The answer is not an answer at all, and the one we don’t like to hear…it depends!
Depends on what you ask? Well, it depends on who you are. The choices in this commentary are Shareholder or Stakeholder. Perhaps this is a “happy or glad” distinction, so I will clarify. I will define shareholders as those who have a financial stake in the company; owners of Games Workshop stock and those employed by the company. I will define stakeholders as those of us who have invested time and money, in many cases a great deal of time and money, into this hobby. Moreover, we are the ones who play the game by choice, not by vocation. Those at the castle in Nottingham may enjoy playing the game, but their livelihoods depend on it; ours do not.
So, what about those shareholders? If I was such a person, I would be pretty concerned. Actually, I would be pretty pissed off. Despite the assurances of the the new CEO, let’s look at the latest numbers (2014). Gross profit is down 12%. Net income down 50%. Both despite a decrease in expenses. Dividend growth down 14%. Revenue down 8%. Earnings Per Share down 51%! What are the GW executives looking at that tells them all is well? Maybe that cash flow is up by 7MM GBP. Of course the fact that they paid 13MM GBP less in dividends might have helped. Maybe the fact that a Financial Times analyst has recommended that folks purchase equity in the company, and predicted a stock price of 680GBP may have helped. But seriously, from a strictly financial perspective, the share holders can’a actually be thrilled by what the future appears to hold.
Now let’s shift to our perspective. This past year saw the release of a bazillion new toys and products. Box loads of models and codices. Stacks of dataslates, campaign supplements, mountains of backstory and rules. More formations that we can count! Also, unlike previous releases, we are finally getting a respectable heads up from GW as to when the stuff will arrive. We seem to actually be to the point where many players are asking for a slow down just to give our heads and our wallets a chance to catch up! This is all good stuff. Stuff that many of us have asked for. The quality of the models is still high, and many boxes come with multiple build options. So from a hobbyist/player perspective, it appears to be a good year.
What about your actually tabletop gaming and hobby (build/paint) experience? Have you played more or less because of what is going on financially with the company that creates all this stuff? Have you stopped building and painting models, reading backstory or rolling dice because GW stock prices have plummeted? Of course these are rhetorical questions, as we both know the answer…of course not! The things that matter to us, at least so far, have not been affected by GWs Financials. Has my codex been updated? Did my army get new models and/or formations to use them in? Is there new backstory for me to read and enjoy? Are there new armies/products that I might be interested in purchasing, building and using? These are the things that matter most to us. Of course we love to commiserate about our hobby. It’s one of the things brings us together as a community. Whether or not we agree about an issue, we still enjoy talking about it.
The point of this discussion is what then? To admit that I am as guilty as the next guy at showing interest in the financial condition of the company that produces the rules and models for a hobby that I enjoy. Will it ever matter to us? IMO, no. Even if, and this is a big if, GW falls off the financial cliff, someone will most certainly buy them and life will go on. Will the hobby change? Of course it will. But think about how much it has changed since 1st edition those many years ago.
Do you really care about GW’s finances, or is it all about the toy soldiers?