Tuesday, November 1, 2011

GW's Brave New World

I am wondering how Games Workshop’s new release policy is working out. Earlier this year the Company basically went into lockdown mode on new releases changing the way they approached this issue over the years.

In the past you initially had information released at Games Day and similar events about the projects the studio was working on. This was followed by a series of leaks/teasers around the net in the period 3-6 months prior to a release. This might be a “three-up”, an inclusion in a photo and general noise on the internet about the release. The month before there was a teaser in the White Dwarf followed by wall to wall coverage in the release month White Dwarf that came out to subscribers 2 weeks before release date. Finally the shop got a “black box” 3-4 weeks before so the staff could make and paint the models and acquaint themselves with the rules prior to release. All this was designed to create a buzz around the release.

This has all changed. Black boxes are gone, White Dwarf has no prior month teasers and its release is now delayed, with subscribers getting their copies AFTER the magazine’s release to the shops. The rationale given for this is that GW is looking to create an event around the monthly release day, so that if people want to see New Releases (hell, even know what the release is) they have to go into the shop.

The commercial reason for the change is supposedly twofold. Firstly, if people know what is coming out in advance then they restrain their purchases in the period leading up to the release. As a result GW believes their overall sales are dampened. Secondly, by creating an event they generate an excitement factor that leads to more impulse purchases as the customer is seduced by seeing something new and shiny. The expectation is that by addressing the first issue and introducing the second, this policy will lead to higher overall sales for GW.

It is going to be very interesting to see how this works out for them. I’m not convinced but will wait until the next set of financials to get a better handle.

I know from my own point of view the shift in policy has not really played out. I complained about the change in service conditions around my White Dwarf subscription and secured an extension of 12 months to my current sub and a GBP25 gift voucher. Against that my purchases direct from the GW shop since may have been restricted to Foundation Paints, GW Washes, the OK Army Book and Magic Cards plus the three Black Library books.

With the move to these types of restrictions plus the GW embargo of third parties supplying Southern Hemisphere customers my buying of their products is about 20% of previous years. Given that this is against a backdrop of two Warhammer armies I collect (TKs & OKs), from me at least some of their recent moves have destroyed a revenue stream.


  1. In slight defence of GW's new policy:

    I would like to think that the internet "leaks" of the new minis are on purpose. I've noticed that with the lack of pre release info other than "ZOMG AMAZING NEW MODELS" has meant less pre release internetz rage. Who remembers the days of old when entire armybooks were 99% correct based on rumours = lots of internet rage and negativity about new releases.

    Compare that to now where there is excitement about the new models, kinda guesses at the rules, and not as much rage.

    By doing their own "leaks" they get to control the rumours by feeding the fire themselves.

    That's my slight defence...they could have at least kept the black box to make sure their staff are up to scratch on the rules.


  2. I'm assuming you are referring to the leaked Necron pictures? They were leaked from the White Dwarf publishing facility in Poland, which explains the high quality of the photos. The blog which hosted/released them did get contacted by GW to pull them down, so I'm pretty sure it wasn't a deliberate leak.

    Unfortunately its going to be a while before we know for sure how all this new stuff is actually effecting GW's revenue as its all been done just after their end of year financial reports. Generally I think everyone (not just in NZ) suspect that GW are shooting themselves in the foot with these super secret and unpopular policies and are generally cutting back their spending across the board, but we have to wait for some form of financial report from them to confirm it.
    Sales in Australasian were down something like 20% just before the sales embargo came into effect, but I can't see this jumping back up (which was no doubt the desired effect from GW's POV). If anything its probably going to reduce the sales in the UK slightly. Some of these changes make it seem like GW are trying to go back to the ethos they pushed in the past, which tried to make GW stores the centre of everything while making life hell for independent stores. This pretty much fell over because they lose store coverage overall (which hurts sales), and people just shift which stores they are buying from. If you actually dig through GW's financials, every time they report and increase in GW store sales it tends to be accompanied by a decrease in independent store sales and vice versa.

  3. There's also the fact that other companies are now making miniatures clearly based off GW's IP.

    The more info GW release ahead of time about what's going to be in a new army book the more time they give those companies to put out miniatures for that new army and beat GW to the punch.