Games Workshop is proving playing the game is Inconsequential

by | Jan 12, 2021

It was not even been 10 years ago, when we would be surprised to see any mainstream media talk about the hobby or the company that makes it, Games Workshop. Today thanks to YouTube, political statements, video games, and good financial news Games Workshop products can be seen and found everywhere. This visibility and fans have made Games Workshop one of the most profitable companies for its size in the world, and with this BBC news release has me thinking. First off, let’s take a moment today that BBC talks about Games Workshop, but what is more important is the details.

Games Workshop, which makes the tabletop miniature game, saw sales hit a record £186.8m in the period, up 26%

Games Workshop sales in the heart of a pandemic is up by 26%! The stock as also double year over year for the past two years, becoming the darling of the London stock exchange. Needless to say, Games Workshop is on the cusp of playing with the big boys. Games Workshop is also one of the few companies with a billion dollar IP that hasn’t been gobbled up by one of the multimedia global titans. Once the pandemic is over and people are allowed out of the house expect even brighter days.

The BBC article does hint at something we should think about Games Workshop and its games. Games Workshop has proven they don’t need us playing the game to be successful. There has always been tension between the hobbyist (old guard) wing and game (new guard) wing of the company, which culminated in the disastrous release of the original Age of Sigmar which units had no points or power levels. The result was the final stand of the old guard leading them to different positions in the company; regulated to lore or speciality game duties. 

Fast forward to today, and things have flipped, not within the company, but the with us the fans of Games Workshop games. The pandemic has caused a severe cut in games play. Only a handful of locations allow tournaments or open gaming, for the majority of players we stuck with our children, parents, or spouses to play with. You think this would cause folks to not buy more model toys, but instead fans chose to open their wallets at record clip. The very nature of the hobby is key for this happening, the fact Games Workshop products are all encompassing makes them highly resilient unlike other social hobbies or games.

Games Workshop marketed smartly too, leaning into this, asking players to get paint on models since they couldn’t play, and just that little nudge lead to massive sales. Then you release a new edition of Warhammer 40k providing players with even more new models to paint. Book sales and video game royalties also picked up. Adding to all of this, the growth of YouTube channels pimping the hobby, with what seems like hundreds broadcasting new paint or tactics channels. It showed even for the most hardcore competitive player just how much Games Workshop is about being a hobby is first and a game second.

The game has taken a backseat, while many live vicariously through the battle reports found on the internet. The game portion has in some ways transformed into how the top legacy online video games have become. Making us all casuals, watching online the few who can broadcast games, while we can barely play. Now, Games Workshop certainly isn’t going to pull back from the rules and game portion of the hobby, and the pandemic will be over hopefully by the end of the year, but both us and the Games Workshop have learned you don’t need to roll dice on a tabletop to keep everyone hooked and even grow the hobby. 

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