Friday, 29 January 2016
Games Workshop Unveils Build+Paint Kits - An Option For Casuals At Last
So, yesterday's news was rather negative about Games Workshop, and right on a day i'd planned to actually praise the company. Well, to make up for that we thankfully have something far more positive to discuss: Mainstream appeal.
The problem the company has suffered from for some time is a lack of coherent focus when it comes to actually targeting a single demographic. We've covered this many times on here and even newcomers to the blog can probably guess their problem: The company ignored, even actively shuns, its established older gamers in favour of new ones. It often causes problems for those dedicated to their hobby in everything from an anti-tournament mentality to actively shutting down community hubs. The problem is its desired audience of teenagers and prepubescent boys might notice prices are a little on the high side, especially as just starting the game can cost up to a hundred quid. Why spend that when they can get their tactical fix just grabbing a free copy of War Thunder or League of Legends, right? With Age of Sigmar being slow to draw in a new audience and small scale 40,000 games having gone out the window years ago, the company has done something very smart: They're treating their models as models for once.
Announced on tinyplasticspacemen.com, hobbyists were treated to the sight of decades old units and artwork suddenly on display as modelling kits. Supplied with glue and paint of their own, they were intended to be re-introduced as single shot releases which could either be individually bought as personal enjoyment, or used as the start of some new army. With a wide variety of individual units and vehicles on offer, it seems fairly clear that they're going all in with this one, and it's explicitly made for younger players. This is as evident from the less wallet draining structure which ought to help parents ease their child into a hobby they might well give up just a few years as much as their design. With far fewer fiddly parts or individual bits, the models are hard to get truly wrong while at the same time they still offer the same joy of building something new. Oh, and for those already thinking this will cost an arm and a leg, apparently Games Workshop brought back the old prices along with the ancient models. Advertised estimated costs range from £10.00 to £25.00 depending upon their size and structure, in other words the sorts of prices I was seeing back in 2001 or so.
These kits are planned to be placed around more stores beyond Games Workshop itself, with Barnes & Noble high on that list. This will ultimately mean that, besides the likes of Black Library releases in Waterstones, we'll start seeing more active promotion for the kits. This in turn will draw a wider number of people with any luck, and we might start to see a trickling influx of new gamers.
On the positive side of things, this will ensure we have more of a ongoing generation to keep things going. There's something in place to actively offset the mentality that all armies must be large enough to fill the entire table or dedicated rules can only focus upon huge forces. If newcomers are starting to buy their units piecemeal, it means there is more encouragement to see lower points games again. Atop of this, we also have the strong chance of having people ease themselves into the hobby and stick with it out of dedication. Quite often it seems those who tend to stick with tabletop gaming the most are the ones who buy their armies bit by bit. They stick with them out of love of the universe and determination rather than buying most of it at once and barely getting the time or inclination to actually build half of the stuff.
The fact that these are older units and molds means that there is less cost placed upon the company itself. We can see faster implementation of this, and with a wealth of older kits on hand, it means there's an easy well of ideas and units to call upon to expand this range. Should it prove to be successful, we might see releases in waves or perhaps even editions if we're lucky. Better yet however, it also means that those after older kits for the sake of nostalgia or just to add a bit of character to their army have options besides eBay and knock-off dealers from China. Plus, if they do the smart thing and add a small story or some lore in the kit, we might see more players invested in story over mechanics.
Unfortunately, there is a double edged sword with this news. While certainly extremely positive, those who know the company's history might want to pause and think what this means for the game itself. It wasn't too long ago that CEO Tom Kirby referred to Games Workshop as a toy company, and that their big emphasis was on miniatures over lore or rules. We have often seen shiny new units jammed into the game despite canon rejecting it or their designs ill fitting the army after all, as if the designers just wanted to do something and damn whatever problems it caused. With that in mind, the fact these are being sold as model kits might have a few averse effects. Should they be successful, it's not too hard to imagine Games Workshop using it as an excuse to focus more upon flash over substance, with plastic figures prioritised over well written books. While the game itself might keep people engaged, and I personally do not think it would be entirely abandoned any time soon, we could see a gradual devaluing of the rules.
Still, when all is said and done, this does seem like a step in the right direction. It opens the gates for a greater influx of people and it means concerns about the hobby dying out might be alleviated for at least a while yet. Whatever the future might bring though we have plenty of time to speculate, guess about the future or even just wait and see how things shape up as Games Workshop releases more news. If you want more information, I highly recommend the source cited here.