Games Workshop has a huge decision to make – will the Horus Heresy use the 40k 7th or 8th edition ruleset?
Let’s pretend you’re the CEO of GW. You’ve got a decision to make and it’s going to be a big one that could impact a lot of the loyal player base. Change is coming for your “main” 40k game and you have to choose what will happen with the smaller, but popular (and very profitable due to Forge World) Horus Hersey Age of Darkness setting. Do you keep the rules as is, with one foot firmly planted in 7th, or do you press on, bite the bullet and swap to 8th?
Before you answer that, let’s talk about those two options. Option 1 is to stay with the 7th edition ruleset. We wrote up a few ideas on how we think that could work – and it could work! The rules are done, the books are mostly out, and the players seems to enjoy it already – so why else would you keep it? It comes down to two big things: rules continuity and keeping those loyal players happy. I feel like these reasons to keep 7th are pretty obvious so I won’t harp on those too much more. However, staying with 7th might not be the smartest move as a company…
Why Move to 8th?
As a company, moving to 8th might be a wiser move in the long run. It does a couple of things for them at high-level strategic perspective:
- It supports 8th Edition as the “Flagship” game – The Hersey Era has always looked to 40k for it’s core mechanics it would make sense that if the “core” game is updated then the sub-genre would update, too.
- It makes the swap between the two games easier for new players – One of the big goals for 8th was to re-engage existing players and capture new players. 8th Edition is a faster, lighter, and tighter ruleset (from what we’ve seen so far). For most of the fans of The Age of Darkness setting, they started in 40k and then shifted over. Keeping the ruleset consistent makes that transition much easier.
- As a business, it’s all about getting players to “upgrade” to 8th – like it or not, GW is a company and they want to stay in business. To stay in business, they need people to keep buying their products. If you already have an existing army with all the books that means you’re not buying any new stuff. Sure, there are folks out there that will keep adding to their army or start new ones, those folks continue to remain customers. But for a lot of people, they make a huge one time investment in rules and their forces…and that’s it. One way for GW to keep them coming back to make those smaller purchases is to release new books or units. And nothing sells books like a new edition of a game…
- Historically, it’s what Games Workshop has always done – Going back as far as the company has been producing games, every time there has been a new edition, eventually everything gets replaced. Sure, there were some “transition” books, things that worked as the “bridge” between editions. However, there have also been those painful transitions where GW just ripped the band-aid off completely and started over. If GW kept 7th as a ruleset for Horus Heresy, then it would be the outlier and not the norm. Again, that could work…but it’s not what they have done in the past.
- Converting to 8th is not actually hard, it’s just a lot of work – If you look at the 18 legions, they all use the same basic army list. Individually, they each have their own special rules (usually a page or so), a Primarch, a couple special characters, and a few special units. Breaking that down, it’s really only 5 pages per legion…that’s really not that much. And for all the non-marine legion army lists that are out there, they might have a dozen or so units for each. If Games Workshop really wanted to, they could go over each unit and convert them over to an 8th Edition ruleset, crank out some PDF updates and be ready to go. It would take some work for sure, but I wouldn’t consider that super difficult design work.
Personally, I have a legion army already and I bring it out for special occasions. Right now, I’m more interested getting the full 8th edition ruleset than anything else. And from talking to the Heresy Era players, they feel like the 7th edition ruleset currently works fine for them but they are also eager to look at 8th. Would it suck to have to replace all those fancy HH books? Yes. Absolutely! But it’s not like your models are going to suddenly burst into flame if the edition switches…
Whatever GW decides to do, it’s a big decision with a lot of ripple effects down the line. I could see GW sticking with 7th but I could also see a business reason to move forward. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what GW chooses.
So what would you do as the GW CEO? Would you make the move that would keep the short term status quo or would you want to shake things up for the long term gains?