Monday, 8 April 2013

Reading the entrails

Over at Quirkworthy, Jake Thornton has been discussing the possibility that Games Workshop may be about to release a limited edition version of Blood Bowl. He has a few interesting points to make about the likelihood of this happening and the effect it might have on Dreadball (short version: not much). Worth a read, but I want to comment on a throwaway remark:

"Either way, it’s what GW do, so we can reasonably assume they’ll do the same again."
I'm not wanting to have a go at Jake, but this sentence struck me because it's an example of a fairly casual assumption about GW that everything they do is part of a predictable pattern.

That might be overstating it a bit, but it does seem to be how people think. A few years ago, shortly after a the release of Warhammer 40,000 third edition, a friend commented to me that within two months GW would release a big boxed supplement full of cards and templates. His reasoning being that this is what they always did. At the time they had done this for Warhammer 40,000 2nd edition, Warhammer 4th and 5th edition, Blood Bowl, Man O'War, Necromunda and Gorkamorka. So it had far more precedent than the current pattern of limited edition games.

In the event, this expected release never materialised. As no less a person that the aforementioned Jake Thornton has revealed, translating all the cards into different languages was proving prohibitive, so boxed supplements were history. And all of a sudden something that GW just do became something that GW didn't do.

Not that I'm saying that you should completely ignore all precedent when it comes to predicting GW behaviour and there are some patterns, like new editions and army books, that seem to be pretty set in stone. But it is worth remembering that they are not actually set in stone. It's funny the number of times I have seen someone insist that a rumour isn't true because GW don't do that or that they can be absolutely certain that GW will do something because they always have before.

Sometimes it feels as though people believe that Games Workshop is like a force of nature, fundamentally predictable and unchanging. The problem with that attitude is that it leaves people thinking that nothing they do or say can ever effect it. That trying to influence it is as futile as King Canute's beach trip. It's worth remembering that GW is just a miniature company, albeit a big one, and its decisions are made by people, albeit people increasingly cut off from their customers.

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