The Growing Greed Creep of Games Workshop

by | Jun 26, 2020

In normal times this would be the true Golden Age of Warhammer 40k and by extension Games Workshop. Instead, the world is still reeling from a global pandemic, and the associated economic collapses, we are now noticing Games Workshop return to kit hikes and outrageous MSRPs. Well in truth nothing has really changed at Games Workshop, but the drapery of Games Workshop marketing has done an amazing job masking this behavior as it has festered. Everyone is suddenly paying attention to their pocketbooks, and asking why does that Ad-Mech flyer cost $100?

During the height of the financial crisis of the late 2000s Games Workshop was in a tailspin, lead by a out of touch CEO, driven by austerity measures that would make a Greek faint. At the same time Games Workshop was producing the worst versions of their main games, while asking everyone to pay a premium for it. When Tom Krirby was finally ousted for Kevin Roundtree in 2015, it quickly marked a sea-change for the company as it started to act like an average corporation in the social media age.

We all know the story by now, gone was the litigious nature, the secrecy, and most importantly the annual price hikes. Games Workshop did something it had never done before, and for at least three years only increased average prices on new releases. Regardless, if it was a sign of good will or smart corporate governance it doesn’t matter, the fact gamers didn’t have to dread the annual price hike had a great psychological effect. The peak of this good Games Workshop behavior happened when they updated their stocklist terms to include online sales and streamlining retailer discounts.

Over the last two years though this has changed, with Games Workshop returning to their “old” ways, by increases prices well over inflation and delivering outrageous starting price points for new kits. I personally noticed something was up when seeing the prices for the latest Chaos Space Marine units, especially when the new Chaos Space Marine Havocs kit came in at $55. That was a lot for five models especially when equivalents (Devastators) at the time were less than $50. The whole new Chaos Space Marine range seem to be out of place from what had come before. Still, Games Workshop has some values with Start Collecting sets leading the way, though they recently raised those prices. It has always been the safe harbor for Games Workshop to offer discounts with starter sets and limited edition box sets. That again changed by the end of 2019 with truly insane price gouging of Blood of the Phoenix. At $230 this was easily the highest priced box set we have seen in some time.

The savings at the time was $135, which is around 40% off if you bought the kits separately. This is in contrast to a set like Tooth & Claw from the year before where you saved almost 60%. What made the Blood of the Phoenix pricing more glaring was all the old sculpts, where Blood & Claw was almost all new units released within the last 2-3 years. Regardless of the savings it just looked like you were not getting the most bang for your buck. Then you compared this to the Sisters of Battle new release box set where you got it at least felt like you got more for “only” $210.

Speaking of Sisters of Battle, that is where we can see some insane pricing, with the Triumph of Saint Katherine and Battle Sanctum taking prices to new levels. This followed up with double combo of the Ad-Mech new releases and the new annual price hikes. It is those most recent price hikes that shows the level of disconnect Games Workshop has with its model pricing. Even removing the “who can afford, this with no one working” angle, the whole raising pricing on ancient 20 year old kits is extra galling. You can sorta understand for new releases, but like TVs you would think just maybe the 20 year old Land Raider would go down in price instead of up? That is the thing, beyond limited and holiday box sets Games Workshop never lowers prices on anything! No other company really does this, beyond few luxury good sellers, but certainly no another other game maker. Even a company like Apple reduces prices on products.

So now we are fast approaching the release of the Warhammer 40k 9th edition box set, which according to the latest news is going to be “limited” like the Sisters of Battle box, which makes me very fearful for just how much it is going to be. Rumors had it originally at $150, but their is no way in high heaven that is going to be the case. The amount of models and extra goodies is actually pretty amazing, I have feeling we might be getting our first $300 “starter set”. Games Workshop will get away with it certainly, but it will only reinforce the wrong lesson; that Games Workshop can get away with anything when it comes to pricing.

When we do get those 9th edition box set models sold separately, we will be in for rude awaking, like the new Space Marine bikes being between $60-70, just look at the Serberys Sulphurhounds. At some point, no matter how much goodwill Games Workshop has built over the last 5 years, when will the consumers actually finally revolt and actually not buy the new toy? Moreover, it is getting harder and harder for Games Workshop to convince little Johnny’s mommy the real value of bare plastic that still needs to be painted and glued.

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