Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Games Workshop and the Age of Sigmar Problem.
Games Workshop has a problem with Age of Sigmar: It’s not selling like they think it should. Why is this? Well lets look at what Age of Sigmar has going for it:
- The miniatures are fantastic – the sculptors are creating some of the most amazing kits they have ever produced.
- The prices are coming down – The “Start Collecting” are really great deals and you can play with the forces right out of the box.
- The Starter box works great as an introduction – it’s a ton of stuff for two players to dive into the game (and the scenarios are well balanced if you are using them as is).
- As a manufacturer they are, from a technical view point, light years ahead in their “Sprue Tech” – the model assembly goes together really well & the mold lines are hidden by the types of “cuts” they do to the model to place it on the sprue.
- The Ruleset actually works – It’s not a ranked battle system. But, as a game, mechanically and functionally it works as a different type of game. It still plays and people do enjoy playing it.
So what’s the hold up? Why isn’t this game catapulting Games Workshop into the glory days of Sigmar? It still has a glaring problem: There is no Structured Play. That is the fundamental flaw with the current Age of Sigmar.
What is Structured Play?
Structured Play is an easy way for two random people to show up with two different armies and play. Most common for Games Workshop is some type of point-by system where the players agree to play a game at X number of points. But here’s the thing: Age of Sigmar doesn’t need a point system – lots of games don’t use a point system. But you still need a structure to design the forces. This lack of a common ground for army construction is a MAJOR flaw with the Age of Sigmar line. Some stores have had success by creating one and they have had an increase in sales using it.
Players want that structure. With projects like 9th Age and others players have created that structure. There is freedom in those type of restrictions. It’s weird but its true. It’s freeing to be able to show up to a game store anywhere in the world with a 1500 point army for 40k and be able to get a pick-up game with complete strangers BECAUSE we can agree on a point size. Try doing that with Age of Sigmar – it’s a lot more difficult.
No Structure = No Confidence
Even the World Building “structure” isn’t done yet. Let’s back-up: When GW nuked the old world, they reset the background and the fallout from that is that the “structure” of this new World Building hasn’t settled. This has caused a lot of trepidation on what to actually purchase.
Players don’t have the confidence in the system because everything is up in limbo right now. Just from a collector’s stand point there is a lot of confusion. Some of the models are safe to buy because they will be supported. Look at all the new Sigmarite stuff and the new, big centerpeice models like Archaon – those aren’t going anywhere so are a “safe” purchase.
Some models are on the chopping block and collectors are snatching up what they can while people who just want to play aren’t buying those armies (looking at you Tomb Kings & Bretonnia). Those aren’t good purchases for players because those armies aren’t going to be supported. Or are they? We don’t know because it’s all up in the air!
Pricing (Still) Doesn’t Add-Up
For all intents and purposes Games Workshop basically launched a new game system in the miniature wargaming market. Yes, they do have a strong brand name with “Warhammer” but when they reset the game they alienated the former player base – and thus had to start over. Sure, there were some early adopters and transplants from the previous system but the vast majority were angry and felt betrayed. Age of Sigmar wasn’t flying off the shelf because that built in player base was GONE.
Lets talk some basic economics for a moment. This is all based on the “Theory of Market Elasticity” – and part of that is theory is basically that when prices go up, sales go down. But when prices are low, people tend to buy more. If people are buying more of your product than someone else that means you’re capturing Market Share (basically the total amount of hobby dollars floating around in your product sector). When you launch a new product in a market with similar products companies tend to sell the initial products at a slight discount compared to the market average.
We see this in the Video Game sector all the time. Video Game Companies (like Nintendo) make very little (if any) profit on the base console. They know the real money is selling you new shiny video games at $50-$60 a pop. We’ve even seen this new strategy emerge from Games Workshop with the Start Collecting bundles which are a direct response to competitors products designed to do the same thing: Get you playing with a single purchase. Once you’ve got people to buy in they have a tenancy to not want to leave because of “Sunk Costs” – they’ve already invested so they don’t want to feel like their money (or time) is wasted.
Now, about those intro products – the starter box had a ton of miniatures in the box for $125. It wasn’t a bad deal. However, this was over the industry average for a starter game. Had this been a new company or from a Kickstarter you would have seen this box for under $100. Games Workshop was treating this like it had 30 years of history to bank off of – it did not. Coupled with the fact that the ruleset was too open and you have a lot of retailers stuck with boxes that aren’t moving.
The System Shock Is Real
Let’s be honest – there are still a LOT of bad feelings toward Age of Sigmar. There are lots of players that are still upset that their game went away. People don’t like change to begin with and now you’ve changed everything, killed off entire lines & flushed the history away. No wonder people are mad!
Age of Sigmar is only 8 months old and it was supposed to replace a game that was 30 years old. Think about that for a moment. Does anyone like when the new, young hot shot comes waltzing in and tells the old timers how to do their job? The hire-ups love it because it “shakes things up” but the people on the front lines want to punch him in the face. Age of Sigmar is that new kid who thinks they know it all. Games Workshop is basically the hire-ups cheering it on and the old time gamers are the ones on the front line who just want it to stop talking.
This is New Coke vs Old Coke. There is a reason why Coke went back to Coca-Cola Classic.
Only Time Will Tell
The reality is that Games Workshop is going full bore with Age of Sigmar. They’ve made their bed and they are going to sleep in it, no matter what. Is this going to pan our or be another Titanic-like sinking? It’s too early to say. But they have one thing going for them – Time.
There are lots of players that never stop playing – but lets look at the typical wargamer life cycle:
The average gamer usually picks up a game like Warhammer for 5-6 years (usually in their teens/college age) before they stop playing and move on (after getting in serious relationship and/or having a kid for a lot of wargamers). Some of them come back later in life and pick up the hobby again (usually once the kids are old enough to know not to “play” with “Daddy’s toys” any more). And they go on to have a long hobby life well into their golden years.
Now, if you didn’t know when breaking-up with someone/something the longer you’ve been in a relationship the longer it takes to get over it. Generally, if you take the time you’ve been together and divide by 2, then that can give you a rough estimate of how long it’s going to take to get over it. If the average gamer has played for 5-6 years, then the average “break-up recovery time” should be around 2-3 years. Remember what I wrote eariler: Age of Sigmar is only 8 months old.
If you were in the middle of that cycle then it’s perfectly normal to still be upset that your game got nuked. If you’re one of those life-long gamers then yes, it still stings. I get it – and only time will heal those wounds. But Games Workshop could help speed the process.
Bringing It Full Circle
I wrote all that to get back to the top of this article. Warhammer: Age of Sigmar has a lot going for it. Games Workshop has made some missteps but it’s really not too late to “fix” it and get it right. Here’s what they have to do:
- Get all the backstory out as quick as possible – players need to know what’s going to be the new “normal” again so they can get comfortable with the history.
- Price wise: Treat this game like a new one, because it is new – The Start Collecting Bundles and the lower price of the Grand Alliance books is a good start. But selling 3 models for $100 is the opposite of that.
- Put out a Structured Play Book! – Everyone thought that Balance of Power was going to be the book that did this and when it wasn’t…well that was the last nail in the coffin for a lot of folks.
That’s really it. Give people a structure and let them go from there. If it’s too loose then it will fall – but it’s not too late to fix Games Workshop’s Age of Sigmar Problem.
What do you think? Is Age of Sigmar “DOOMED” or do you think it can work? Does it just need a minor fix or a complete face-lift? Let us know in the comments below!