Monday, September 21, 2015

Does GW Really Think Only 20% Play the Games?

When GW says 20% of its customers are gamers, what do they really mean?  It is clearly not that only 20% of their customers actually ever use their miniatures for games or only 20% of their customers have any interest in the rules.  If this was the case then the Age of Sigmar update would have been pretty pointless as only a small fraction of customers would care.  There would be no reason to make such a big deal out of it.  While they might mean that only 20% of their customers say they spend more time playing than hobbying but that is not a very meaningful measure as modeling can often be done anytime while getting a game in is usually a outing or event type thing.  I think what they mean by this is that only 20% of their customers are primarily interested in playing a well written deep, tactical, and balanced game.

So let us assume that is what they mean and we will consider what it will take to increase the customer satisfaction of those people.  I personally think the cost would be pretty minor.  To take the GW rules from their current state to a solid game would probably only cost about 1-2 Million pounds to bring on a team of testers/proof readers/junior designers to run through the rules and play lots more testing games.  It is not like it would have to be a well payed position as you are essentially playing games all day.  I am sure it would mainly be a transitory position for young adult gamers with GW experience for a couple of years during/after college or other school.

What would the return on that 1-2 Million be, well if you increased sales to those 20% of your customers by 10% you would cover it in revenue but would probably need 20-30% increase to cover it with costs of goods/sales included.  Is that a reasonable number?  I think you could make that easily.  I used to spend heavily on 40K stuff but the balance/rules issues in 5th which were certainly not corrected going forward burned me out of the game.  The last year I think I have spent maybe 75 dollars on paints to GW compared to about 50 dollars a month for a new box of plastic crack.

Now I do not love GWs pricing but if I was actively using my stuff I could totally see myself continuing to add to my collection.  Space Marines had their whole plastic infantry set redone so I could get 1 of each of those boxes, and nids got a ton of monsterous creature kits which I could get so all told that is probably about 600-1000 dollars spread over maybe 2-3 years so at least a 300% increase in sales to me but GW does not even consider me a customer anymore.

I think the return would probably be in the 10-20M range so why would GW not be interested in that and be essentially dismissive.  Two reasons come to mind.  First a bigger design and testing program would certainly lead to more leaks and since GW thinks that there only competition is themselves and you might not buy something this week if you know something cool is coming out next month they think it would hurt sales.  This is probably minor.  I think the real reason is that they believe that having a better game would actually hurt sales with the other 80%.

This can be seen in Age of Sigmar which is a fine game for taking some lovingly crafted miniatures off the shelf and onto the table for some fun with your mates.  Without points costs or army limits you can buy that giant center piece guy knowing you can use him whenever you want not just at big games or such.  The rules for the game are pretty much just a candy topping to the miniature Sunday.  No hard choices or deep thought.  The same thing can be seen in 40K with stuff like Flyers and Super heavies.  There is essentially no reason to have stuff like flyers in the game.  The role of combat air support was essentially already filled with skimmers adding them in was just to find a new type of model people could buy and need countermeasures for.  The rules mattered to those 80% but it is not the balance part they want.  It you had released those same models with the skimmer rules they would not sell as well.  Similarly the Lords of War and Allies essentially make the game unbalancable and just mainly an effort in rock/paper/scissors/lizard/Spock listing building.  No single combination is unbeatable but beating them often requires just the right counter list which encourages even more model sales.

Is GW right that better balancing rules will cost them sales to those 80%?  Certainly.  No doubt but would the sales to the 20% make up for it directly.  I actually do not think so but I think the network effect of the game in having 20% more happy players would make up for it by increasing the overall active players which increases new people exposed to the game bringing in new customers and keeping all existing customers investing in the product.

Mantic is trying to make the rules a priority and make their living off those 20% that GW does not care about really.  They are running a kickstarter right now where they have alpha rules available to download.  I discuss them a little here.


  1. Actually, I bet GW is misleading (or at worse case deliberately lying) in their statement, twisting it to mean something different. Based on my current spend, just 20% of my $$ is spent on rule books and codexes or WDs. 80% is spent on models, glue, brushes, and paint. That is probably pretty standard across their brand to all customers. Some finance guy then sees those numbers and "thinks" he's right - not recognizing that the rule sets are just a smaller sell than the models needed to play a game. Based on my personal experience, out of the 30+ people out there (that I see on a regular basis at my FLGS who still buy GW products), ONLY ONE does not play - it's Todd Swanson - and he just paints one or so models a year to an extreme, award winning standard. Everyone else I know plays the game, or buys the GW product because they plan to build and play with their models (with or without GW rules) in a different game. Even the guys I associate with who have painting-focused blogs - use their game play experiences and new codexi/new game rules to justify their buying decisions for new GW models. Now, I know they are from Nottingham, but they seems to sue the same common language as the rest of us. If I'd been at their stockholder meeting, I'd have been that character who stood up, and in my best Cockney accent, called them fools, booed them, and told them they were wrong...

    1. It does seem like a low number. They could be making it up but they are probably getting it from asking people about why they buy games workshop stuff. Which people hard to tell.

  2. Could this be true judging by it there is a possibility it is true and its not a bad thing whether what ever is true not sure why people are complaining but judging by some factors I can tell a high possibility its true.

    Collectors buy models for the sake of collecting whether its to make themes or modelling or just simply collection of models this could involve buying a obscene amount of models for chaos faction buying the same model 4 times to make each sub faction dedicated to each god.

    Gamers buy models for the sake of optimization to there games in most cases and I don't mean to win but rather if they only can bring a number of models with them why buy 300 models when you can only carry 80.

    In-between we simply play for the enjoyment of the hobby the reason I am taking sides with GW statistics here is because well they have the stats and the naysayers on the internet have no clue.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I think every GW customer lies on the RGB color plot of Models, Fluff, and Games. GW has already shown they are willing to throw out the fluff which should concern everyone with those interests. That they also have little regard for the games and rules is certainly a concern. Ultimately the possibility to use model in a game you enjoy drives a lot of model sales even if those models never see the table.