Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wargaming: And Here We Go

Memorial Day is traditionally considered the start of summer. This summer is going to be a very interesting one on the Wargaming front, so I figured that this week would be a good time to talk about the coming storm. I've been spending a lot of time looking around at rumors, and I think the big picture is looking very interesting indeed. Today I want to make a few predictions and talk about my own personal plans.

The last few weeks have been full of rumors and announcements from both Games Workshop and Privateer. there have been some bits and pieces from other manufacturers, but since I only play games from these two (for now), those are the ones I want to look at. In some ways, the announcements have been more of the same, emphasizing the different strategies of the two big gaming companies. but taken together, I believe these tidbits are pointing to a major showdown between the two companies that may shake up the market quite a bit.

The Titan

There are some huge changes coming from Games Workshop this summer. Of course the biggest of these is the new 6th edition dropping this July (at least this summer if the July rumors are off). An edition change is always a critical time for a company (see my article Here for examples of GW edition changes). Whether good or bad, the new edition is going to shake things up. Without having anything solid to go on, everything points to a big change. this means most players will have to choose between buying more models or dropping off (either becoming less competitive or dropping the game/ dropping armies). The odds are your 5th ed armies won't work like they used to. this could be a good thing, but it is also a huge risk.

Along with 6th edition, GW's main release for the summer is the new flyers coming out early June. while these look interesting, they don't seem game-changing. of course this could change with the new edition. If flyers are good in 6th, these could generate a lot of sales. if flyers don't change much, I don't expect to see very many of these new models. they're expensive point-wise for what they do, and you need a copy of the White Dwarf just to play them.

Following these announcements, we hear that GW is raising prices again. but this time we're talking 25% price increases. While these increases alone aren't going to push people out of the hobby, they still have many people upset. The prices aren't that high compared to inflation, but the perception in the gaming community is that these prices are a bad move by GW. and in the end it only really matters what your customers think.

So from GW we have higher prices, a brand new edition with no solid information, and a rather uninspiring summer release.

The New Kid

Privateer Press is busting into the summer with some BIG changes of their own. Of course by "BIG" I am referring to the new Collosals book. While it isn't as big as an edition change, this release is going to have a bigger effect on the game than some releases. I am going to be writing a bigger article about collosals and how they might change the game a little bit later. Even without stats for the new casters or 3 of the 6 collosals, we can see they will be making a big splash.

if you're gonna have a price increase, give us bigger models

Now to top it off, Privateer has announced summer sales! If you were thinking about starting a new faction, or just starting Warmachine in general, Privateer is going to make it easy for you this summer. the bundles that I took the time to look through all look very solid. PP knows what models people tend to run in a starter list, and has provided each faction with a viable 25 point list. and you get a free rulebook to go with it!

So from Privateer Press we see lower prices, and a widely anticipated book release along with very cool/big models.

The Big Picture

Let's put the two sides together now. The timing on these different moves is very interesting to me. GW made a very bad move IMO by raising the prices now. Granted, they raise prices every year, and it usually happens around the same time every year. But doing it right before an edition change is dumb. They could have either NOT had a price increase for a year, relying on an increase in sales with a new edition to help, or just done the price increase at a different time, like back in January before the rumors were really flying. Then people wouldn't be dealing with a price hike while they are also trying to decide if they even want to stay in the game.

An even bigger problem for GW is going to be the huge dip in sales for the next few months. the price increase might contribute, but mainly it is just people not buying models when they have no idea how useful those models will be in 3 months. I know I'm not the only one not buying or selling GW right now. there are a few models I would love to pick up soon, but I won't be spending a dime on GW product until I see 6th. I am going to assume that over half of the current Warhammer players feel the same way. GW might get some new players that don't know a new edition is coming, but no veteran players will be starting new projects right now.

Into this uncertainty, GW tosses the new flyer models. they come out early June, but people won't really start buying them until at least late July, depending on when the new edition comes out. and if the new edition doesn't really favor fliers, people may be too busy rebuilding the core of their armies to be focused on fliers.

During this 3-4 month freeze on GW products, Privateer is getting aggressive. This isn't the first time either. Last year at Adepticon (the premier 40k event), Privateer handed every single 40K player a brand new starter box with the quickstart rules and a copy of NQ. they had reps standing outside the 40K hall with demo tables set up. "Ouch, looks like you had a rough round. Sounds like those Space wolves are really unbalanced. Say, if you have a minute and want to blow off some steam, we have a really neat little game here. it'll only take 20 minutes. Oh look, you already have all of these models in your bag!"

This time, they are pulling out really sweet deals on complete 25 point lists. Not only is each list 25 points, but they all seem like lists that the community tells their newbies to build. These are obviously built for brand new players coming over from another system to hit the ground running. I'm not the only one who thinks the timing on this was targeted right at GW. All that money in your gaming budget for the next 2 or 3 months that you are scared to spend on GW might be finding it's way into PP's pockets. and you'll have a nice little army that will soon be expanding.

Around the same time 6th comes out, we will be getting our hands on the Collosals book. Many players (like me) play both games, but have limited funds. Do we spend that on collosals or 6th edition changes? The answer to this question is going to be huge. If GW doesn't get quick adoption from it's fanbase when 6th drops, they may lose more than they were prepared for. And here is where I think GW has made their biggest error. This whole closed door policy is really going to hurt them.

Privateer and GW have very different methods for their releases. GW is tight-lipped about everything. PP likes to "spoil" rules months in advance with little teasers here and there. These two styles are going to clash this summer. We know an awful lot about Collosals. we know stats on 3 of the big guys, along with complete stats and rules and cards for one of them. we have spoilers for several casters and their rules. We have art and model photos etc. We have pre-releases at L&L. With GW we have.... rumors. And many of those rumors conflict with each other and sound like a big old mess. If GW wanted people to be excited and saving up to buy new toys, they would have done well to spoil a little bit. Even if they weren't going for a full "Field Test" like PP, they should have given us something. as it is now, we have a giant black box and we don't have any way to prepare for it.

Getting Ready

So what do we do in the meantime? Personally, I'm putting my money on PP. IMO, Games Workshop has overplayed their supposed hold on the market and they are going to struggle while PP picks up the slack.

As I mentioned, I haven't bought any new GW for months now. Without knowing a thing about the new rules, I am extremely skeptical about the end result. I have 4 Warhammer 40K armies at the moment. I am already planning on selling 2 of them. If (and this is a big if), the new edition ends up being really good, I will hang on to my Harlequins and the one army in my collection I think will be the most competitive in the new rule-set. The other two armies will be sold off. I'll start by ramping up my competitive army for 6th, then spend the rest on PP.

If the new edition sucks, I could very well be selling 3 or even all 4 of my armies. it might take me a year or so to sell it all off with used armies flooding the market, but eventually I will have converted all of my plastic toys to Warmachine. if this happens, GW wont' be making any extra money. people will be buying up those cheap used armies to fill their ranks rather than buying brand new finecast. meanwhile, PP will be sniping the stragglers with hot deals and new Gargantuans later this fall.

Either way, Privateer will be getting a much larger share of my gaming budget. I've been on the GW bandwagon too long now, it's time to move on. unless they totally blow me away with 6th, I'm moving all my chips to the PP side of the table. If I'm the only one, GW won't even feel the loss. but I really don't think I'm the only one...

So how about it? Am I overreacting? Are other players joining me in jumping ship? if not, are you interested in a used army? :-D

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