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.