GW, a question of value...

So, I wanted to talk today about Games Workshop. Not focussing on a single product, but on the whole GW ecosystem.

First let me give you a bit of background. I am a long time fan of GW; I've been playing their games since i was 6 years old (some 23 years ago now!). I've played all of their major games systems and owned most of them, as well as building large armies for both 40K and fantasy. I also kept up with all of the smaller systems that they produced (with the notable exception of Dark Future - if anyone has a copy they want to sell me for a reasonable price, please email me). I'm also an ex-staffer of GW, I worked for several years at the Manchester store, then the Warrington store and finally the London Ealing store. I had a lot of fun working at GW, and I've always felt (whether as a customer or an employee) that GW was basically a company that i respected.

Recently though, I've been feeling more and more that I'm no longer the target base for Games workshop, and that the money gouging has got to be too much. I can fully understand why GW has moved over to having plastic armies, in many ways its utterly sensible - no more replication of models, easier to assemble and with the improvements in the plastic moulding process the models have become a lot better than the ones I remember from my youth (anyone else remember the plastic gretchin from the 3rd edition of 40K?). However, in my mind I've always felt that the plastic kits should be a lot cheaper than they actually are. For example the new Cadian squad box has had its price reduced to £11.75, but the number of models in the box has also been reduced, by half - but the price has not been reduced by half (It used to be a box of 20 models). And worse still, to make a full squad with proper weaponry (i.e. without the rubbish grenade launchers!) you still have to go out and buy a special weapons pack at £7.85. So a total cost £19.60 for a single squad. And you need 3 to for a single troop choice.

I also have a bit of a problem with their armour models. For example the new Leman Russ is quite a nice model. But its £30! Now given the cost, I would actually expect that the moulding and construction would be a lot better than what i saw in the store the other day. For example the image to the left - notice that the glacis doesn't fit properly and the two halves of the gun barrel don't join properly. When you compare this to (for example) some of the recent Tamiya models that are roughly the same price, you start to wonder what exactly your £30 is going on. For example, the Tamiya kits generally include etched brass, some include turned brass barrels and many also feature bonus figures or accessories. I understand that there is an issue of scale here (as in I assume Tamiya sell a lot more kits that GW), but even so, I do feel that the value in the Tamiya kits is much higher per £1 spent.

Now don't get me wrong, GW still produce some products that i think are very well priced and worth their cost. Black Library produce some excellent fiction works and Forge World (whilst pricey) sells products that, for me, correspond in quality to the price charged (well, some of the models do. The Titans and a few other things are ridiculous prices!). Some of the paints (washes / foundation) are excellent as well and well worth the money, I just feel that the vast majority of GW's products have lost their value, or rather the price has increased to the point where the cost out weighs the quality.

As a more detailed example, I wanted to talk about the new brushes that GW have started producing. Its been a long time since I purchased GW brushes. I always found that they split, mainly due to the fact that they were synthetics. Over time i found other manufacturers that used Kolinsky sable (such as the Prince August brushes, Windsor and Newton and my favourites em4). However, when I was in the store the other day, the staff told me about their new "hand tied, Kolinksy brushes", which he promised me wouldn't split. I took a look and they looked like reasonable brushes, so I purchased a few to test with. Its a lot easier for me to nip in to GW when i need a new brush rather than the usual internet order, so I really wanted them to be good quality. Again, they are more expensive that the competitors. I got home and started to work on the new McVey miniature. Twenty minutes in, and what do you know, I've got a split brush! Now I'm a painter who takes very good care of my brushes. This brush had had very light usage and already its starting to fray. Given the cost, I would expect better.

Now I'm sure that a lot of people are going to be saying "Well if you don't like the cost, don't buy the products". And I would agree, that's a sensible position to take, and where possible, I try to buy from other companies. But I do fear for the future of GW when it scares away players with 20+ years of gaming experience. Surely we are the lifeblood of the gaming scene? Sure, the hobby needs the younger players coming in, but not at the expense of the old players. I also worry that GW has finally given up any pretence of actually caring about its games, and its all about "the bottom line" these days. It probably sounds very cynical, but I definitely noticed a change at GW when it was floated on the stock market; and that change seems to have continued the drive to the bottom of quality over the years.

Maybe I've just grown out of the GW spoon fed ecosystem and have realised that i can get better quality at a cheaper price elsewhere? Maybe GW has actually changed? I'm really not sure, but i do know that GW will now be getting less of my disposable income, which is a shame as they are a company that i have had a long association with.

As always comments are welcome! I'm really interested to see what other people think on this subject. Am I just becoming a grumpy old man?

PS - Just wanted to add this small point. I think a great example of the GW "rush to the bottom" is White Dwarf magazine. When I started buying White Dwarf (around issue 100) it had a lot of articles about gaming in general, there were small games published (Confrontation anyone?) and was generally an interesting read. Now WD seems to be nothing more than a catalogue that i pay £4 for. I can read it in a single tube journey back from work, and with the exception of Jervis' Standard Bearer article has little of interest. The main focus seems to be selling you more plastics now, and I for one, find this a real shame