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Rick Priestley Talks Games Workshop (& More)

4 Minute Read
Mar 1 2015
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It’s not every day the creator of Warhammer 40,000 talks frankly about the company he helped build into a giant.  Don’t miss it!

via Rick Preistley’s Facebook Page

It all got started with the following comment directed at Mr. Priestley:

“You sir are a legend! Its a shame that gw have lost their way a bit and moved away from the humorous, dark, irrelevant and very British state of Warhammer and 40k that you pretty much invented”

 

And then Priestley chimes in with the following:

“Blimey you turn your back for a day or two! I worked for GW (Citadel in Newark and then GW at Eastwood and Nottingham) for 28 years, and the company changed a great deal over that time, but we always aimed at making money. I can just about remember the days when making money was about having enough in the bank at the end of the month to cover our wages – I don’t know if that was ever literally true – but it certainly came across that way! We also enjoyed what we were doing! We enjoyed games and gaming and – of course – the models that went with that. The big recent change is that GW has actually stated – both during the Chapter House court hearing and subsequently to its shareholders – that it considers its market to be collectors of models and not gamers. The games are very much played down internally, and you can see with the latest (very nicely done!) models that they are conceived as collectors pieces that have very little practicality in terms of a wargame. It’s perfec tly fine for GW to turn its backs upon wargaming in favour of modelling and collecting if that is the vision of the current management. But the result is that many customers who are or have been passionate about GW’s games do feel marginalized.

 

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I should add that we always used to maintain a games design department that was fairly heavy weight – smart guys, some of them rebarbative, bloody-minded and mildly dangerous types (dangerous to themselves on occasion). I won’t say who it was… but one of our staff once ran back into the burning building he’d just been rescued from by the fire brigade to recover his ‘stash’ from the flames! The design team has been run down over the years – the guys who work there now are just not doing the same sort of work and they’re not the same sort of people. Probably for the best:)

 

I think that is the danger Rob – well not literally fridges to motorcyclists! – but betting the company on the assumption that the market is primarily collectors and not gamers is a big gamble isn’t it! In the short term it will work because so many gamers are loyal to the backgrounds and to what is left of the games range (that’ll be 40K then). The large, very nicely done, collectors style pieces generate good sales at high margins. I would expect to see an improvement in full year performance under their new CEO – and maybe even a dividend! Long term though… if GW is sincere about changing its market stance (and does not lose its bottle and start to back track – which is still possible) it opens up the market to any number of new companies that are interested in games, gaming and gamers! That won’t do GW any harm so long as they are determined to abandon that market – and it would leave them to concentrate on a mixture of high price highly profitable collectibles and licensing its IP out into other media – always something I felt was under exploited due to fear of losing control at the top of the business. But what do I know:)

 

Well I’m touched by all the thank yous! So let me add my own. Thank you for making it possible for me and so many of my comrades to earn a living doing something we love – there’s not many people get that chance – and I remain eternally grateful.”

 

First of all – OUCH it there a sharp jab at the current state of the GW Design Studio in there!  That said, I have to say that Mr. Priestley is saying a lot of the same things that gamers have been muttering for years.

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The shift away from an emphasis on gaming and steadily focussing on collectors models isn’t a surprise, but it bodes ill for those of us who entered the hobby over the years because we love PLAYING GAMES in GW’s universes.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting out to be a collector’s model manufacturer, but doing so after decades of being a GAMES workshop… feels like its a recipe for a slow motion train wreck – and customer alienation.

We have already seen the explosion in rules and the byzantine way that the game itself is presented these, and played with dozens of rulebooks, dataslates, Forgeworld, and ePubs all over the place.  The game hasn’t felt like such an exercise in accounting since the end of Rogue Trader.  It will be interesting to see what the GW games feel like in 2 years, when there will be a lenghty period of “models first, rules second” behind them.

I would expect the rebooted WFB 9th Edition to be canary in the coal mine.  With an ailing game to pull out of its downward spiral and a blank slate, WFB 9th should give the entire industry a good idea of what kind of product GW yearns to make as a self-styled collector’s models company.  There are a lot of hints in the End Times series if you only look carefully.

What are your thoughts on Mr. Priestley’s writing?

 

 

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