Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Would Games Workshop Bring Back Epic?
Last week Faeit 212 had a rumor that GW might be thinking about bringing back specialist games and Epic was specifically named. This got me thinking, I would love GW to support the specialist games full force with great plastic models to go with new terrain and push to bring in new players. Fancy new box sets with updated rules, sponsored events, big displays and the whole thing but given that they just shutdown the production of the metal products early this year so they could consolidate production facilities I am not sure why the change of direction. They clearly were surprised by the sales volume they got when it got out that the metal production was over and what they had on hand was what they could sell. Tons of stuff vanished in a few days and people who missed the rumors could not get what they wanted. Maybe that reminded them that these games do have loyal fans.
Even if they think they want to bring the games back what support do I really expect that we did not have during the lean recent years. Looking at Epic, the rules in the book/download are solid and the community has been working on tuning the lists to make the game better. Looking at the models, certain armies were out of production but the Eldar and Space Marine armies metal components looked like the modern forces and are pretty reasonable sculpts. The space marine infantry could get more character but if GW redoes the products what are they going to charge for them. Epic blisters where essentially highway robbery at 20+ dollars when they went out of production but GW has shown that 30 dollars for a single plastic space marine character is a future price point reference. So an update would essential mean another price increase and that was one of the complaints that components did not seem well priced for the amount of miniatures you got. They had essentially totally stop updating the minis about 5 years ago other than maybe 1 or 2 Blood Bowl Star Players at all which was certainly a mistake. Some new sculpts or units for each game every year would have been very low investment but would have probably supported sales all across the lines better than nothing. Also moving everything to direct gave retailers no reason to try to stock the games. They could get together special orders but they had to do a ton of work for limited return there. Launching a new army or box set now with the rest of the stuff still out of production will not bring in new players and just continue to sell to the ever decreasing group of players. Relaunching Epic as Epic Armageddon with really only 3 armies was pretty weak in the past and might have hurt sales there.
Epic used to be a good match for Forgeworld as the volume was lower than GW likes and the resin gives excellent details for the small parts except for the gun barrels where metal seems better. But forgeworld dropped their Epic production since they have limited capacity and 40K stuff has such a larger target audience. GW could bring back the lines in finecast but that has always been just a stop gap measure as everything moves to plastic so I doubt they would or should spend their effort there.
Does GW want to try to really push a specialist game? Put it into their stores and compete with itself for its own players. The specialist games have been marketed currently as break games or change of pace games. You want them to be available but not to take away sales from the mass produced plastic stuff where most of the cost is just getting the product to the store. Blood Bowl NAF has like 20000 registered members. You get half of them to buy a 100 dollar new set it yields you 1M dollars. That is real money to most people but for GW that is like the losses in the Australia retail arm alone a few years ago before aggressive cost cutting. Blood Bowl is the most popular of the specialist games which still has large events with 50+ players in multiple countries but also has direct miniature competition in this area since GW cannot own fantasy creatures playing american style football (Dragon Magazine had a game in it years before Blood Bowl). Epic is also a different scale game so misses the synergy that appeared for something like space hulk where 40K players could use the models or even Blood Bowl were people buy warhammer and 40K sets to convert into Blood Bowl teams.
GW does need more games but they need more introduction skirmish games in 28 mm to bring people into their universes without such huge initial outlays. They have gotten into the cycle of trying to sell more and more expensive stuff to fewer and fewer players. They need to break that cycle. Mordenheim and something like Kill-Team updated to modern skirmish standards would offer far more synergy with their main lines. Using cards as well as minis and cross platform terrain could build great games plus good sales that keep players modeling and playing in your universe. Given the future of 3D printing the IP is what is important so getting it into more players hands and keeping them interested in where the money will be in 10 years.
The rumored mystery box seemed to go along these lines but I am guessing GW will go big with the box and it will be in the 100+ dollar price point which is not where you want this to be. Something closer to 75 dollars even with less contents than the 30 minis in Space Hulk would be a good target. Maybe 2 factions with 6-8 minis each and a large and small terrain piece plus the cards. Then you can sell faction cards which match up with existing mainline minis and unique special characters with cards. With easy to update digital rules, you can add new factions or terrain pieces that can keep the game fresh without a huge investment. The game should also not be a one off. They should preview the next two waves of releases for it to let players know that they are investing in something with a path forward. Kickstarter has shown how companies have a completed game and then are really kickstarting the expansions in the funding drive. Something like that is moving into the future. Bringing back Epic or Blood Bowl is just going to the past and trying to sell to your existing or former players.