Friday, 2 June 2017

The Good That Games Workshop Does


There's something many people have been asking me of late, both on here and on so social media: Where's all the talk about the new edition of Warhammer 40,000? We have a few major changes, more details than ever to work with, yet there's nothing on here. Well, there's a good reason for that - You already have plenty of websites covering this, and i'm trying to keep my mind open about this. Writing hype pieces or reiterating information everyone already knows isn't the way of this website, and while there are points worthy of discussion, many still need more information before a detailed analysis can be made. 

Take the Primaris Astartes for example, the whole second generation of perfected space marines. We have been given bits and pieces, and it is a solid idea, but it's also one I personally could see going very wrong and there are already a few criticisms which can be leveled at the company's execution. However, rather than diving in head first, any overall thoughts and reflection on what this means in the lore will be left until I have a codex in my hands (and I have finally finished off a certain Age of Sigmar rulebook long overdue a second and third parts).

Instead, this article is going to focus upon something else more than a few people have unfortunately been overlooking in the hype - Games Workshop itself. Specifically, how the treatment of its fans, execution of its ideas and basic performance has seen such a dramatic increase in the last two years, it's hard to believe it's the same company.

Really, think back to just a few years ago and consider what was being discussed back then:

  • The Age of Sigmar had come out, to no small amount of derision among fans for a variety of reasons; from problematic lore presentation, to the alleged Sigmarines, to the treatment of Slaanesh, and even the basic rules. It seemed to be openly unzipping its flies and pissing on the past Warhammer Fantasy game, and little was really done to change this view of things.
  • Tom Kirby, a walking PR disaster overshadowed only by the likes of Tameem Antoniades, was enraging fans at every turn and triggering a wave of face-palming with every new statement. From his apparent dislike bordering upon contempt of the actual hobby side of things to attempting to palm off any failures on his part as simple misunderstandings created a steep divide between himself and fans.
  • Finecast was shunted out at high speed and everyone paid the price for it. So much so that the company started selling Finecast fixing kits rather than actually trying to perform damage control in the early months.
  • Mass lawsuits off multiple companies for infringing upon their IP, ranging from the infamous Spots the Space Marine debacle to mass shutdowns of various community hubs. Particularly the ones which had been helping keep the old Specialist Games alive.
  • Shutting down their official forums, closing down their Facebook page, shunning fans and refusing to hand out any and all information. Often to the point where people were only aware of something coming into sale a mere week or two before it actually hit shelves.


There's certainly far more which could be listed both in the game's releases and how interactions with their customers went, but the point is clear. This was like a "What Not To Do" list for any hobbyist company, and even before you got to things like the increased prices, their sheer pig-hotheadedness was simply astounding. As such, it honestly seems like the company has actually sat down, looked at its history and tried to learn from those old lessons.

Consider - just for starters - the very subject of the Eighth Edition and how it is being handled. Thus far audiences have been given a substantial amount of information regarding how basic rules will work, the direction the game will be moving in, how it will affect existing armies and even some of the major changes to vehicles. Throughout several livestreams, Q&A sessions, and media bundles along with White Dwarf articles, any fan remotely interested in what was going on was given a chance to learn of the new changes and ask questions directly to the creators. If they had a concern, rather than being stonewalled or ignored, there were genuine opportunities to bring up those points.

Such details were drip-fed to the public gradually, with an initial mass influx of basic information followed by further clarifications and new details. This helped them on two fronts, allowing for far more media coverage than before outside of leaks and also to allow the fandom to adjust to the coming changes. It meant they were given insight into the processes at work and broke down the barriers which had led to so much bad blood, giving the game a much needed level of transparency. Some such efforts were questionable (A rather infamous livestreamed game of War Zone: Fenris saw developers breaking a few very well established rules) but there was much more of a sense that there was someone human behind the game. Specifically someone invested in the act of building and painting toy soldiers, not simply appealing to share holders and getting new fans in for brief periods of time.

The comprehensive rules FAQ only further solidifies this, answering and countering many of the questionable points surrounding a number of existing games, but then we have the bigger changes. Even if you don't always appreciate their execution or delivery, Games Workshop is ultimately delivering things fans have been demanding from them for decades. Think, just for starters, what brought about this new edition: The timeline was moving forwards. We saw the return of several major characters, a few fan favourites were given much needed updates (Looking good, Cypher), and the idea of Abaddon's success was actually addressed. Whatever else you might say about the execution of their ideas, there was a determined effort to make actions have consequences from here on, and it served as more than just an excuse to pile on the grimdark elements. 

It honestly seems that at every turn there was a concerted effort to address and bring about a large number of long standing criticisms against the universe and the game as a whole. It might have been slow at first to be sure, gradual and experimental, but at just about every stage you could see this coming into play. The revival of Specialist Games alone would have been enough to prove this, but along with new experiments like Gangs of Commorragh, long term planned support for Blood Bowl and long awaited armies such as Genestealer Cults finally emerging once more, it's clearly a path they're sticking to. Hell, even the act of bringing out yet more Astartes can be seen in a good light here, thanks to the lore implications, mechanical alterations and visual improvements. Rather than just being an old set with a new paint job, the marines on both sides are truescale designs, and with massively reworked armour designs, it finally gives a sense of progression the army has lacked for a long time.

The massively improved level of communication, direction and broader focus to cover their full fandom is something which should be a basic battle plan for any company. Yet, to see Games Workshop go from all but actively avoiding it to wholeheartedly embracing these elements as their modus operandi is astonishing. Especially in a world where most of the entertainment industry seems to consider actually giving fans what they want to be some cardinal sin or error on their part. Even yours truly, an old cynic who still criticises the company over its failings, isn't above feeling a little optimism in the face of all this. With more on the horizon it's the first new Edition we've had in years where it looks like it will be a major step in the right direction. Here's just hoping that the fans remember to thank the company for such an improvement while celebrating this new twist on Warhammer 40,000.

6 comments:

  1. I remember a while ago talking to you about how GW, if they were keeping up their usual style, was likely to go out of business. That definitely seems to be anything but the case now and I think it all changed when Tom Kirby stepped down and Kevin Rountree took over.

    Now it would be ridiculous to say everything good comes from him, but ever since he's taken over the company has been doing a lot better. Maybe he merely relaxed restrictions on what their employers could do in general, but even that was more than enough to bring Specialist Games back and give us stuff like the Regimental Standard. He also seems to be the one who realized that free rules for everything was a really good idea and not sending DMCA notices to everyone would help their community to grow.

    All in all while their prices are mostly absurd* I am looking forward to where the company goes from here. While before I was really dismissive of them caring for anything but money, now I actually kind of want to support them, unless what they're putting out is priced beyond anything reasonable (such as a Custodes Sagittarum Squad, where you pay £51 for five models), in which case I'm not ashamed to admit I have other 'contacts' to get cheaper versions from (Russians seem quite happy with me paying a lot less money, and I'm equally happy with their work).

    *Amazingly GW actually does make sets priced below Chinese/Russian recasters. Just look up Battle for Vedros, where you get a Space Marine Captain, 6 Tactical Space Marines, 1 Space Marine Terminator, 1 Space Marine Dreadnought, 1 Ork Warboss, 5 Ork Nobz, 12 Ork Boyz and an Ork Deffkopta for $40!
    Sorry if that came across like a commercial, but I was stunned when I saw that. Granted the models aren't exactly customizable, but the Dreadnought on its own costs more than $40, so you're essentially getting 27 models for free.
    Unfortunately it can only be found on Amazon and Ebay now, but they're still very reasonably priced, and the current sets GW sells usually save you something too.

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    1. I agree entirely, and if they do stay on this track we're almost certain to see a new golden age. This is actually what I hope to be the first of a few articles exploring and highlighting a few of the much more positive changes of late, and their general change in attitude on the whole; something which has sadly not been praised by more people who were deriding the company for its failings over the past few years.

      Even if we do accept the idea that some of this might have been pushed before Kevin Rountree showed up, or was in the works years ago, many of them can still be placed at the feet of its current leader. Plus, to be completely honest with you, it also helps that the company has a sense of humour about it once more again as well. I mean, hell, White Dwarf has changed so much and massively shifted back to being a hobby magazine to the point where i'm happily buying it again, and their social media account is fantastic. Along with the posters and promotional works one article discussed a while back, they're actively communicating with fans and deflecting trolling attempts with brilliant responses. A personal favourite was where someone brought up the "Where are my Squats?" question they keep spamming, and the guy controlling the account fired back "I think there's a few in here" with an image of a Hive Tyrant.

      Also, yeah, I will admit that the prices are still high, and while they have sales and the hikes have stopped, I can't entirely blame you for considering alternatives. I mean, personally, both of my eldar titans are second hand purchases because it was difficult at best to justify the Forgeworld prices for buying one new. Though, the subject of of stuff like the Battle of Vedros is actually something we'll be getting back to soon, especially in regards to attracting new players while appealing to old ones.

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  2. The community side of GW has improved, no doubt. But it appears that lore is written my the proverbial monkeys with a typewriter nowadays.

    The patters is very obvious to me: GW was formed by history buffs, and they wanted stuff that resonated with their interests, that appeared solid, tangible, that gave them the same feeling that reading historical accounts or research notices about an exciting new investigation gave them. They surrounded themselves with people who understood that side of worldbuilding too, so that when they left the trenches (or the game alltogether, like the great Perries) the others left in their wake followed suit with the same objectives.

    Things change, and GW began to present its lore in a less and less interesting manner with every edition. WH lore has become an exercise of "reading a history manual", and as any history student or enthusiast knows, reading history manuals is one of the most boring stuff there is.

    Badly written, poorly connected, clumsily constructed lore that makes new players shrug and old players cringe. That's the problem.

    There's one good thing, though: given the lackluster editions of new lore this past year, I've had to write my own headcanon, not unlike what you did yourself, using the same "keymarks" GW uses, but connecting them in a more interesting way.

    Anyway, long detour; GW is indeed becoming a welcoming company and not a destructive behemoth, but they still need to improve their lorebuilding department, and that doesn't seem to be happening any time soon, even if the Kharadron Overlords were a very good idea and nicely presented (if a bit impersonal). It did hit all the marks we said other books lacked.

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    1. This.

      Tbh, I couldn't care less about how GW handle it's communication. I'm not here to have a talk with them, I'm here because I love their universe, but recently they are just completely ruining everything lorewise, and THAT'S what matter to me, now the fact that they have a facebook page.

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    2. Completely agree with you. I really like the direction the company moves in, in terms of communication and game and rules-wise. However I cannot stand the lore they have put out since deathmask. I have resorted to ignoring any and all lore publications and started reading older BL-publications.
      That being said, I have heard that the "dark Imperium " novel by Guy Haly is meant to be good, I am keeping an eye on this Blog to see if there is any veracity in that.

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    3. This is addressed to Nico. I see a lot of people saying this recently, and I'm curious, is this about the Primaris Marines again? The Marines everyone's so sure that nobody should be able to make despite the fact that Fabius Bile made his versions of them way back in 3rd edition and using the tools found in what might as well have been the worst parts of sewers?

      If that is what this is about then I'm disappointed, and honestly as far as these complaints go I'm actually more disappointed in the fans than GW because there's precedence for this sort of thing happening before (see the aforementioned Chaos Lord and the 21st founding where at least a few chapters came out ahead) and it's been established for a long while that the regular Marines weren't the best the Emperor could do.

      Unfortunately every time you point something like this out the people who hate it refuse to listen and do the online version of sticking their fingers in their ears, so I really hope this was about something else.

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