News from Games Workshop Annual General Meeting

by | Sep 26, 2017

As it has been reported about over the last few days by various online sites, Games Workshop just held their annual General Meeting. These meetings are held for shareholders to meet and ask questions about company they are investing in.

Lucky for us, at least one shareholder took the time to report back on what was discussed. In between each segment will be my comments on the above subjects.

Performance: Sales are up across the board – in every sector, every range, and every month all the charts are pointing in the right direction. Surplus cash will be returned to shareholders as dividends.

This is pretty much known, since between the release of the Start Collecting & first Generals Handbook. As always GW is content with staying in there lane and providing easy money for shareholders on a continuing basis.

Strategy: They’ve recruited enough to have separate design teams for 40k, AoS, and Specialist games.

This has allow them to release something for each of those lines on a regular basis, monthly at least if not faster. They want something new for players to buy rather than them waiting for months to keep a constant monthly cash flow. Sales improvement is important to them, it’s not just about a few big releases a year anymore. Efforts are being made to reduce the price point and make joining the game easier, thus the range of price points for 8th (from £5 magazine with single figure up to £95 boxed set)

Target markets for new stores are North America and Asia. Trade (FLGSs) is more profitable than retail (GW stores), but the latter is more important for recruitment. They intend to do more to support both. They want to bring more women into the hobby, but don’t want to alienate the existing player base while doing so, it is something they’re aware of (but no details as yet).

Prices aren’t dropping any time soon. Production is pushing up against maximum capacity, they’re going to be investing a fair bit in new injection molding machinery.

This is consistent with what many people already knew, GW went on a hiring spree over a year ago. You can see it with the new faces popping up on community streams and at Warhammer Fest. The release schedule speed has been a thing for years now, so to make it sound new is kinda strange. I think what is important is GW has figured out the right balance and not letting each line go dry without some sort of release every month.

GW is also focusing on markets they need and avoiding the uncertainty of Brexit and the Euro markets, it makes business sense. I do enjoy the mea culpa about GW stores being more a marketing tool and less about getting direct return.

Much of the online discussion regarding this report has been about woman outreach, I rather not dwell on it as it gets into dangerous territory. There are intrinsic elements to the Warhammer universes that make it extremely hard for GW to do more than dabble at getting woman to play.

Production bottlenecks seem to be a real big concern for GW moving forward, you can see this by looking at the GW online store. The constant shell game of what is and isn’t inventory, doesn’t necessarily mean a certain new release is imminent more often it just means GW is devoting machines to more important products.

Marketing: Hired a marketing team about 18 months ago they have no intention of mass-marketing.

The digital strategy is an attempt to get control of the narrative, they identified the fact that all the web traffic was going to blogs and forums where new (and old) players would meet a lot of negativity and grumbling. It’s working, their web traffic is high and growing (2 million unique users on warhammer community, for example), the traffic on 3rd party sites is falling. They are measuring clickthroughs and doing more market research about customers, no granular info yet, but a big change in direction from the Kirby years. They intend to carry on being much more proactive in supporting tournament organizers and the like.

I really enjoying this confirmation of their overall strategy, and anyone who thought it wasn’t the case was an idiot. Any GW marketing was always going to be about control. It definitively has worked, though taking credit for larger internet trends is a bit disingenuous, they certainly did accelerated it within our community. What I find really important and sorta hinted at, is they are now picking winners and losers when it comes to message control.

They have co-oped all the major tournament organizers and co-oped many online personalities. The targets have been and smartly so on still growing digital platforms like video blogging and podcasting. It then only leaves the dwindling number of critics to deteriorating mediums like generic blogs and forums. As we have learned in recent elections though, social media like Twitter and Facebook are uncontrollable and most likely any push back to GW control narrative will start there.

40k: None of them are allowed to say, but from what I wheedled out it sounds like 8th is doing very well indeed, they consider it a success.

The gathering storm stuff and SW:A was a strategy to prevent the normal big sales drop-off they get before a new edition (like they did with WHFB’s end times).

No surprises here, but I do find it odd GW wasn’t more bullish on 8th to the shareholders, maybe they didn’t meet a high bar they set for themselves.

AoS: They won’t provide figures for individual ranges, but sales are up, and Overlords did well.

Again no surprises.

Specialist games: The reason they abandoned these in the past was because they had a small design team which was hard to expand, so they put the focus into the most profitable lines (40k and Fantasy), that’s not an issue any more.

The success of Blood Bowl caught them by surprise, which is why there was a fairly big gap between releases.They intend to continue releasing about one team per quarter. Necromunda will have better support from the get go, they want to get more of the gangs out at release or shortly thereafter and have future plastics more planned out

They are aiming to make them very customisable, extra weapons and upgrades will probably be available in resin. Cawdor got a mention, might mean that they’re coming at release or might just mean that that’s one they’re working on now.

Looking back this makes sense, and if GW didn’t think they could devote enough time to the smaller games, I don’t blame them for dropping them at the time. It is surprising they didn’t know Blood Bowl was going to explode, Dreadball initial success should have been a hint. Good thing is they have learned, now we can expect them to go full bore with the rest of the Specialist lines!

Forge World: Horus Heresy has been derailed a bit by Bligh’s death and producing a new rulebook.

Now that’s in the printers they’re getting back on with it, there are plenty of models in the pipeline. There are no more Horus Heresy plastics planned at the moment. Never say never, but production time is at least a year, so don’t expect anything anytime soon.

It was sad news, but also a lesson GW should learn, never make one person the sole gatekeeper for an entire department. Disappointing to also see we won’t get another Horus Heresy box set for Christmas.

Well there you have it pretty interesting stuff from Games Workshop. We are in for some exciting times, but like always  understand GW is about making money, and are usually very thinned skinned, nor do very well with introspection.

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