April 10th, 2010
The state of the game: One mans' thoughts on the present & future state of Warhammer 40k
I've played these games on and off for years. I remember when the very first release of Warhammer 40k was upon us, way back in 1987-88-ish. I gawked in awe at the pictures of the coolness of futuristic, sci-fi combat with little miniatures on the box. It sat upon the top shelf of a local comic book shop, but even then it was a little more than I was willing to pay for a game at $50+. Heck at that price, I could buy a new Sega Genesis game at the time. lol
Of course back then in the late 80s, it also took knowing that one D&D/RPG geek just to get thro understanding the basics of the rules, and few others would drop the $50 or so that it cost to give it a whirl, myself included. It took a little while for 40k to gain popularity.
So I would have to wait quite a few more years before I'd experience 40k firsthand. Now it's 2010, and while the game should change over the years...I think the direction that GamesWorkshop (GW) is currently headed with it, is to benefit only GW at this point.
Here's why. Remember when GW announced plastic kits, and that plastics was the way of the future for GW, how it cost so much less to make, due to the rising cost of metals? Somehwhere in there, I remember they mentioned how it could cost us less too in the long run.
That was a few years ago, and the cost of GW kits have been increased quite a few times over the past few years now. As more kits are released in plastic only, we are yet to see any real savings. Only GW is benefiting here. Sure with the new plastic kits, they've tossed us a few bones, in the way of some extra plastic bits, to give our creations a little more variety in presentation.
At present, I don't believe one sprue, if that, of extra plastic bits makes up for the new models in plastic costing as much, or more than a box of older all metal miniatures from just 5 years ago. Granted, yes, there are a few exceptions to the rule. Some of the new Space Wolves boxed sets were generous, and you ended up with enough extra parts to convert quite a few more existing Space Marines into new Space Wolves. Bravo! One silver lining doesn't make every cloud shinny and bright though.
Ok so we have the cost of already quite expensive models, now being even more costly. Add to that, look at all the of the newer Codex releases over say the past few years. All of the post 5th Edition Codices. Did you notice how high in point cost many of the whiz-bang, super duper units are now? Now, look at expansions like Apocalypse, Battle Missions, PlanetFall, and the soon to be released Spearhead.
All of these are geared totally towards large scale battles. 40k resembles nothing like the game it once was. I'm all for progression, but this is a carefully planned progression, to benefit only GW's profits, not the game. It's not the skirmish game it once was.
The game has been changed forever, and the bottom line is, while it is fun to play in an apocalypse size game, it's not fun every time you play, to play a 6-hour, or all day game. Only GamesWorkshop benefits profit wise from changing the game like this, because more models to play in a larger game, equals more money in their pockets. A game using mostly tanks is the most costly of them all, since those models are $40-$60 each, and as I recall Spearhead is all about tank battles.
I recall 5th Edition starting at around 1500-point games, which was reasonable, and allowed for a lot of fun and compelling games, which took a few hours max, if that. Then it seams 1750 ended up being the norm, and now 1850-2k seams to be the range in which most play, some even higher now.
Lets also look at the progression of the codex too, or Flavor of the Month as most tend to call it. With every new release it seams that existing armies get so much better, that the last big release all of a sudden doesn't look as much fun to play now. Last years' release of Imperial Guard made the IG a much more formidable force to be reckoned with.
Later Space Wolves turned out to be insanely more awesome than they were previously too. Not long after the Tryranids got the codex facelift too, and they're more popular than the last two releases now. Enter Blood Angels. Now with Blood Angels upon us, I see no reason why anyone would ever want to play any other Space Marine chapter ever again, as they're all obsolete now with this one latest release.
They've also overlooked updating the armies that really needed a new codex, more than some that they've redone already, like the Nercrons, Dark Eldar, and Eldar.
They change the game too much with every new release now. I do understand that at the end of the day it's a business and their bottom line is to make money. However, I think they're ruining the game, and forcing many veteran players to look elsewhere for their wargaming fix in the process with these practices.
I loved the game, and the rich and engrossing universe in which it is set within, but I don't have 6+ hours to play a single game of 40k every time I want to play it now. I also don't think we will be seeing very many new players either.
It's not every day that you can find a person who has $700+ to spend to start playing a wargame. Especially one that requires assembling, painting and as much pre-game hobby time as this one. Not to mention the complexity of the rules, and understanding required to grasp them alone. That's a whole other discussion in itself.
Locally I've seen a huge drop in 40k players too. Many are moving on to other products like Warmachine/Hordes, Flames of War, and other options, all of which are games that don't cost as much to get into them initially as 40k, and take far less than 3-6-hours+ to play them.
I also recently sold off my Space Orks army, but kept my Ultra-Marines/Wolves army, and have recently had thoughts of selling that stuff off too, to use the money for more Warmachine stuff.
Why you might ask? Because GamesWorkshop has changed the game so much, that #1 I'm running out of people to play with locally, #2 I can't keep up with the Jones's anymore and buy a new army every 3 months now to enjoy the game as much, and #3 I'm loosing interest the more I see the game changing into something that I don't care to play anymore.
It's hard to keep giving my money to a company that clearly is looking out for them alone too. Granted I haven't totally thrown the towel in yet, but I'm awfully close. In time I may change my mind, as these choices come and go for all of us. Something they'll do down the line might interest me more again. I'll never say never. I've played on and off since 3rd Edition, some 4th Edition and a bunch of 5th Edition. So it's hard to walk away completely for sure.
They still offer some truly amazing models, some of which I'll still no doubt buy just to paint and own. The game itself is what's as risk at the moment, and if they don't slow down and quit ruining it, others will be forced to walk away and not look back any time soon too.
Already more of my time is consumed with Warmachine and Hordes, which many of us local 40k players have jumped to now, because we can get in 2-3 games on a single Friday games night of it. It's also light years easier to learn, and teach a new player. The cost of admission is also astronomically less. I think GW needs to realize that they're not the only game in town anymore with amazing models, and compelling gameplay.
At present they're doing very little to drawn new players into the game. It looks to me like the current gameplan is to suck the wallets dry of the existing player-base, as they continue to raise the point size of the game with new larger scale expansions, create new codecies, release new armies to make us buy the new FOM, and then raise the prices every other year in the process.
The fact is, you can only try and predict the future based on the facts presented by the behavior of ones' past. That's exactly what I've done here. The conclusions made here aren't total speculation, they're derived from the facts provided above, all of which are really hard to deny too.
For the record... I still think 40k is a great game, with some of the most amazing miniatures, and the richest sci-fi background story of any game in the wargaming genre. I still enjoy playing the game when I can find people to play it with, and when I don't have to play 2k+ point games that take more than a few hours.
There's still a lot to like about Warhammer 40k, but it's disturbing where they're obviously headed with it, during these hard world-wide economic times. Others will no doubt find that where they're headed with 40k is their sole reason to play, but many who've played it for a long time like myself, tend to feel differently about how the game is evolving.