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Villanous Scum

This has come up as tangents in various threads and I thought it deserved a topic of its own.

So why does everyone think GW have such force in the miniature wargames market? From reading various posts it seems like many people do not consider any other game or manufacturer when they discuss wargaming, let alone are willing to branch out and play them. A few theories that have been postulated are;
1. GWs longevity, they have been around since the mid seventies and have been continuously building and expanding the scope of their IP all that time (okay they dropped some, retconed others and blew up a bit of it but the core has remained). Only various historical manufacturers can say the same that I am aware of.
2. Their games serve as most/many people's gateway to the hobby and they stick with what they know. I got into the hobby through Heroquest for example.
3. Visibility, pretty much any hobby store you go in will have tables where GW games are being played and rack upon rack of produce where any other company will have a minimum. So it is seen as being the most popular thing and thus draw more people into it. A self perpetuating cycle.
4. No other branch of the hobby actually exists and any appearance to the contrary is an illusion.

So what are peoples thoughts? And how prevalent is GW in your area?
For reference;

The three groups I am part of locally roughly break down as follows;
1. Local town, 50% GW, 30% FFG, 20% historical.
2. Town about forty miles away,40% RPG, 30% CCG, 25% FFG, 5% GW (Underworlds that I drove).
3. Capital city, 70% CCG, 15% FFG, 15% boardgame.

I dont imagine that is representative and I know that there are two big clubs that are mostly GW (have played in both and they would be 80% GW and 20% historical) and of course there are 2 GWs in the catchment as well. I think that is a large part of why FFG games have proven so popular and long lived here as we tend to get a lot of events and it keeps people interested in playing more to practice. It seems like 40K and AOS have the same sort of regularity (about once a month) whilst historicals are every few months for different systems and other games are pretty non existent.

This thread is not for discussing price rises, nor GW being the evil empire, nor what is the one true way to play games.

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Fully-charged Electropriest

They got lucky with Rogue Trader being so popular and then rode that luck well, to the point that their market position is self-perpetuating.

They have vastly better market visibility in their home territory than basically any other wargame. GW has their own shops on every high street in the UK and that gives them unique access to customers who wouldn't ever necessarily stop in to an LGS, especially since those are often placed away from main shopping areas because they can't afford the rents and rates. Even if you are shopping in an LGS, most of them will stock GW stuff because it's a consistent seller with a dedicated fanbase. As you pointed out, this means there's a lot of kids who get into "Warhammer" rather than "wargaming" - some of them may then go on to play other games, but for an awful lot of them (I'm one) Warhammer stuff is burned into their brains before they ever find out about the wider world of gaming.

They also have vertical integration which is unmatched by basically any other company in the sector. They own their own retail as above, they also own their own manufacturing, their art, sculpting, game design, book design, everything else is done in-house - basically the only thing they don't do is the printing and some of the cardstock stuff. That gives them way more control over the process and the ability to operate at a scale that competitors who're manufacturing under sub-contract in China or casting in a garage or whatever else can't touch. Plus they control 30+ years of IP they can draw from.

Locally we have a mix of GW-only players, historicals players, "wargamers" who play a bit of everything. Some people have moved between groups over time. My LGS does a good job of cultivating the non-GW side of the hobby, in part because the owner is an old school guy who grew up playing historical games, but there's a huge 40k community as well.

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Princeps of the Emperor's Titan!

I suspect it can be traced back to Hero Quest and Space Crusades, the games which pretty much made Games Workshop.

Simple enough to play, but with decent depth to them to satisfy kids (I was 9) and older demographics.

From that point, we see GW getting ever more, well I’ll use the word professional, in their output.

Tracking the development of 40k throughout 1st Edition is an interesting journey, and one I intend to do a series of future articles about. The models improved, the rules received quite regular updates and rewrites, to the point you can’t really put a Rizla between the game structure of late 1st and 2nd.

They were also very, very bold in having their own stores. In the early days (before my time) they sold all sorts, beyond their own fare. But overtime their own products took ever greater precedence, to the point that by the time I first walked into GW Edinburgh around 1990, it was all GW’s own brand.

So from there, Games Of A Certain Vintage only really saw GW.

Now, fast forward a bit to circa 1996. Only a few scant years later, but GW’s growth had been pretty impressive, and their presentation ever slicker.

That was the time I first dabbled in FLGS, specifically the long, long gone Orc’s Drift in Tonbridge.

By that point, the shelves included Flintloque, Chronopia (I think?) and perhaps a couple of other games. But was still predominantly 40k and Fantasy - precisely because the majority of its customers had cut their teeth on GW’s offerings, and therefore had existing armies to support.

But for me, it wasn’t really until the early 2000’s that we saw serious contenders for GW’s crown. PP showed up with Warmachine, then Hordes. Mongoose produced Starship Troopers ( and sadly some of the worst models I’ve ever seen).

Yet in the U.K., GW still maintained near absolute market dominance. Not through dirty tricks. Not by pushing out FLGS, but because they got in there first. They had the financial clout to maintain their stores even through rough patches. And crucially, they were always Just Off The High Street. Cheaper rents, but still close enough to the main areas to be easy to find.

GW essentially revolutionised wargaming in the U.K., and made it accessible, long before competitors started gearing up. Indeed, I think there’s a very, very strong argument that had it not been for GW, we simply wouldn’t have the likes of PP.

And so it continues. GW are a visible presence. And they’re finally starting to work their IP ticket, spreading their way into ever more niches of nerddom.

I believe their success is one-off, and I really don’t think it could be repeated in the same way today, regardless of who or what the product is. Particularly given its ‘All Me Own Work, Guv’, and not tied to licenses in the public eye.

By sheer dumb luck, and a wee bit of business know-how in the earlier days (remember, Tom Kirby, maligned as he is, took them to the big time) they’ve achieved a sort of critical mass. They’re big now, because they were big back then. And they were big back then because they were the First To Get It Right, with an organised studio and in-house production facility.

It’s like pretty much any media Giant in a given field. They were there at the beginning, made some good choices, and kept on, especially when their size meant any downturns (GW Post LOTR boom) could be ridden out.

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 Mad Doc Grotsnik wrote:

I believe their success is one-off, and I really don’t think it could be repeated in the same way today, regardless of who or what the product is

The was a brief time when either Privateer or Wizkids looks like potential candidates to take the crown, but neither were able to sustain the momentum.

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Tyrant of Badab

HATE Club, East London

Athough I never played the non-advanced versions, I think the point about Heroquest and Space Crusade is correct.

Having the advanced versions and other games such as Space Hulk also secured that position.

I am almost unique amongst my gaming group (of mostly 30-45 year olds) in that I started off with Blood Bowl. Almost everyone else came via those two, and the few who did came via D&D or other RPGs.

I also think White Dwarf from about issue 100 to 150ish was a big factor. It was a bloody great magazine back then.

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I guess it also helps to look at other media and industries to understand what topples Big Boys.

Broadly, it seems to be Notable Innovation.

Nokia were for a long time the champion mobile phone manufacturer. Renowned for solid builds and reliability. When it comes to just making and receiving calls and texts, a Nokia from 20 odd years ago is still an absolute workhorse.

Yet....they’re now a shadow of their former selves it would seem, as they failed to get on the Smart Phone bandwagon.

We’ve seen at least one company try (and ultimately fail) to marry standard TTG to the digital age. For whatever reason, that innovation didn’t catch on. Doesn’t mean the innovation itself is flawed, just that it didn’t work then.

3D Printing is often touted as a problem for GW. And perhaps it is, sadly it’s not something I’m especially up on as a technology. But only if GW don’t in some way adapt to its continuing emergence.

Will they lose some sales to those just printing their own models? Certainly, I think that’s entirely unavoidable. But to the point the business can no longer sustain itself? Who knows.

One hurdle to 3D Printing as far as GW’s dominance is concerned is the length of time taken to print a single model, let alone a whole army’s worth.

Another is that GW offers a wider appeal than just the model itself. I for one really, really enjoy putting kits together (unless they’re resin, just my quirk). Clipping from the sprue, careful clean up, feeling the bits find their seating, and building something complex from flat pack. From what I’ve seen in my general ignorance, 3D printing tends to be more finished product than a kit - so for the likes of me, it’s appeal is more limited.

Overall, the assumption that 3D Printing is the future, and a GW Killer is somewhat flawed - as the premise relies entirely on GW doing nothing in the face of its continuing advancement in wider practicality. Right now, we can reasonably say GW are keeping tabs on it. They must be, because of how they design their models and their own adoption of Rapid Prototyping.

So how might GW adapt, and how might that affect things seems the wiser question.

Well, the most basic way at some point in the future are Citadel Branded 3D Printers. A sure fire way for Pleb In The Street to know the printer itself is up to the task, because not all printers are equal.

Another, and I don’t know owt about programming so again, I acknowledge my ignorance, could be a proprietary coding - perhaps one only a GW branded Printer or Software can make use of, to limit as best possible piracy.

Further option? Kit out their stores with High End, High Speed 3D Printers. Maintain that thrill of going in and coming out with a physical product - and the opportunities for upselling that come with it.

It really depends how widespread adoption of 3D Printers in the home becomes. Many on Dakka are tech heads, people with a passion and affinity for bells and doohickeys and gadgets. That’s always been a part of Nerd Culture. So perhaps we’re not a decent litmus test of how Pleb In The Street feels about the tech in question.

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Regular Dakkanaut

Well said Grotsnik!

One thing that I believe was also a major contributing factor was White Dwarf being available in newsagents and Wh Smith, where I'm sure the fantastic art on the covers led to many young impressionable kids discovering GW.

Back then, it really was only White Dwarf and occasionally TSR`s Dragon magazine that could be found outside of specialist gaming shops (of which there were VERY few in the UK) and is probably the single most important factor for me at least when it comes to getting into the hobby.

I remember way back when, young 11ish year old me and my parents were wandering around the big WH Smith in the centre of Merthyr Tydfil when i spied a blue covered magazine emblazoned with the words 2New rules for Heroquest and Space Crusade!! on the cover.

Well, having received Space Crusade for christmas a few months before and having played it thoroughly with my friends I was immediately drawn to it.

I purchased the mag with my pocket money and when I got home, looked in the index, went straight to the Space Crusade section and discovered a model I still rank as one of my all time favorites...the original tall boy Tyranid Warrior!!!

After that, I had to know more and then cardiff got a GW store!

Went with my parents for that years birthday, saw what was back then called the Banshee class Eldar Dreadnought model and well, here I still am today, many many years (and thousands of pounds) later!

I'm sure my experience is shared by many others.

As you rightfully say, GW's position in the market today is the result of them taking wargaming onto the high streets and out of small, secluded "you'd never know it was there unless someone told you" gaming/comic shops and most importantly I feel, packaging it in a way that appealed to people my age.
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I would also include WFRP. It helped immerse fans into GW's ecosystem, even if they weren't parcularly into wargaming.

Similarly, I think that the various 30K/40K novels do much to inspire loyalty in GW's setting.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/06/08 12:20:09

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Regular Dakkanaut

GW is the Apple of miniature wargaming. Its the holistic experience and polish that draws people in, especially given how niche wargaming is. If you are new to it all, GW seems like a friendly, easy-to-get-into and looks classy from the artwork, packaging, to accessories.

And, as with Apple, there are also many things GW does "wrong", but that mainly involves the woes of experienced "users".

I still remember my first trips to a local wargaming store in the early nineties. Beardy "comic book guys" frowning over our love for GW products instead of "serious" RPG stuff. If GW stores had existed where I lived back then, I would probably only went there, just to avoid the pisstaking from the jadedd RPG vets who were older than us.

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2020/06/08 12:25:38

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Fireknife Shas'el

GW knows how to promote itself. Having White Dwarf before they even really got the ball rolling was a big help, but GW was buying ad space in Dragon Magazine, and they put out TV commericals for HeroQuest (Bwoadsword!), licensed their product to video games, up to full on retail stores. They push their product hard, and it works.

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Decrepit Dakkanaut


They've also been pretty smart in avoiding borrowing to expand (despite the push listed companies always get to grow fast)

but that lack of borrowing means that when things have gone wrong (reletivly speaking) they haven't imploded paying off debt

they've also in the early days ridden the licencing bandwagon, putting out versions of runequest, call of Cthulhu, Stormbringer etc which were a staple of their early stores during the RPG boom years

and brought in acrylic paint for miniatures which was a revelation compared to the humbrol enamals that were all that had been available previously (and acrylic are oh so much more user friendly than enamel), I remember being amazed how much easier painting got

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Aspirant Tech-Adept


At least for me, a 90's kid, my options if I wanted to get into the model hobby were the local GW or the local Beatties. Beatties sold all manner of models, so there was no guidance or push, and no full ranges to browse in my local (fairly small) store. GW on the other hand had everything you could ever need in a single store. They had several model ranges of their own, and a bunch of helpful, excited employees to help sell it to you. They'd let you sit and paint at the painting station, even give you free space marines to paint that you could take home.

I don't know if that applies to the whole UK, or was more localised to me, but if it was something that happened nationwide, it's no surprise that nobody was able to compete with them. Pretty much everyone my age is at least aware of Games Workshop/Warhammer. If I asked everyone I know what they think of Mantic or PP, I'm guessing 99-100% of the answers would be "Who?"

Now how they've become a global powerhouse, I'm not entirely sure. They certainly had a stable home market they could rely on for money for expansion. They've built a powerful and recognisable IP that has been exploited through video games and other mediums giving them brand recognition. How they've translated that to model sales elsewhere I'm not sure.

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Princeps of the Emperor's Titan!

I feel we also shouldn’t discount their scale of production.

Not just for getting existing kits onto shelves (bit of a wobble there, but the new factory is in place now, I think? If not it’s still a matter in hand), but an unrivalled capacity to produce more and more entirely new products.

Each release keeps eyes on, with the worst case scenario for each individual being ‘nothing of interest for me this week’. But with their previews returned, we know there’s stuff coming up soon which we do want - so we keep money aside or what have you.

X-Wing, a fair sized competitor? Releases what, once a quarter? And whilst I’ve not been keeping an eye, I dunno when there last preview was, or what it showed off.

Actually, X-Wing is another potentially interesting thing.

See, it’s a pretty solid game, no denying it. And barring ‘chase the card’ pretty cheap to get into. 5-6 ships will set you back maybe £120 or so, depending on where you source them.

The gameplay and cost combined were solid promotions over GW’s game’s at the time.

Yet......FFG appear to have blown a chunk of goodwill. First, it wasn’t terribly long before Duff Ships turned up (A-Wing and TIE Advanced). That in itself isn’t a huge problem, as FAQs and patches can address. But, FFG instead decided to have you cough up for the fixed rules. A-Wing via Rebel Aces, TIE Advanced via an Epic Ship.l...that’s right, to fix the broke, you gotta pay quite handsomely for it,

Turrets proved too ubiquitous, and removed much of the challenge in a game based around set manoeuvres and careful flight planning,

Eventually the did 2nd Ed....which from what I saw at the time, annoyed quite a few people. Conversion Kits had to be bought at a bare minimum, and the ships just seemed to grow ever more useful (one common complaint was that the X-Wing itself, the fighter of fighters in Star Wars, sucked)

Now this may seem like I’m knocking FFG specifically. I promise you that is not the case. They’re just who I’m next most familiar with.

But what I’ve hopefully illustrated above (however crudely, and I accept much of my info may be out of date or plain wrong), is that many competitors are touted as ‘not GW’, until they seem to inevitably follow in GW’s footsteps - constant updates, re- writes, tweaks, all costing ever more money.

GW get a very, very curious ‘bye’ here - we’ve come to expect of them. Indeed, you can bet that once 9th Ed is out and digested, people will clamour for 10th to fix something. Yet competitors? Vilified for it more.

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Once a company achieves a certain size within a market, it is difficult for it to decrease and easy to further increase. Once acquired a certain "status", it's hard to go back to previous conditions, even if making some bad decisions (a company might be large enough to take a blow or two, unlike smaller businesses).
So basically, GW built a legacy for many reasons stated by other people here, and manages to keep things under control. It's a feedback loop: most presence, most publicity, most confidence with retailers, etc... breeds more sales and interest in a never ending cycle, as it is what is first served to customers. If satisfied, no need to look beyond what is spoon fed. It aims towards the easiest thing to consume.
Also, standing on the shoulder of giants. Always a massive advantage to have decades of experience and a solid structure with logistics, personnel and resources that others don't have. Snowball effect to
capitalize on already acquired knowledge/best practices. As they say, the best way to make money is to have money. It's true.

This also happens in other areas. GW happens to be the obvious example for the wargaming niche.
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Executing Exarch

@ Doc, although I think X-Wing did provide GW with an invaluable wake up slap as theyd got a bit complacent that nobody could touch them, lucky for them FFG managed similar blunders to GW which they might have got less flak for had the playerbase not contained so many recovering GW'ers

also x-wings are now awesome sauce

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/06/08 13:18:11

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Rotting Sorcerer of Nurgle

Pure saturation in their home country quite simply.

They were around at the right time, they are UK based so dodged the "D&D=satanism" bullet that hit America and have pretty much become synonymous with the face of wargaming in the UK (can't speak for anywhere else). GW themselves even acknowledge this, in a sort of humblebrag way with their rollout of renaming stores to "Warhammer" simply as people colloquially referred to them (and FLGSs no doubt, just like all consoles were "Nintendos" back in the day...) as "The Warhammer shop". GW IS wargaming to an untold number of people and (I don't use the word insultingly here...) ignorant parents. You see it everywhere, even today where you have a wealth of info at your fingertips- not a day goes by on Reddit for example with someone posting a random Warzone or WMH mini or something and them asking "What Warhammer model is this? I don't recognise it." Warhammer is wargaming and it has never even entered their minds there might be other games (and that is exactly what GW wants).

I experienced it myself getting into this very hobby. My brother and I played a prepainted game by Bluebird toys called Havok, we asked the lady in Woolworths were to get more Havok stuff as they were sold out and she directed us to GW. Why? Because as I said, all little figures on bases are "Warhammer" to the untrained eye.

I'll reiterate what I said yesterday, there are due to this saturation a number of places I'd call "GW towns", where because The local GW was the sole outlet for tabletop gaming in said town (clubs that are tucked away nonwithstanding) for so long that is all they have ever known, so if an FLGS opens up or someone brings something non GW up to the club people will drag their heels in on it getting started. Sure, you'll have pockets of people playing these other games but they'll never get the stranglehold GW has.
Another aspect to this, is something I never see in GW games. I forget who said this originally but games like WMH seem to suffer from "Black dress syndrome", in that when getting into a game with a group you're for some reason not allowed to pick the same faction as them. Now, that is because of GW's saturation, so you know that even if you play the same faction as your friend you know you can go outside of the group and get games. In these smaller games, the groups tend to become somewhat... incestuous with there being a self perpetuating cycle of them never being able to pick up newer players for the group due to the first point of being in a "GW town".

A GW fan walks into a bar, buys the same drink as yesterday but pays more.

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 Turnip Jedi wrote:
@ Doc, although I think X-Wing did provide GW with an invaluable wake up slap as theyd got a bit complacent that nobody could touch them, lucky for them FFG managed similar blunders to GW which they might have got less flak for had the playerbase not contained so many recovering GW'ers

also x-wings are now awesome sauce

I’d agree with that. Doubly fortunate for GW that PP seemed to double act the blunders with FFG. When you’re main two competitors shoot themselves in the foot, it’s a bonus.

Triply fortunate? GW seemed to just sort of belt up exactly in time for the overall fallout to favour them.

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United Kingdom

Hero Quest & Space Crusade were my introduction, but one of the big things for me was while there were places that sold other game systems (CHIPS & Virgin Megastore come to mind) no-one there wanted to teach you how to play them (or seemed to have any interest in them whatsoever).
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There’s also further saturation in Nerddom - few GW models end up completely unusable after a few years.

Yes, it does happen (rip Squats and some weapon loadouts), but for the most part, a force gathering dust since 2nd Ed can still be fielded today - the main difference is it’d be a comparably smaller game in terms of points.

So someone returning doesn’t necessarily face a huge price tag.

Then there’s Black Library. Dunno about others, but I’ve dozens of their novels, going right back to Trollslayer, one of BL’s launch titles. Whilst my overall reading isn’t as avid today ( I blame work, where most of my day is spent reading technical information. Sucks the fun right out of it!) it’s those same novels and Discworld I fall back on when I want a story I know I’ll enjoy.

And from BLs output comes the temptation to start a new army....

Hell, I’ve not properly gamed in years, thanks to work and my commute. Yet, because of GW’s saturation, Dakka, WarCom and the stuff I already own, I’m still kinda up to date as to what’s what - and I do still buy models. I’m even painting my Ossiarchs, because Ossiarchs kick arse.

It seems very difficult for someone to leave the hobby entirely and permanently.

Even if people only play previous versions of GW’s games? It’s still GW producing the models. For instance, I mentioned earlier I’m planning a series of articles/threads about the early days of 40k. That’s because I recently set about procuring a complete set of all RT era books.

I’ve a couple of likeminded Nerds, and we’re hoping to arrange some RT rule games in the future. Am I going to be hunting down RT era models? Well.....probs not. They’re well expensive. So I’ll instead be buying current models, and converting up what I need (I’ll be doing Blood Axe Orks, so mostly Plasma Weapons. Or at least, recognisably Plasma weapons,

If we can dust off old books, anyone can. And the great joy of RT is you really don’t need that many models (Boys Mobz were often a mere five strong. Imagine that. Five Orks!), so for those just wanting to dabble, the hobby remains remarkably accessible......at least until the addiction gets you again

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 Mad Doc Grotsnik wrote:
There’s also further saturation in Nerddom - few GW models end up completely unusable after a few years.

Well that can be true to literally all of wargaming. Too many people are locked in to minis only being able to be used in the game they are for. Yet there are tons of range agnostic games out there. Maybe I just see it from a certain viewpoint as there was an editorial on kitbashing in one of the first WDs I got and the parting phrase of "Just because it says one thing on the blister does not mean it cannot be used for something else!" has stuck with me all of these years. But mini ranges should not necessarily be tied to a game, hell- that's even what me and a few friends did back in the day with Void 1.1. Eventually after using the starters and actual Void minis we found a custom force generator and started porting our 40k models over to get the most bang for our bucks.

But people don't seem to want to do that. Someone could pick up Warpath today and use their existing SM army with practically no faffing, yet people seem entrenched in their view that Warhammer minis can only be used for Warhammer...

A GW fan walks into a bar, buys the same drink as yesterday but pays more.

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Fixture of Dakka


I think there's another aspect, certainly in the UK, to consider which I think greatly helped GW. Their stores.

See the UK market (and many the world over) has had the highstreet become increasingly unfriendly to hobby and smaller turnover stores. Even the big names are having trouble on the highstreet.

The result is that whilst GW grew tehir store network many of the independents who would stock other games, were shrinking. Being pushed into smaller and smaller stores where they might be well stocked, but you couldn't swing a mouse let alone a cat (ergo no table space); Furthermore it meant that most of the games that they could stock they could only stock in a limited fashion. So whilst a GW store you can walk in and expect most armies and ranges on sale; the other firms had trouble just getting more than a few token blisters.

With the independents being marginalised more and more it makes it harder for them to stock adn support a wider range of games. Certainly where I am I've seen most of them close up or get pushed into areas where unless you know they are there, you won't find them (ergo very little footfall). I'd also say that many didn't help themselves in terms of marketing and pushing for clubs and groups to organise. Some companies also fail on providing stores motivation and tools - this is something Magic the Gathering gets right - stores are very heavily aided in making sure they run events and promotions which helps grow local market awareness and interest (and yet I'd wager GW actually has more of a name for itself in the UK than MTG - at least to those outside of it).

Whilst the GW stores do cost them an arm and a leg they've really helped GW secure their unique position in the UK and likely in other world markets. It's given them a huge leg up in promoting their game. I think the fact that they've also funded their store expansion slowly over the years within their own means rather than taking out a big loan and opeing dozens all at once has also meant that, unlike some of the highstreet giants, GW has been able to better hold onto their stores and weather economic downturns. That said we've all seen them go from 3 or 4 staff even in smaller stores down to highly dedicated single staff operations. That's a massive reduction in staff wages right there, so the highstreet is still very hostile even for GW.

I think another aspect is that GW maintains itself at a standard. Even if some (eg balance) aren't the best of the best, GW maintains a very known quantity and standard that remains pretty constant through the years. When you get a GW product you know what you're in for from the box all the way to the aftermarket support, store experience etc.... This makes dropping in and out very easy. As Grotsnik also says a lto of the core of most armies remains the same - you can take a 10 year break and return and most of your army still works. Sure it might not be meta-top-winning; but it works and you can patch it up with new models fairly easily. Unlike, say, MTG where the shifts and turns are much larger and whilst there are some core cards that hang around, you basically do have to start all over again.

If anything the only time GW has ever really shaken that boat was when they dropped Old World and released AoS and it backlashed on them in all kinds of hard ways. Granted their undertook that move in a very odd manner and some of the info we've had slip out since then (there was that one big interview a few months ago?) suggests that what we got wasn't even what was originally planned and on the table and many short (poor) changes were made for some odd managers.

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Auspicious Aspiring Champion of Chaos


When I worked at gw (2014) they were pleased to say that they made more money from the sale of Abaddon Black paint than the rest of industry made combined. Don't know if it was true, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't. Likely to be even more so now with GWs astronomic rise since then.

Have a look at my P&M blog - currently working on: Tempestus Scions/Primaris Howling Griffons

Previous projects
30k Iron Warriors (11k+)
Full first company Crimson Fists
Zone Mortalis (unfinished)
Classic high elf bloodbowl team 
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Regular Dakkanaut


Weren't they the first 'wargame' company to do plastic kits, with Fantasy Warriors and later, yes, RTB01? I only really think the eternal Airfix and Revell 1/72 were your other plastic options back in the day, and of course they were only historicals too.
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Fixture of Dakka

One Word-


They have a solid financial backing, a solid shipping and distribution outlet, and a solid grasp on sock. They continue to produce models, and keep that sweet spot on hand just between Overstock, and Demand.

THAT is how you win wars.

At Games Workshop, we believe that how you behave does matter. We believe this so strongly that we have written it down in the Games Workshop Book. There is a section in the book where we talk about the values we expect all staff to demonstrate in their working lives. These values are Lawyers, Guns and Money. 
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Rotting Sorcerer of Nurgle

 JamesY wrote:
When I worked at gw (2014) they were pleased to say that they made more money from the sale of Abaddon Black paint than the rest of industry made combined. Don't know if it was true, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't. Likely to be even more so now with GWs astronomic rise since then.

2014 was the doldrums of 8th ed WHFB and 6th/7th 40k, so I'd doubt that; not least because it's pure speculation as most of the other big players in tabletop gaming are not public companies so are under no obligation to divulge their financials to anyone outside the company, unlike GW (and even then they don't break it down by product to the public).

A GW fan walks into a bar, buys the same drink as yesterday but pays more.

""Unite" is a human word, ... join me or die."

If you break apart my or anyone else's posts line by line I will not read them. 
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Princeps of the Emperor's Titan!

GW ‘s recent diversification is also helping them solidify their placing at the top of the pecking order.

I mean, it wasn’t that long ago all we had was 40k, and AoS. Sure, Space Hulk and Dreadfleet had shown up, but only as splash releases.

Now? Blood Bowl, Necromunda, Blackstone Fortress, Aeronautica, Titanicus, Underworlds, Kill Team and WarCry.

Each offers something different, with only Kill Team really being ‘mini 40k’. Not just in terms of gaming experience, but also spending required. This means the hobby (small h, to indicate GW) is far more accessible than its been in years.

Most of those games, if going in with a friend and splitting a starter set? You can get up and going for less than £100.00. Not in a half arsed ‘taster of what the game is’, but enough that you don’t need to buy more if you don’t want to.

Aeronautica is a particularly interesting beastie for me, as it seems pretty apparent it’s GW acknowledging the success of X -Wings game style.

Was about to do a quick price comparison, and seems Element no longer stock X-Wing? Probably just Covid and lack of stock.

Anyways. Darksphere! £13.29 for a small ship expansion. That’s your model, and I believe all the dials and tokens you’ll need for it. Plus some cards.

Aeronautica? £19.50 for six Imperial Navy Lightning Fighters.

See those prices? That’s GW coming out swinging, that. And with the rules contained in a single book, no card chasing element we see in X-Wing, so arguably I need only buy the ships I actually want to use.

As to which is the better game? Nah. No comment. Not going there, as it’s so subjective to be pointless!

Automatically Appended Next Post:
Pilum wrote:
Weren't they the first 'wargame' company to do plastic kits, with Fantasy Warriors and later, yes, RTB01? I only really think the eternal Airfix and Revell 1/72 were your other plastic options back in the day, and of course they were only historicals too.

Drastik Plastik and Psychostyrene, if memory of old WD’s serves!

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/06/08 14:04:58

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Fixture of Dakka


Lets also not forget GW has realised the value of their IP as a marketable product in its own right. They make a big percentage of their income off 3rd party computer games now. They don't even have to fund the money for them (PP did when they did their game); GW's IP is powerful enough that companies want to have it for their computer games. Perhaps not the likes of EA and such, but even middleweight firms like CA want it whilst a lot of indie-firms are hungry for a more powerful well known IP that they can use.

For GW its also a win win situation in that it doesn't matter if the game turns out rubbish. It's not their core target market so the game just vanishes into nothing. Dawn of War 3 being a bad seller hurts the game developer, but it doesn't hurt GW's model sales in the least.
True a few big profile games selling bad would have some impact; but more likely just on future games and the value of the GW IP to the digital market (and one or two solid big releases can turn that around). Plus smaller "no name" indie firms pop up and vanish all the time so if their games aren't the best its not long before its forgotten.

I'll be ever so interested to see how GW's new ventures into the TV world are going to go. With streaming TV and a lot more firms on the board making quality TV shows GW making inroads there could be the start of another major element for them. And there's no denying that if they can land even one solid animated series of their own that can send their fanbase soaring very fast. Even though it might be a bit of the "Lord of the Rings" bubble for them, it could certainly help broadcast their name to new generations of gamer.

Indeed I'd say that another thing GW has always had a handle on. They've very rarely sat back to rest on their whales or their old customers (heck during the worst of the Kirby era when they were arguably at their slower than ideal growth they were all but ignoring the established). They've always been keenly focused on recruiting new customers.

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Princeps of the Emperor's Titan!

It’s TV and potentially Cinema that are GW’s next big frontier. Over and above bringing new Nerds to the physical table? There’s a goldmine to be had there if they get it right.

Sadly, that’s always a big If. We all know full well you can turn out an impeccable film or TV series, only for it to fail. Equally, you can get lucky with low quality tripe (Friends and Big Bang Theory being my examples, other opinions available) repeatedly phone in, and have a multi year money making machine.

GW just needs to capture the zeitgeist somewhat.

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New Jersey, State of Perfection

GW was one of the first to market in the industry with its own IP, prior to WHFB, Rogue Trader (and their predecessor games) the dominant trends in tabletop wargaming and role playing games were historicals and generic fantasy (like D&D, as the modern trademarked settings ala Eberron, Forgotten Realms, etc. were still quite a few years off from their inception). This gave them long term staying power as you weren't merely buying toy soldiers, you were buying into a story - BUT a lot of their early growth was mostly driven by supporting other peoples games.

They were the exclusive importer of D&D and TSR products into the UK in the early days, and thats where they made a lot of their early money which set them on the path of later success. They leveraged that to build a following through their magazines and journals, and then opened their shops to sell D&D and other manufacturers products. It wasn't until all of that was already in place that Citadel miniatures was founded (as a separate company), which they then began selling in their own shops which were already doing a lot of business peddling other peoples stuff. The company kept growing by pushing other peoples products (Call of Cthulhu, Runequest, Traveller, etc.) through its distribution channels in Europe through exclusive and very smart and timely deals (rather than import the books they actually published them locally as it was cheaper), while putting its own games next to them in their stores. Basically they rode other publishers coattails early on to build up their own reputation until they reached a critical mass where their own product output became self-sustaining and they could focus on doing just that and drop the contracts with others, but even before they reached that point they were already one of the biggest players in a very small industry - TSR and GW did a dance for a few years where they looked like they would merge before whatever deals fell through and they went their separate ways. Basically, GW became what we know it today because it become a major player in things very early on and maintained its position as the industry grew through the 80s. Once they got into the 90s thats when they really started focusing on their own games and cut ties with other companies, and they did that by refocusing on the unique settings and IPs that they had begun forming over a decade prior, and then leveraging that with tie-ins in books/novels, card games, and other products (though not to the same extent we are seeing now with action figures, etc.). When they got into the 2000s they locked in the Lord of the Rings deal which catapulted them even higher as they were able to ride a second wave of hype and popularity base don someone elses franchise to basically spin free marketing for their own IPs out of it. In large part, much of the growth was driven by being one of the early players in the industry and growing organically with the industry as the industry itself grew, but also by simply making smart business decisions that paid unforseen long term dividends.

The fact that they had their own network of stores gave them much better visibility than any other publisher - while Warhammer has never been the cultural phenomenon that D&D became where you could rely on word of mouth and pop culture references to spread awareness, those stores were instrumental in driving public awareness of the settings and products in a manner that no other publisher has ever been able to touch to this day. As others have said, they also have a big advantage in that they are a vertically integrated company, they basically do almost everything in-house, which comes with its own advantages and makes it much harder for competitors to realistically be able to challenge them.

Another big things in this is that GW made wargaming a lot more accessible. Prior to GWs time, most wargames were phenomenally complex, either pushing towards the simulation side of the spectrum with complex rules interactions intended to capture and model every aspect of every detail that might have had any tangential relevance at all to the outcome of a battle (in some cases, right down to what kind of meal each side consumed before battle and how useful it was in keeping troops energized and functioning through combat stress, etc.) or being just generally complex crunchy and unrefined designs that required an engineering degree to understand and play (as an aside, a lot of the games during this period were, in fact, designed by engineers, which is why many of the rulesets read like engineering manuals). GW took a much more casual beer and pretzels approach that emphasized fun over realism, narrative engagement over crunch, and interpretation over strict rules writing. It lowered the barrier for entry for a lot of people who were intimidated or exhausted by the cognitive load imposed by pages upon pages of charts and tables and diagrams that were needed to play similar games by GWs competitors, and made gameplay simple enough that even a 10 year old could play it.

But, TL;DR - GW is an empire built on pretty solid foundations, they were at the right place at the right time and made some smart and ultimately consequential decisions that they could not have ever possibly foreseen the outcome of. Also, realistically, few companies/IPs have ever really attempted to challenge GWs dominance.

Privateer Press could probably be pointed to as the only one that ever really tried, but they never really got into the "vertically integrated" aspect of things. They largely failed to leverage their IP the same way GW did (they *tried* in various ways but none of the attempts ever really took off, in large part because many of them were half-assed). Whereas GW did a lot of things right, PP did a lot of things wrong. A few years back PP effectively abandoned their own setting by pulling fluff from their rulebooks and basically only focusing on the competitive gaming side of things - they tried to keep the fluff going in a series of novels but nobody really paid any attention to them and they were quietly discontinued. They have further diluted their setting - at least in my opinion - by playing with alternate timelines that seem to be overshadowing what few shreds of a continuing narrative they seem to still have. etc. etc. etc. PPs brief period of success, I think, was mostly driven by Games Workshops own failure, but then at a critical juncture right as it looked like PP was poised to take off and GW was circling the drain, PP made a string of really dumb decisions just as GW started making some really goddamned smart ones. I'm not sure what happened, but it seems to me that PP got cocky and overestimated their standing in the industry and thought that GW no longer really posed a threat, and were beginning to reconfigure and realign their business and operations for what they anticipated to be the next decade of growth, and right as they committed to that course of action GW came out of nowhere and left them flat-footed - the growth that PP expected never materialized and they had to cut back on their plans dramatically.

The only other company that looks to even be on GWs radar is Fantasy Flight with the Star Wars license, but they aren't going to hold that license forever - whereas 40k and Age of Sigmar aren't going anywhere and GW doesn't have to pay rent to Disney or another company to use them.

So - basically - TL;DR, right place, right time, one of the first into the market, grew with the market, made the market more accessible, and made really damned intelligent business decisions that created a path for long term growth and success.

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I’d venture that GW’s luck can be summed up as follows.

When they’ve made bad decision, it’s been more or less The Right Time. Example - LOTR bubble burst, leading to quite serious restructuring across the board. All of it just in time for the 2007 global crash.

And when they’ve made good decision, it’s been at the most opportune times - PP and FFG’s horrible decisions came just as GW pulled the stick out it’s butt.

That they’ve then been able to go on to exploit that sheer luck is just a bonus,

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