The Horus Heresy, aka Warhammer 30K, has had a long run…but is Games Workshop pulling the plug on Heresy-Era gaming?
Back in December, we saw the finished Rulebook for the Horus Heresy actually ship. This was kind of a big deal for 30k players because it was now the only place you could get the core rules for playing games in the Horus Heresy. (It still uses the 7th Edition Warhammer 40,000 ruleset and this book has some tweaks and adjustments to those rules. It is considered to be the ultimate version of the 7th Ed rules because it incorporates a lot of the errata and FAQs.) However for the 40k at this point, 8th Edition had taken over the 40k scene and was doing extremely well.
But fast forward to last weekend. Seemingly out of the blue Forge World put the Space Marine Upgrade Packs on “Last Chance To Buy” status. And when we’re talking about the upgrade packs, we’re talking about ALL of them that were designed for the old school MK II-VI armor sets.
Loyalist and Traitor marine alike – heck, even the Cataphractii Armor upgrades are on the chopping block. That Last Chance To Buy Page is looking brutal. We don’t know exactly what Forge World or Games Workshop has planned at this point for the Horus Heresy. This could just be a clean sweep of all the excess inventory – that’s a lot of bits to keep up with and store. 18 Legions, each with 2-5 upgrade sets, chest plates, heads, etc. – it really adds up. I can easily see that many kits costing more to store and keep-up than the income they bring in.
At this point, you’ve really got to ask if the Heresy player base is growing or shrinking. And while there are lots of dedicated players out there how many of them are putting in orders for all these bits? Are those orders greater than, equal-to, or less than the cost of storing all these extra bits? As a business, if your sitting on all this inventory, it’s just costing you money because you not only had to pay for all the costs to get the product made, you now have to pay to store it and pay someone to maintain it (the people that manage the inventory and fill those orders). And how much do you think that all costs?
Items in retail stores are different because your costs are offset by the stores taking the risk/costs of essentially storing your product for you. With specialty items like Forge World, because they aren’t shipped to the different stores, they have to eat that cost – and I worry that those costs are out weighing the revenue the Horus Heresy is currently generating.
Business speculation and costs aside, the Horus Heresy isn’t ‘dead’ yet. There are still a ton of books from Black Library on the way, Forge World still has a black book or two up their sleeves, and there are still models being released (Primarchs are a big deal still). At the same time, this version of the Horus Heresy certainly feels like it’s about ready to ride off into the sunset and call it a day.
What’s Next For The Heresy?
The way we see it, Games Workshop has a few options. They already invested pretty heavily into the setting – creating all those kits, books, rules, art and everything surrounding it had to cost a pretty penny. It would be a shame to let all that go to waste. At the same time, if your product isn’t selling then it isn’t selling. So what can they do?
- Convert Horus Heresy into the 8th Edition ruleset – this option invalidates all the rules, makes the old school players mad, and basically ripping off the band-aid. It hurts, but if you want to treat the problem you have to start here. If they change to the new edition, they will be able to redo all the books (and sell them). This also allows folks who don’t have the core book the ability to use the current 40k rules and play. That’s a lot of potential new sales.
- Keep doing what they are doing – Eventually Horus Heresy will be completed, all the books will be out, and the product line will be done. But if the game isn’t growing the costs will eventually out-weigh the revenue. GW can subsidize the product line from other revenue streams, but that’s just a drag on the company as a whole. Not a good long term solution.
- Pull the plug and let it burn – this is the big cost cutting option. It’s probably more damaging than the other two options and it still leaves GW with a ton of inventory that won’t move.
Personally, I think GW’s best option is some combination of the first two options. They need to complete the current books and get those out to the fans. At the same time, they need to plan what the long game is for the Horus Heresy. Eventually they are going to need to do something to give the game a shot in the arm. The longer they leave the ruleset in 7th the farther away the new, current 8th edition 40k players are going to drift away.
There are no easy answers to the Horus Heresy problem that GW is facing. Every option is going to cost them something, but for the longevity of the game they are going to have to choose. And from the looks of the Forge World webpage, it certainly looks like they are taking steps in a particular direction.
What do you think? Will the Horus Heresy slowly fade away into the sunset or do you think GW is planning on doing something big to shake it up?