Wednesday, 12 August 2015

What we will tolerate

Last weekend I came across this really interesting blog, its largely about third edition Warhammer with an emphasis on Chaos and is written by someone who is clearly a stalwart of the "OldHammer" community*. It has lots of nice pictures of old Games Workshop miniatures, reviews of old White Dwarfs, interviews with the Games Workshop old guard and reports of OldHammer events. Its focus is on a period from just before I started wargaming to my earliest days, so it really plays to my nostalgia. Plus, its emphasis on returning to older models and rules is exactly where I am at the moment.

I love this blog and I want to emphasise that because I don't want what follows to come across as criticism, because I think it illustrates something interesting.

Unsurprisingly, the writer is not a big fan of recent editions of Warhammer or the current direction of Games Workshop as a company. It doesn't seem to break out into outright hostility; the focus of the blog is looking at Games Workshop's old products, not complaining about their current ones.

You can get a sense of the tone by reading this post See
"Still, modern Fantasy Battle has lost much of its vibrancy with zoats, elementals, Nipponese, Norse and even the controversial pygmies no longer supported or discussed."
On the other hand, in this post, discussing White Dwarfs 100 and 101 it strikes a rather different tone.
"The times are clearly a-changing, a fact not missed in the letter pages of these mighty magazine, with readers commenting that WD has rapidly become a 'house magazine' focusing on GW and Citadel products rather than pure roleplaying. But as we know now, sales of roleplaying games were in serious decline while sales of fantasy, and science fiction, wargames were rapidly on the rise."
Games Workshop shifted from focusing on Roleplaying games, and distributing other companies products, to a focus on miniature games. And White Dwarf went from being a general Roleplaying and games magazine to being exclusively focused on Games Workshop products in an uncritical fashion. This change, which is largely glossed over in the post, was a source of great anger and bitterness for a large number of players.

The only comment offered about this change is that sales of roleplaying games were in serious decline. This isn't surprising as the post is a review of old White Dwarfs, not a critique of Games Workshops sales strategy. However, shortly before third edition Warhammer was retired in favour of fourth edition, Warhammer sales had been stagnant. The launch of the new edition prompted a sales spike.Similarly, Warhammer sales have been in chronic decline for some years now, prompting Games Workshop to launch Age of Sigmar. Whether this will increase sales again remains to be seen.

Games Workshop has actually been remarkably consistent in it's policies:
  • Roleplaying game sales were in decline, so it shifted its focus to wargaming.
  • Third edition Warhammer sales were in decline, so it launched fourth edition.
  • Eighth edition Warhammer sales were in decline, so it launched Age of Sigmar.

I have a theory that we all have our favourite periods in wargaming history, the period about which we are most nostalgic. In practice we excuse or ignore those commercial decisions that took place before that period, the ones that got us to that point, and criticise the ones that came after, the ones that took us away from it. So, abandoning RPGs was acceptable, because it lead to third edition Warhammer, launching fourth edition was not because it took us away from it.

Not that the realmofchaos80s blog spends a lot of time castigating Games Workshops current commercial decisions, it's far more concerned with its focus on old Games Workshop for that, but the tacit approval of a fairly ruthless economic decision stood out for me in the face of all the nostalgia.

It also reminded me that its an attitude I have adopted from time to time. I can't pretend that my current disinterest in Age of Sigmar is not, at least partly, motivated by Games Workshop decision to effectively mothball a game I have enjoyed in favour of launching a completely new one.

Food for thought.

*Basically a group of players interested in past editions of Warhammer, usually 3rd edition and earlier