When I was 11, I was introduced to the Grim Darkness of the 41st millennium by a friends, and, for the next 8 years, I’d be hooked playing when ever I could. I’d be building the models I could afford, and painting them when I built up the motivation.
For those of you unaware of miniature war games, the basic idea is this: you have a number of miniatures and these models you buy unassembled and unpainted. After assembling and painting an army you then pick up your rule book and equip your army before heading into battle. These games, Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000, War Machine, the Reaper miniature lines, and the new Lords of War and War Path to name just a few, are both a form of entertainment and a proper hobby. They can open the worlds of painting, sculpting and complex miniature building, as well as offer the chance to learn about complex strategy.
I really loved the game Warhammer 40K, created and owned by Game Workshop (GW), and still love the lore. There really isn’t so expansive of a sci fi universe, except maybe Star Wars or Star Trek. Though I haven’t played for several years, and before that had been slowing down and limiting purchases. Why? Sadly, it isn’t because I found greener hobby pastures or because I had run out of steam. It’s because, in the short 8 years I played, the prices of the models and the associated media increased as much as 120%.
Now lets be clear this wasn’t do to the recession, or any such business trouble. No, hobbies like 40K are recession resistance, since gamers, who tend to be affluent, will keep sales going. And GW had a market share well over 60% allowing it to behave like a monopoly. You know what monopolies can do though? They can raise prices by 10-15% per year (some times more) while reducing services and silencing opposition.
Shorty after beginning to build and play 40K the price increases came about once year. This wasn’t noticeable to me as a young boy, but soon I was a teenager and the discussion of the hobby had gone online. GW had become an openly traded company. Big changes were coming to the game: the rule were significantly changed and newer, bigger, and, indeed, better miniatures were being produced. GW does make some of the very best plastic miniatures available, though, when you start selling what were 20 miniatures per box for twice the amount then drop the number per box to 10 but keep the new exorbitant price and do nothing to change the decade old models, failing to add even a little value to the product as compensation, then you are not only raising the assumed value of your product, you are also taking advantage of your consumer base. As a company, you cannot simply keep raising the prices of your product and hope that your customers won’t notice. You will anger a lot of people, and your sales will go down.
The final straw for me, and many other people, was when GW created a new line of resin models to replace the pewter models they had been selling since the companies conceptions. There’s nothing wrong with resin, and I have no affinity for metal. In fact, I was happy to hear about the up coming change to resin. GW’s statement made it clear that the move was a cost one, given the high prices of pewter, and would save a great deal of money. Heck, they said they had really worked hard on the resin recipe so it would be light weight and durable. Awesome, right? This new line of resin miniature called finecast would be great.
So finecast came out and many hobbyists, myself included, began calling it fine cost. First and foremost, the product was crap out of the gate. GW prides itself of quality, but I personally saw walls of blister packs filled with resin models riddled with air holes that were horribly warped or broken. Sure, maybe half the models were more or less intact, but a company that prides itself on quality released a whole line of models that showed almost no quality control. And it turned out they would even melt in the sun!
Oh, now how could I forget to mention, they released the line with a 15% price increase compared to the pewter models, and they didn’t even bother to make new molds. This just a few months after the yearly hike in prices. Really passing those saving onto the costumers! Sure, boost the costs by about 20%, we won’t mind! That is, we won’t mind finding a new use for all that money we’re saving not buying GW.
As you might imagine, the player base of GW games has really shrunk. And, after nearly a solid decade of sales loses in a game that can only survive on it’s player base, you’d think the company would understand that such a move would be unsustainable.
Well, it’s been a couple of years since I even cared to think about GW, and it looks like they might be making some changes for the better. But they’ve still been raising prices every chance they’ve had. It isn’t hard to imagine why they’re not the monopolizing force they use to be, as other friendlier and much leaner companies undercut them at every turn.
Funny, you can’t force your monopoly on people when you’re not offering a necessity.
I might write some more on this issue, as a case example of the problems caused by monopolies, but, moral of the story, if you run into a Games Workshop, or a GW, game, spend your money elsewhere.