Monday, 13 January 2014

Cats and Pigeons all over the place!

Well that certainly put the cat among the pigeons! It seems that GW's decision to axe the venerable White Dwarf magazine in it's current form (not officially announced yet but I have been given the nod that it is happening) has left the Oldhammer world (and presumably the rest of the warhammer fantasy web fandom) in a frenzy about the possible death of Warhammer fantasy itself.
Considering the Oldhammer community have made a conscious decision to play 3rd edition and revel in the glory that are metal miniatures I was quite surprised at the responses when Orlygg suggested on his blog http://realmofchaos80s.blogspot.co.uk/ that it wouldn't be long before GW decided to do the only thing that seems sensible from a business point of view, and put a bullet through WFB's brow. There are threads all over the place full of hand wringing and fevered denials. There was even an appearance on the Oldhammer forum of the internet forum staple or random fanboy guess work based on spurious evidence. What Orlygg suggested wasn't surprising or completely left field, just an honest opinion based on experience with GW working methods. It can't be outside the notice of even the most ardent denier of Kirby era Gw that the business has been changing rapidly over the past couple of years. All sorts of bits and pieces have been lopped off the Lenton tree, from Warhammer Historical to Specialist games to the reduction of staff at HQ to the running of GW stores as one man part time shops to complete farce that was Finecast. These are all methods of cutting overheads in a business. From a money making stand point, they all make sense.

The demise of White Dwarf is just the latest in a long line of cost cutting measures.
The magazine market as whole has contracted massively in the last decade and to get a full, glossy mag into shops that want to be making a profit on every sale, through independent distributors who want to be making a profit on every sale while the circulation of your product is contracting, cost a lot of money. Hey! let's chop out the middle man! Lets only sell them in our shops! We can use it as sales add on! Sell 50 in a month and you have raised the average sales level and created growth! Lets make it weekly so that they can but it every Saturday that they come in with their parents! From a business point of view it starts making sense.

But what about good old WFB? Well lets look at it sensibly. In the latest version you need, what can only be described as, a shitload of figures to play it effectively. GW's own images of Warhammer battles contain ridonculous amounts of gorgeous figures, squeezed impossibly onto stunningly sculptured tables.
 Let's face it. If you were 12 now you'd take one look at a WFB army and the above would be your reaction. Especially when you can glue together 10 space marine, spray them black (to be fair most kids don't even bother with that) and have a game of 40k. Kids just don't have the patience for fantasy. The Gw method of recruiting new hobbyists also favours 40k, short bloody 'intro games' where the emphasis is on excitement and the aim is to 'let the Wookie win'. This same kind of instant hook is a lot more difficult for WFB to replicate, LOTR/Hobbit does it better but the method still favours shooting and explosions! This leads to a downward spiral of interest in the game, the harder it is to recruit new players, the less kids are exposed to it, meaning more kids are picking up 40K from their mates leading to a situation where you are only selling product to people who have been playing the game for years. Meaning that you need to constantly bring new product to the market in order to keep the money coming in and when you've got as many product lines as WFB needs (read-armies) with each of them taking a chunk of the revenue, it's harder to justify spending money on relaunching a new product line every 3 months.

This is really the nub of the problem. You have two product lines. Both require the same amount of capital input, support, shop space, tooling costs, warehouse space, packaging costs, printing costs, R&D costs etc etc. However, one sells a fraction of the other and it's sales are falling all the time. It's gotten to the point where it's financial viability is seriously in doubt. What do you do?

Of course, I could be entirely wrong...........





This wasn't the post I intended to write, I was going to discuss european Medieval personalities and how we could use them as influences for scenarios, armies and games. I'll get right on it.

3 comments:

  1. A well thought out commentary there Whiskey Priest. Its certainly interesting how a personal ramble during a period of convelesance can spread so rapidly across media and get people talking. You, at least, throw more actual thought on to the fire instead of accusations of diatribe. I hadn't thought of the impact a modern plastic Warhammer army must have on the minds of the modern twelve year old. Is it off putting? Certainly the cost must be. I can also see a similar feeling of intimidation growing over entry to the Oldhammer Scene and its one we should be careful not to encourage.

    Keep up the good work!

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  2. What do you do?

    You make a faster WFB that needs less figures. A Mordheim+ if you will.

    Heck I think you just made the case for a return to WFB small scale McDeath style scenario game.

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  3. Thanks Orlygg. I'm glad it actually made some sense. How do we stop the Oldhammer Scene becoming intimidating? How about we start a thread on the Forum , or a series of blog-post showing ideas for doing Oldhammer without the nagging Ebay habit or using cheaper and alternative models or even using more recent models in an Oldhammer fashion. I'd be up for that, I've a couple of ideas for units that i've already started that'd fit well with that ethos.

    Rob - I agree. That's what Warhammer needs. Or at least needed. The sad thing is that they got it nearly spot on with War of the Ring but kept it to the LOTR universe. Again the idea of keeping the two ranges separate was nuts. Mordheim was a great game and the idea of building up your warbands into small armies a la Realms of chaos and using them in scenarios like McDeath really appeals.

    In fact, thinking about it, both those ideas could be put together into a neat little thread/theme. 'How to Oldhammer', 3 or 4 blokes, building small armies using no-elitist mini's and playing a really cool little campaign to show how it could be done! Genius!

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