40k 5ED, extinction level event?


I may not be the sharpest tack in the drawer and sometimes it takes me seeing something a couple times before it hits me but I got to thinking about this the other day after seeing similar things pop up over the past few weeks.

Basically it's this,...
Is/was Warhammer 40,000 5th Edition an extinction level event for Veteran gamers?

Let me tell you what I've come across that makes me wonder this and then maybe you can decide for yourself. Keep in mind, for every thing that points to the end, there's something else to the contrary.

First was hearing about GW cutting the Tournament scene down for 2009 and then seeing both of my local GW stores close their doors.
Now I'm well aware of the global situation and I'm sure companies are going to do whatever is needed to survive but I would think that it's hard to keep the hobby alive with fewer stores and less of a Tournament circuit for Veteran players to get involved with. Let's face it, it's not the little kids with the brand new armies who come to play in the Tournaments at Games Days.

Second was my local gaming club and the decision to not support the Baltimore Games Day this year. While I didn't personally make it to the meeting to hear the entire discussion, I believe the club and more specifically, the Veteran gamers have found other games (than 40k) that give them what they are looking for. Again, it's not the little kids with the brand new armies who put together large gaming clubs and organize game nights, leagues, local tournaments, etc.

Third was an email about a post on Plastic Legions about GW and the recession. Another store closing and "lack of support" for Veteran gamers in the greater Chicago area (I believe). While it may not be about 5th edition per say, it's another nail in the coffin so to speak.

Add on the approach GW has for 40k FAQs and addressing any number of issues that are brought to light by the various bulletin boards no matter how right or wrong they are or how much it might seem like complaining... and you've got the makings of something going on.

Ultimately, I don't know. I may not have the problems with 40k that others have, and my FLGS is still going strong for the time being (I hope, boy do I hope) but I wonder if all that may change real soon.


Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!

25 comments:

  1. Nice title - but no. All of these things have been going on for years. GW executives did not wake up yesterday and decide to screw with the veterans. GW knows the dollar is with the new gamer busy building whole new armies.

    I predict that in 5 years we will have more of the same. More complaints about service, more poorly thought out rules and more people playing 40K.

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  2. Actually, 5th edition brought me back. I got into 40K shortly after 2nd edition came out, but left the hobby after 3rd edition was released. I don't play in tournaments, but I enjoy the game more today then ever before.

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  3. Don't worry Ron, there's plenty of us out there who are sticking around. GW may cut unprofitable stores and merge the US/Canada HQ but has just opened a handful of new US stores too. The recession will hurt but it's nothing we haven't seen before.

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  4. I think a lot of companies realized after the recession started that they had expanded a bit too much in previous years. Honestly, I'm surprised the little kids parents are still spending enough on their kids GW habit to keep the stores we do have alive. It just goes to show that people will always find that extra buck to spend on their kids. Or liquor. If you never want to go out of business, open a liquor store.

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  5. This is just a cycle that has been going on since day one. When 2nd edt came out it seemed as if alot of people where leaving the hobby, but they returned when 3rd edt came out. 2nd edt seemed too "cartoony", but the darkness came back into it in 3rd and since. Then we got 4th edt and people jumped ship, alot of people thought the rules where getting really watered down. But all the while through all the edtions new people where added to the ranks, more join than leaving. It's all highs and lows....

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  6. It's interesting that even the viewpoints/comments and discussion here are more thought out than on most bulletin boards out there.

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  7. It seems to me that those who have moved on have always done it for the same reasons - not happy with the rules, better games, prices etc... they've always done it. I've been in the hobby for 10 years so far and it always seems to have been that way.

    Things like FAQs seem to make little difference. I'm the only one in the club who bothers with them, and the only one who really follows online communities like Warseer and such. To tell the truth, none of the issues that "plague" these boards have ever come up in any games we've played, and to be honest a lot of the older gamers don't even keep up with the current rules. I can't imagine our little corner of the world is unique in that respect.

    Finally, if the worst should happen, the hobby will still be there. GW is really just a small corner of the hobby, there's dozens of games out there still alive long after support from the creators has ceased. GW's games are so popular they'll be around long after GW goes. Just look at the Specialist Games... okay, they're still "supported" in the very loosest of terms, but more by the players than by GW now.

    Heh... this comment really should have been a blog post given the length... I might put up one later, it's been food for thought.

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  8. I don't disagree Ron, because I see it the way you do...(and probably because its thru my own prism as a Vet) Veterans drive the hobby not new gamers for the reasons you mention. While our club was WFB driven because It was because I was running the event,s my friend Bill with was planning out a 40K Campaign (with alot of support from the store) Now that's dead...and all those new armies that would have been started won't be, Same goes for War of the Ring our planned camp was point driven campaign that would had an unlimited number of players..They actually were moving dead LotR product to our shop because our shop was the only one moving it.- that campaigns now dead too.

    The way I see it GW has adapted a Tyranid like model..they move in to a location suck it dry of any new players they can..then shut it down and move to the next one. They've already sucked in the majority of neighborhood kids they are going to can get ...Parents have way more competition for the dollars they spend on their kids these days. With all the GW fist on the table bashing about hooking new gamers, I only see two kids at our store who "might" become long term veteran adult players one day that's of all the new people that come in and out of the store..even if there's another handful..does that justify the existence of our shop? if on one hand you want to create new hobbyists while on the other alieniate the veteran.

    As some one who runs an independent business, one thing I know is that GW inherent business model is ass backward..repeat clients drive your business- not new clients, do you want the person whole spend $200 one day or or the person that will spend $2000 a year? there is no argument. Once more people get a handle on the very public anti-veteran stance GW is adopting I think you will see more of the attitude you own club has taken If all responsibility for Veteran level events is put in the hands of the players with minimal company support and with this god awful stupid attitude behind it, how long can it really last. Even at our Bunker they are trying to farm out the handling of local tournaments to the players as the staff seems incapable of running them. Surely I will support our own club in anyway and as long as I can but its going to be one hell of alot harder without use of the store. While I am as gung ho as they come for GW's product as a result of this I've already scaled back my own purchases..because the company itself is cutting back the opportunity to enjoy their product. The only reason GW's gets away with the they operate is because Vets have never seemed to care about how they get treated and new players dont know any better ..IF that changes, look out.

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  9. In regards to the FLGS the largest product drivers are GW (40K) and Wizards (M:tG). Surprisingly business has been increasing since December, with GW products being a good part of that increase. The 2 local GW stores closing created a burst of new [recurring] customers.

    I have noticed that the 28mm scene has gotten increasingly competitive with a few new high quality games released every year. Heck, GW even has the "Warhammer Historical" line which is excellent and uses (wait for it) non-GW miniatures that most of the GW gamers I encounter have no knowledge of. All of these other games are certainly eating into GW's bottom line but I am certain they will weather it.

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  10. John: Thanks for the additional input... I don't want to be some sort of Doomsday forcaster with a post like this but it seems like something's afoot these days. Maybe this will bring other groups to examine what they're doing for/with the hobby as well.

    Charles: I hope Game Vault doesn't go anywhere anytime soon. You guys do a great job with keeping a number of gaming groups together in our area (at least us 40k guys). If I didn't have you all, I don't know where I would go... there's no place local for miles anymore.

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  11. Ron, as a gamer that is some what local to you (I live about a hour north of Game Vault) I see the GW environment much differently from you. Like Oni, 5th brought me back to the GW hobby after many years of disliking the end of 3rd and most of 4th.

    My recent experience with 5th actually is almost 100% different from yours. While yes I see some of the trends you are talking about here for the most part 5th has brought back scores of players who shelved their armies due to poor rules or invald or underpowered codexes in 3rd and 4th. Also GW has reworked their marketing plan, setting it up so that the pricing on their plastic boxsets has a more standardized and for the most part much cheaper pricing syten then in the past (the exceptions to this I can think of are Fantasy Undead infantry and the soon to be released repackaged Cadians who have the same pricing structure but are horde armies so it will end up costing you more). Also though I know GW has closed the two stores down by you they have or will short have opened three new stores within a hours drive of where I live (Sterling, already open. Fair Oaks Mall, opening shortly, and Leesburg, opening soon). They seem to be expanding to growth areas and closing stores in areas where rent prices can no longer be justified or they directly compete with a LGS.

    As for your club deciding not to participate in GD I think that was a big mistake. Games Days this year are almost entirely going to be club driven events with no GT Tournaments, Organized Play, or other non-club sponsered events except for maybe paint and take. It seems to me from this approach GW is try to focus on building the communities and giving clubs and groups a chance to shine while minizing their costs as best they can. I am sure the economy plays into this some how too.

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  12. Hmmm...

    I consider myself something of a 'freelance' veteran...in that I don't get to play an awful lot, and I'm not affiliated to any club. Nor do I play tournaments - I'm not competitive and can't travel easily.

    I reckon the mechanics of 5th must have had an effect - certainly on the tournament scene. Draws are so much more common now, and so much more depends on the mission/deployment rolls than ever in 4th Ed...surely these days it's an easier game to enjoy, and a harder game to get uber-competitive over!

    Just my two-penn'orth

    - Drax.

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  13. Admiral: That's a good way to put it... "freelance veteran." I like that.

    I've only ever played in one "tournament" and I wouldn't call myself a real competetive player (in the army category).

    I do enjoy 5th edition more than I did 4th. It seems a little more "streamlined" this time around.

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  14. I ignored 4th edition all together myself. I did however spend the time playing lots of WHFB though. Once 5th Edition came around, I decided it was time to play again, but I needed to find some opponents since I moved and the closest store is an hours drive away from this small town. I did find some opponents, and our group is expanding each month. We're even getting ready for Apocalypse this summer. 40k is alive and well with me and my friends. It's a shame to hear of GW closing stores...

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  15. I think the main point of the original post was not about 5th Edition itself (or the rules/rule problems therein - which personally, I think it's great), but rather about GW's support structure vs. its needs as a company (which I think is not so great - or, at least not balanced).

    Look, let's get down to it - GW is fine. It's not going anywhere, it's not about to go under, and the games won't disappear. And that's great. I don't think anyone wants any of that to happen, and I don't think anyone is saying that it will.

    What I think the main point was, and what is the real point of frustration for a lot of GW patrons out there, is that while the games themselves are supported well enough, there is maybe not enough of long-term support for the gamers themselves on the part of the company.

    I've been a GW loyalist for a little over 20 years now. During that time I've seen GW go up, go down, compete with outside games, change with varying economies, and adjust their business model any number of times. There's nothing new now that hasn't been done before...but that doesn't mean we as gamers and customers shouldn't expect more from a company that we support both in dollars and community.

    My local GW is a mere mile from my house (very convenient). It sits in a mall location, which by way of sheer rent-costs may have not been the most profitable location to rent from in the Los Angeles area. Rumor has it that it's now on the chopping block for November (not so convenient). Okay, if it's not making a profit and rent is too high, I can understand a business pulling the store in light of the current economies. I could definitely understand moving the store to another area location that could turn a more few bucks. I get it. It's a company - they survive on sales. I'm not arguing that.

    What people are frustrated about is that for all of their support for the hobby, the seemingly random closing of stores and opening of stores in distant locales feels like abandonment. They're angry because it seems as if GW is just going to the low gaming saturation points to pick up new customers who will buy whole new armies, while dumping the veteran players off on the roadside, then start the cycle all over again. To them it feels like GW is only after the quick buck, and not like they're looking out for the best interests of the loyalists.

    Are they right? That's impossible to say definitively unless you're privy to GW's sales and marketing meetings, but those people are certainly entitled to their feelings - one man's "Everything is fine", is another man's "This sucks".

    Would GW be better off improving their existing stores to widen the net and draw more fresh players into a stronger and healthier community? Maybe, but my "What If?" machine isn't working, so I couldn't say - that option feels right to me, but that's just my opinion.

    I've been involved with the comic book industry for years now. I've read them, collected them, written them, edited them, published them - I practically grew up in a comic shop. Comics are like gaming - they're both fringe recreation. As such, comic are always trying to bring in new readers to ensure our economic necessities. But the real bread and butter, the thing that always pays the bills is that pull-list of long-term loyal customers who place monthly orders and guarantee sales. New people are great, and every new person that comes in is a potential pull-list, but no shop can expect that without the shop's loyalty to the customer first. There's a long-term investment there. There's community building. A constantly improving store can pull comic nerds out of far-flung nooks in the woodwork simply because it's a great store. Maybe GW could take a lesson from that - I don't know...but it's how I would do it.

    Referring to the hobby as "plastic crack" that people will always buy is one thing, but a company can't rely on witticisms to keep sales strong. People will come and go as a matter of business, but if it was me, I'd be damned sure that the long-termers were satisfied - word of mouth gets around, and a strong store can attract a lot of customers.

    The only thing I can say for certain is that as gamers we are only as strong as the community around us. Whether they be GW or FLGS, game stores come and go - it's ultimately up to us as a community to keep the pace and make the hobby as strong as we can make it.

    Maybe the real answer is to simply worry less about Games Workshop as a company, and worry more about Games Workshop as a brand of games that good friends can get together and enjoy, no matter where that may be.

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  16. I am a semi old school player, and 40K to me lately, while wonderful to look at, it just seems like a money drain to sit around for two hours while the guy across the table from me drives his assault army into my guys on turn two. It is endlessly frustrating to me that the game has devolved into a melee fest. But thats just me griping about the game.

    Everybody who Ive talked to about 5th said the game does feel streamlined, however it also feels like its lost a little part of its soul.

    Me and two other guys at my local firebase seem to be the only ones who want to play a smaller point game, no more than 850 give or take. Using the terrain and mission files found on your awesome sight I was able to have a hell of a lot more fun than I have had with the 2000pt games in the shop, those smaller point games force you to think which just freaking rocks compared to the 'I run forward, hack at it with my knife, run to the next guy' mentality

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  17. Put simply, no. Your deduction is based on a couple of local circumstances, Ron. Always remember that GW is sales orientated and GW stores opening and closing in the US (still an emerging market) are about testing ground roots support.

    It may be more of a reflection that GW sell more than enough forgeworld/online/local independent retailers in Chicago that they've hit saturation and are flatline in sales growth there. You'll notice on BoLs that GW are opening a whole host of new stores in the US this week - mostly in Texas (which says something about the monetary situation there!)

    If GW weren't interested in 'experienced gamers', why invest so heavily in planetstrike, cities of death, armageddon, forgeworld development and conversion of models across to plastic... all these things are about US parting our hard earned cash ... afterall I think a titan's out of most kiddies price bracket.

    Keep you chin up fella... its evolution. 5th edition is so much better than 4th.

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  18. I don’t think that this is an extinction for veterans but I think that there will be fewer in GW shops. So you could call it sort of a thinning of veterans. Most of the points made before me are all valid points for and against. GW is a business and they will do things that they feel are necessary, even if we don’t understand them. And with that I am also free to look for other games that interest me. That is why there are so many different games out there, different things for different people. Maybe one day there will be a change and things will look better for veterans and then again you never really know.

    My thoughts, thanks for the post Ron.

    Steve P.

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  19. Steve: Thanks for stopping by. I understand they are a business and they will do things, even if I don't understand those things... I just hate to see the veterans "thinned" because it changes the game for those veterans remaining.

    I wonder what it really is that drives this "veteran thinning." What happens when the veterans are thinned out of existence?

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  20. Well I guess that depends on what you are defining as a veteran, is it someone who has played the game for a long time or someone that has been in the hobby for a long time. If you go by the gamer then yeah those I could see being reduced down to a bare minimum. Now for the hobbyist side honestly I don’t think those can be thinned as most of them will be around as long as the hobby stays. Like yourself you are a hobbyist veteran and you are still in it, you have not been thinned. Yes you might be only one of a few that you see but you are still in the hobby.

    And if you ever find the answer to why the veteran thinning please let me know.

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  21. GW is just following a business model of survival. They are closing many of their retail stores, but they are opening new ones at the same time. What's the difference. The new ones are in some of the richest suburbs in the US. While the closed ones... not so much. They are going where the money is, lower middle class people don't buy their kids new 95$ baneblade models every week.

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  22. Steve P: That's true, I think a "hobbyist" will find the miniatures that suits them best and build/convert/paint those... sometimes regardless of the gaming system. That's another whole sub-group maybe that crosses the individual game boundaries as they just go with the models they like.

    Da Orks: True, but the opening and closing of stores is just part of the whole picture I think. What about the now cut-back 2009 tournament scene, what about the FAQs or lack of, what about the lack of in-depth modeling/painting stuff, what about the perceived lack of support in the game when issues are brought up?
    I think it's more than just store closings that have Veterans moving in other directions.

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  23. I did not get to read all of the comments, but I gotta get back to work and wanted to chime in. I think that the whole veteran thing is cyclical. Veterans are always moving on, while at the same time, noobies are becoming veterans. I started playing 40k 2 years ago, (painted my first models ever at that time) and I feel I have quickly jumped beyond the ranks of noob and would consider myself a "vet".

    Taking Blood Angels players as an example, I'm sure 40k lost plenty of guys who were BA guys in the old edition and couldnt take the rules changes. I hear all the time about how guys long for the old days and list off rules that are foreign to me. But for every one of them, there is one of me who has picked up the torch and run with it. That applies to every chapter/army in the game.

    I don't think the numbers of veteran players ever really change. It just evolves. Guys who don't like the changes, get out, leaving a vacuum that is filled by new players.

    As far as GW goes, didn't they post an actual increase in profits? I think some things that are more likely to hurt their player base is raising the price of a can of spray primer and blister packs of named characters up to 50%.

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  24. GW went through a bad patch in 2007/8 that required cost cutting and unprofitable stores went. They seem back on an even keel, financially, now. Traditionally, they have been recession proof as a cheap form of entertainment. Their principal customers are children. The kids support the hobby for the rest of us.

    A handful of veteran gamers are important because they buy almost everything.

    I predict more price rises in the pipeline as the $ and £ continue to fall. The products are made in the far east, not Britain.

    Broadly speaking the American and British economies are stuffed guys, so our currencies are worth clamshells.

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