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Editorial: Value – 40K vs Video Games

5 Minute Read
Jun 11 2011
Hello World,
In light of recent price hikes there has been a lot of anger towards Games Workshop. It’s easy to be angry when prices increase, especially in light of the annual increases.

 GW has some practices that often leave their customers scratching their heads, but who love the game enough to put up with them. Warhammer for example (both varieties) suffers from slowly updated erratas and depends on the player community to fill the gaps for competitive play (see the 100 page INAT FAQ). In our current situation, we often hear players threaten to quit the hobby, saying they have suffered enough. So what needs to be considered is the most fundamental aspect of the hobby – cost of the game. Is Warhammer really as expensive as we think? Is it really more costly than other hobbies out there (golf for example)? To compare, let’s take Warhammer and compare it to another common hobby.
Of Plastic and Digital Soldiers
Video game enthusiasts are more common then tabletoppers so it seems fitting to try and contrast the price difference using the Xbox 360 as comparative model. I’ve chosen Xbox 360 for the sheer popularity of it, not for any other reason, so please let’s keep any possible console flame wars to a minimum. Now, the list of games is speculative, four seems like a fair and safe number to compare with. But, I’m sure many gamers out there can’t even remember the last time they only owned four games for a console. Also, these prices are current retail prices. It’s not fair to compare used games and consoles to full price Warhammer, as it is possible to buy whole armies at substantial discounts if you look hard enough. Before we begin though, I will concede that used games are easier to come by. 
Here is a typical Tyranid list, chosen for the fact that it’s a horde army and hordes do inevitably cost more to play. This includes the rule book, dice, starter hobby kit, and Tyranid starter box. 
Box of:
Hive Tyrant
Tyrant Guard X 2
$49.50 ($24.75)
Hive Guard X 3
$74.25 ($24.75)
Zoanthrope X 3
$74.25 ($24.75)
Starter Box
(Starter Box Set)
(Starter Box Set)
(Starter Box Set)
(Starter Box Set)
Trygon X 2
$115.50 ($57.75)
Hobby Starter
   Total                                                   $736.75

For a 1680 point Tyranid force with absolutely no upgraded models. So it could easily go up to 2000 points with add-ons.

Xbox 360 (New Version) 250 GB
Extra controller
One year Online subscription
Modern Warfare
Halo Reach
Portal 2
Duke Nukem Forever
   Total                                                       $629.94 
For a 2000 point army and full starter sets versus only four games, one extra controller, and one year of Xbox live, the total comes out to a difference of $106.81. This is, of course, assuming that you already owned an HD TV, if not then the difference would be -$693.19, meaning that it would be almost $700 cheaper to play Warhammer, but I didn’t include that price since most people probably have a suitable TV already. For what you get and how long it will last you, the price difference is not that staggering and once you’ve purchased six games for your console you’ll have spent more on games then on models.
Of Startup Costs and Longevity
The issue with Warhammer is that it has a very large start up cost. You really need to almost spend that full $700 just to have an army to play, whereas with the console you don’t have to buy it all at once. You can buy the console and a game and get the rest later. But while Warhammer is harder to start, it will last a lot longer.
Let’s say you play this list, with only minor additional purchases, and play it for the life span of the codex, the average being about three years, and then quit the hobby. You box up the army and stuff it in the basement. Then one day, years later, you pop open the box and decide to play again. The army is still good, maybe you’ll need a new codex and rule book but the models are still there and still ready to be used. If you try the same thing with an Xbox 360, you’ll have a fun vintage console, but you’ll need to buy a whole new console if you want to play the new games that are out. I’m using models now that I bought well over ten years ago. 
There are some other considerations to keep in mind here. If you pay for Xbox live, from launch day, for the average life span of the console, which is about seven years, you’d be paying almost $350 just for online service. If you bought the console on launch day that would another $100 on the cost of gaming, or $300 in the case of PS3 fans who paid the $600 for it. It also doesn’t factor in how much you’ve spent on repairs or replacements for when the Xbox red lighted, but this is a whole separate argument by itself.
The Rub
Warhammer is expensive, but so is everything else. Almost any hobby you get into will cost you a lot of money. So in the final balance, the issue isn’t with Games Workshop’s prices per se; it’s with their policies. We all know that any miniatures company must sell models to survive, and we gamers give them a lot of leeway in doing so. We deal with codices designed to to sell more models by lowering the point costs of troops and increase the need for heavy support. We deal with all the little things designed to squeeze out a few extra bucks from us. But, at the end of the day its hard to deal with the seemingly indifference to the playerbase. If that can be addressed, who knows what the future might hold.

This is just a simple comparison of the two hobbies. How much entertainment and the number of hours of enjoyment you get out of both is completely personal. The impact of Warhammer’s cost is up to the individual to decide. But, consider your alternatives when you say that GW is too expensive. I’d like to hear from the gamers how much they spend on games? How many games do you own?                               

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