Both GW and FFG have been on tear these last 2 years – but both companies have storms on the horizon to plan around.
It’s a golden age for tabletop gamers. both GW and FFG have been cranking out competing universes of mini games the quality and choices have never bene greater.
On GW’s side we have 40K 8th Edition. A total reboot now a year old. New rules, new minis, new narratives, new everything. It was a huge gamble and paid off handsomely. Add to that Necromunda reborn and an all new Age of Sigmar.
In the other corner is FFG with all things Star Wars.
We have an all new X-Wing 2, to accompany the just recently released Star Wars LEGION, and Star Wars ARMADA.
On the financial front all is well and both of these companies are raking in the cash.
Caution: Storms On the Horizon
But like the financial services say: “past performance is no guarantee of future performance”. The games industry is rough and tumble and things change fast.
GW – Recapturing the magic – again and again and again.
GW has indeed had a stellar financial year. However, let’s put some obvious things out there. 40K 8th edition was a complete reboot. A full reset that invalidated all that came before it. Something they haven’t done since 3rd edition 20 years ago. That pile of 7th Edition books are now worth exactly zero to the current game. It’s a double edged sword. On the one hand, you are guaranteed to supercharge sales as everyone has to rebuy everything. On the other hand, it’s a trick you really can’t do often – without alienating customers.
So GW’s challenge will be to keep the 40K magic happening after all the new codexes are out with a large enough amount of “must haves” to keep everyone snapping stuff off the shelves. They have been very aggressive with previously unseen factions (Primaris, custodes Deepkin, etc), so I expect them to keep the ball rolling on that front in the years ahead. I certainly don’t think we will will an new “classic” traditional marine mini for a long while.
FFG – The Ebb and Flow of Star Wars
Making your money in a licensing business is always tough. Things that are white hot one year can go stone cold the next. FFG had the stunning timing of picking up the Star Wars license shortly before Disney bought it from Lucas and started cranking out yearly movies. Since then it has been a license to print money. FFG has moved aggressively into pretty much every niche in the games industry with a Star Wars line: LCGs, Board Games, RPGs, Dice Games, 28mm Wargames, Space Games (two even). They are covering both painted and unpainted minis.
In short they are covering all their bases.
But the troubling issue has nothing to do with their efforts – Hollywood sees trouble ahead for the Star Wars license. Rogue One was heavily reworked by Disney, The Last Jedi did not meet expectations and SOLO came and went. Senior Disney brass is shuffling around to run Star Wars and a lot is up in the air.
I have always believed that the Star Wars license is substantially more powerful than the Warhammer license (ask your grandmother who Dark Vader and Horus Lupercal are), and is far too potent to ever collapse from pop culture like Lord of the Rings did for GW after the movies wrapped. But it can wax and wane over time. FFG will need to just keep knocking out solid quality products using the latest characters and vehicles from the universe and let the cards fall where they will. The positive fan reactions to the latest Star Wars reveals at ComicCon are a good sign.
It will be a great year to watch the two big players in the industry deal with their success and try to extend their paths of gold.
~No matter what – you the consumer wins.