set, and even then the 13 year old with his mother will gawk at the situation wide-eyed and in shock. The hobby requires glue, paint, primers, and of course rulebooks and models in order to become a full-fledged hobby – all of this can easily add up as specialist paints, brushes, modeling tools, and so forth are not as cheap or easily found as – say – a shovel at a local hardware store. Some people are courageous enough to improvise, but in the end the truth remains: these models are expensive, and not everyone is willing to cut corners just to save a few dollars while their investment is at risk.
Those of us in the grey area continue to watch as the company makes its next move, but for us the years that came after 2008 have not been so kind to us as the prices of their products continue to rise due to the cost of operating their business on the global market, and our income has not gone up in recent years. While there are alternatives to the company, the quality, and productive capacity is not easily replicated, and in some cases like the old Mechwarrior miniatures game by Wizkids have gone under and no longer exist today. War gaming as a hobby is by its very nature costly – not as costly as a BMW, but costly nonetheless. Therefore those of us wishing to continue in this enjoyable pastime will need to look at two factors: can you build an army with less, and can you keep yourself from impulse buys. There are tons of good paints, primers, and brushes on the market for modeling, and those can be an alternative to the Games Workshop-produced line of glues, paints, and brushes. Otherwise how would Japanese modeling companies sell their products if no one can paint them?
Impulse buys are dangerous, and if a player wants to build an army, they really need to have the self-discipline now more than ever to focus on their army, and keep to a list. Indeed they will need to select the army that suites their playstyle best, and learn how to make the individual model “heavy” points-wise in order to build up the army to a particular point with limited models. Everyone is indeed different, but discipline can be acquired if the army they have chosen is exactly what they want, rather than what their friends tell them to get. Ultimately though the hobby has its faults, but even with Games Workshop doing what it is doing I still like Warhammer 40,000 and the other two games they produce. The miniatures are of good quality, and no other modeling/war gaming hobby lets me go in-depth into the story arc as the Games Workshop titles. The miniatures themselves serve three roles: as display pieces, as gaming pieces, and as modeling pieces; making them worth their price, and worth the time it takes to put them together.
Ultimately it is entirely up to the individual whether or not they wish to start, or continue with this hobby. The prices show no sign of dropping any time soon, and with the economy still doing poorly, companies like Games Workshop will have to adapt to the change in order to survive. Many other companies like Wizkids have gone under, and with video games dominating the market for entertainment alongside the film industry miniature companies will have to make their next moves with caution lest they go under and all that they worked so hard to build collapses into the sea. Thank you for reading, and I shall catch you next time.