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Games Workshop could be in real financial trouble

Games Workshop has always been a polarising company. On one hand, it has for many years been the best outlet for fantasy and Sci-Fi miniatures, pushing the quality envelope and maintaining some of the most popular tabletop miniature games out there. But on the other, it’s repeatedly made moves that anger consumers and distributors alike. While it has taken big steps to modernise its business in the past year, the numbers don’t look to be in its favour and it’s leading some to suggest that the tabletop giant could be in serious trouble.

For years Games Workshop has had annual price increases of its products. They’re not insignificant either. What cost you £5 10 years ago would cost you upwards of £25 today. But it’s remained a popular hobby outlet due to its dominant industry position and expansive universes for people to play in. However there’s been a lot of growth in competition over the past few years from rival hobby firms, Chinese model makers and lately on a small scale, 3D printing. All these factors could be contributing to the fact that year on year, Games Workshop profit dropped from £21.3 million to £12.3 million.

emperor
“I blame the Xenos filth.” Of course you do god Emperor.

Bell of Lost Souls is also reporting big drops in net-revenue and operating profit at GW, though it doesn’t cite its numbers so take them with a pinch of salt.

Of course these figures only lead up until June this year, so there’s a chance that January’s earnings report will be far stronger. However, judging by the way GW’s stock price has dropped over 100 points since June and is at its lowest since early March this year, it’s not encouraging.

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KitGuru Says: Do you guys think GW is in the right state to survive? It’s made a big push for digital and is clearly spending a lot on having more regular releases, but can it compete on things like cost, when so many other companies are now offering comparably detailed models? 

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  • Chris Haye

    GW has been shifting their focus towards younger gamers for years, whilst continuing their trend of massively above inflation price rises. They seem quite content selling fewer units at a much higher cost. As your article states, indie retailers and older gamers have deserted them en masse as they desperately attempt to strangle every last penny they can out of their IP. At the same time, their many retail stores, the recruitment centres for their young demographic have faced huge staffing cuts, making it harder for employees to spend time with customers, nurturing what is a community hobby.

    Simply put, GW are focussed on obtaining new customers, rather than retaining older ones as their research suggests that new players spend more on the hobby than veterans. Very few businesses would be courageous enough to employ this model.

    GW will have to adapt or die. They are losing market share and profits have been slipping despite huge price increases and massive cost cutting. It’s clearly not working.

  • Andrew McDonald

    I dropped out of GW when they’re magazine dropped everything but GW products back in the late 80s, perhaps their stores need to go back to basics and support all tabletop gamers rather keep persisting with a closed eco system

  • Søren Chr. Nielsen

    I was about to make a long comment myself, but I feel that yours summed up what I would’ve written, so I’ll just add a comment here instead:

    I agree and I feel that they’ve reached a point where they have to or have already realised that the old business-model isn’t going to work. All over the world, people’s spending habits change and in order to keep selling models and the like, they have to make it so that newcomers and veterans alike will be willing to shell out for the new stuff. Of course the veterans won’t keep buying more and more models when these models keep getting more and more prohibitively expensive.

    GW will have to adapt or die, indeed.

  • Avensis Astari

    Don’t listen to Bell of Lost Souls’ narrative, they keep getting Average Joes with an opinion to write these articles as Clickbait, knowing they light up a powder-keg of traffic.

    GW are in an industry where they are the only company who has to output financials. It’s very much like the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

  • James

    The truth is that since about 2010 there have been quite a lot of swish, well-marketed and well-priced companies out there that make GW seem like amateurs. I know the guy who runs Warlord Games, and it was a natural and amicable purchase of Immortal Miniatures a few years back after years of cooperation and deals, the guy who ran it couldn’t really keep it up. It’s no longer a monopoly, GW’s competitors are quite professional and really offer better options than GW can in 99% of cases. The internet sales model is just better for everyone: it’s much cheaper, more efficient, easier, allows for a vastly greater catalogue and on-demand 3d-printing, and you don’t have to deal with the horrible staff members at GW.

  • mazty

    GW is clearly our of touch with their users. Almost everyone I know who played this game a decade ago or more stopped for the exact same reason:

    “It became too expensive”

    Veterans are people who can draw in younger crowds with their well designed armies and tactical play. If they stop playing, potential customers have nothing to aspire to. Also when gaming is more and more widespread, which will win a teenager over – two boxes of troops for £50 or the new CoD

    GW will always have a place in my heart, but they need to go bust as a wakeup call and sell of the platform to a fat more competent company.

  • Steve Kerry

    I was a GW gamer from the early days, back when you got 30 ‘beakie’ Marines in a box. When all the rules came in one book, and it was great fun. Heck, I used to run 40K tournaments at major conventions!

    It wasn’t the ever-increasing prices that drove me away, although that was certainly a factor. Nor was it GW’s total disregard for the established gamers, who were ignored in the quest for new (usually younger) players. It wasn’t even the rules, which needed a constantly updated set of ‘house rules’ to make them playable (but which were, as I said, great fun anyway).

    What killed it for me, was the fact their games simply became unplayable. Every year or so they came out with a completely revised version – New! Improved! – that meant everything you already owned was obsolete. And the new versions were rubbish! They were designed to last no more than 4 turns, and rarely more than 2. Anything more complex than rolling 1d6 was dumbed down until it could be understood by an idiot. Tactical decisons became pointless and unnecessary.

    The best analogy I could find of GW’s business model was that of a boat taking on water. Instead of fixing the leak, everybody was frantically building a taller superstructure to keep them dry. As long as they could nail on new bits and climb higher, and do it faster than the boat was sinking, they would be okay for a bit longer. But they all knew the boat was going to capsize one day.

    I sold all my GW stuff on eBay a few years ago.

  • BINGE BAM

    All the doomsday posts forget that gw used alot of their money this year to attack 3d party copyright infringements. next year will see more net profit and everyone will shut up. Look at the 10 year stock history and the 100 point drop is pretty much business as usual happening every few years. Too many loudmouths talking crap without any business experience. WH is still a household name in tabletop gaming, books, vidya, aso.

  • Avensis Astari

    Yeah. I mean, I play WarmaHordes and it’s fun enough, but you really see the difference in sheer quality between their models and QA, and GW’s.

  • Big B

    I played warhammer 40k the 2nd edition. It was fun, the games took much longer than today’s turns. The mechanics and fan base has changed greatly. In my opinion, instead of developing a rock, paper, scissors, a hand to hand army, shooting army, super skilled army, each can only beat one type fairly easy. So tournament came down to chance on the brackets. I really wished this game was developed to fight on any scale for any scale of investment. Like Hordes and war machine! You can’t even touch 40k for under 50 bucks. more like 300 bucks to get codex, starter box and a tank or two, LOL.

  • lordofexcess

    How is there shift towards younger players, with insane price points, complex kits that take skill to assemble and paint. Who is this product for anymore? GW is in its Episode 1-3 phase right now … everyone is unhappy … fewer and fewer are buying or playing. Only the rabid Blackbeard store troll guys are still buying/playing … and they are only buying for 40K. The age of sigmar sales are primarily people buying the models to use for 40K conversion. The rules still suck bad … across the board … 40K … AoS … ugh …

    The new model sucks … it does nothing to enfranchise new players. It is way to difficult to learn rules and get into the game for new adult players, let alone kids. The cost of entry is well above $500.00. The time investment is substantial. For a parent who has a kid who wants to do this … how would they even begin to get into it … they aren’t. They are going to see this crap, how much it costs, and then just encourage the kid to buy more video games … because that is cheaper, and easier. Beyond that … outside of the UK the GW community is dead … GW has done nothing in a serious way to attempt to revive it.

    I want GW to succeed. I hope they reinvent themselves. GW needs to look at a model more like Fantasy Flight. They need to stop farming out any tabletop gaming related enterprise. They need to move to true skirmish gaming as an entry point. Above all they need to support their product and revitalize their community, which has all but died.

    Wizards of the Coast is a good example of a company that has successfully re-invited itself. Those guys aren’t out of the woods yet. But at least they are back on a more viable path. GW has not turned any corner yet. They are continuing to compound bad decision, with bad decision, due to being driven by quarterly profits … they just can’t get themselves out of the nose dive.

  • lordofexcess

    Well said. Pretty much everyone I know has this take, and has migrated out of GW and either fully migrated out of minis or off into systems that are skirmish/universal/etc. Warlord, Mantic, Battlefront … or they have just moved off into board games, RPGs, or video games.

    I live in the western US (I’ve lived in Utah, Las Vegas, and now up near Seattle … the same has been true in all of the local communities out here I’ve been a part of). GW continues to make cool models for the most part. They got rid of Kirby but this “we are the Apple of mini games” pervades their mindset. Plain and simple … they aren’t … they are the Walmart of mini gaming … yet they have Apple prices. They are the low end, mass market entry to tabletop mini gaming … how and why they fail to see that is beyond me. But your analogy puts it well. They are just trying to keep their head above water and do nothing to fix the actual problem. It seems like they will have to go bankrupt before anything will change.