Monday, 2 January 2012

And Maybe Next Time We Go Shopping Games Workshop Will Be Cheaper

The plaintive cry of an 8-year old, yesterday.

I took the not-really-a-nephew-nephew geek shopping after Christmas to spend some of his Christmas money. Birmingham is pretty handily laid out for geek shopping with CEX, ModelZone, Forbidden Planet and Games Workshop almost next door to one another in the same street.

(Obligatory footnote and plug for Niamh and Adey - with independent gaming store Wayland's Forge only two streets away from them).

NRANN's Dad is a mate from the Epic 40K trenches back in the 90s and he was appalled in GW - not just at the prices but at the -

(The Internet interjects - look, GW is fucking stupid expensive and probably losing customers hand over fist. We know this, get to the point).

- lack of any white metal. He picked up one blister of FailFinecast figures and was shocked at the huge amount of flash and pock-marking. As he pointed out afterwards over ersatz-chickenburgers in KFC, GW are now limiting themselves to rich kids and furthermore rich kids who are all competent modellers (and I added, those too fucking stupid to complain about the quality of the shit they are being sold).

(The Internet interjects - we know this as well. Get to the point).

So NRANN wasn't allowed anything from GW and spent his Christmas money on Star Wars toys from Forbidden Planet instead.

(The Internet interjects - better, but it was all prequel stuff wasn't it?)

Traditionally the view about GW from outside of THE GAMES WORKSHOP HOBBY is that it exploits the ignorant (in the "doesn't know anything about the wider hobby" sense, not the more perjorative sense of "pig shit thick") and probably provides an entry route into the wider hobby. I've generally gone along with this but mainly due to a bit of confused thinking.

It goes like this - you can't write off GW as an entry point to wider gaming because you are surrounded by people who started with GW in the 1980s. Therefore GW = entry point to wider gaming hobby. This however ignores the fact that 1980s GW != 2010s GW. Therefore what we can define as "entering hobby through GW" then is widely different to now. Much of the goodwill granted to GW by the wider hobby is because of this reason and has almost certainly been obselete for 20 years.

Furthermore seeing NRANN 's Dad as a father who suddenly envisaged having to bankroll all this shit out of his student teacher salary was an eye-opener and raised a question in my mind.

If we can justify (and excuse) GW as an entry point because n people every year enter the wider hobby how can we continue to do so if x people every year enter a GW store and get frightened off and stick to computer games? How many people are x? It is of course impossible to say.

Is Workshop now a parasite and detrimental to the gaming hobby as a whole? I think it is.

Curiously while geek shopping in those four shops I spotted something a bit similar. ModelZone sell Scalextric sets and cars. Everyone in the UK knows Scalextric but not everyone knows that it's only one brandname for slotcars. All 1:32 scale slotcars run on all brands of 1:32 slotcar track. ModelZone sell a few other brands of cars alongside Scalextric but have to display large signs stating that "AUTOART CARS ARE FULLY COMPATIBLE WITH SCALEXTRIC TRACK" in order to shift them. Otherwise people would assume that Scalextric was the only slotcar brand and these other boxed cars were for some other racetrack-type game.

Unfortunately GW occupy a position rather like that. Having told everyone who would listen that they are the Alpha and Omega of gaming those people who are frightened away are almost certainly lost to the hobby.

We've indulged them for years believing that if they vanished the wider hobby would stumble and fail but I no longer believe that - I now think the wider hobby would benefit if GW stores started closing.


  1. Once again you are full of wisdom, Coop.

    Although this post has made me nostalgic for Epic, and also sad because I know how much it would cost to get back into it.

  2. In that case you might like to take a look at Future War Commander - full army lists for Epic (under false names!) dozens of other 6mm sci-fi lines and you need less figures/tanks for a good game than Epic required.

    It's based on Warmaster and locally has got a lot of old Epic armies out of retirement.

  3. I haven't touched GW since around 2000 or so (whenever 40k switched to 4th edition). Even then, it was really expensive. I can't imagine having to buy a full army these days.

    I've seen some of the new Finecast stuff that friends have bought. They are huge GW fans, and even they are not happy with the new models.

    I'm still not sure how the company stays in business. They can't be doing as well as they were 15 years ago.

  4. I can heartily recommend Future War Commander. I spent far too much on Epic stuff last year for the game. It scratches the itches in all the right places and is dead easy to learn.

  5. Future War Commander it is! Thanks!

  6. So how else are people getting into the hobby (that's 'the wargaming hobby', not 'the GAMES WORKSHOP hobby') in the current decade?

    The argument in favour of GW-as-is, which I've had trotted out to me a few times by the chaps I used to game with up Gloucestershire way, is that for all its faults it gives the miniature wargaming hobby a high street presence, and one that occasionally manages to recruit through the computer gaming world*.

    From this point of view, high street presence may be the only way to get some people's attention onto the fact that the hobby exists at all. Blokes in sheds making and trading stuff over the Internet is fine, but where does the next generation of blokes in sheds come from?

    At the moment, it's people playing GW games and then finding something that's more to their liking: but so few of them successfully manage to quit because you never know if you're the only Infinity player in town or not, since there's no obvious place to go and look for the others.

    Understand that I don't necessarily agree with this, but I haven't the savvy to prove it wrong.

    * - Dawn of War in particular, where there's a strong tradition of SPACE MARINES between the media involved, and if Dark Millennium ever comes out and isn't shite it may have a similar effect on the MMO crowd, assuming Blizzard don't squash it with a fanbait expansion they've probably been sitting on for years).