A Miniature Odyssey

Miniature Gaming Reviews, Tutorials & Musings

Servo Skull Musings: Farewell to the Fantasy Flight/Games Workshop Alliance — February 4, 2017

Servo Skull Musings: Farewell to the Fantasy Flight/Games Workshop Alliance

This is not meant to announce or rehash old news. It is old news; months old. I have taken that time instead to reflect on that impact, and work towards completing a few collections before it is too late. I suppose it is never too late, but when Ebay prices soar, they tend to truly soar.

A few months ago Fantasy Flight Games announced on their website that as of this forthcoming February 28th, their licence agreement with Games Workshop comes to an end. This means that all products involving the Talisman, Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 licences, will for all intents and purposes cease to exist with the exception of the libraries of collectors and the profiteering of Ebay and Amazon.

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Whether this licence expiry is mutual, or by one of the parties in particular may never be disclosed. What we can safely say is that Fantasy Flight still has some potent licences including Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and A Game of Thrones in addition to a plethora of other gaming options.

We also know that GW has been aggressively pursuing changes to the way they conduct their own business brands. Ignoring the sometimes questionable video game licences, they have put out more exciting projects in the past twelve months then they have in recent years. They have launched major expansions across their core Sigmar and 40K brands along with many system-compatible yet self contained boxed sets. In addition to this, the Horus Heresy is continuing to expand in their Forge World line-up and with the Calth and Prospero sets. The Horus Heresy is invading the more accessible sides of GW.

The legend of the once scuttled Specialist Games division of GW seems to be seeing a potential resurrection. Inquisitor, Necromunda, and Battlefleet Gothic are still played albeit without GW support. Warhammer Quest made its return. Other self-contained boxes have been regularly appearing. Is there potential hope for GW to bring back the RPG components of their offerings? Is this simply GW understanding that they have potentially been cannibalizing their product development options?

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A rare photograph of the often rumoured illegal Battlefleet Gothic tournaments. It is believed that this photo was taken behind an unidentified restaurant in Saigon.

Truth be told in this humble opinion, Fantasy Flight did a fantastic job with their access to the GW properties. I say this for a simple reason. Anyone who visits either Lexicanum and the 40K Wikia has probably noticed how much of the guts of those articles is from content created by Fantasy Flight; Dark Heresy, Deathwatch, Only War and Rogue Trader. So much of the interesting fluff has come from those product lines; lines produced under licence by Fantasy Flight Games.

While GW proper has produced an increased quantity of books, supplements and releases in the past year it has also seen an increased level of quality to boot. In my time with 40K, the best produced and executed sources for 40K canon has been a tie between the Imperial Armour and Horus Heresy Books of Forge World, and the RPG source books from Fantasy Flight. The reason for the tie is simply because they approach their offering of canon from different perspectives.

The Imperial Armour and Horus Heresy Books provide all manner of history and details and battle campaigns suitable to satisfy the big picture. The Fantasy Flight options provide a less seen picture; planets, sectors, cities and cultures delved into with incredible depth and fantastic illustrations. Ever wondered what life is like on countless worlds? The RPG books have you covered.

In that sense, the end of this era is a sad time. Perhaps the torch will simply pass back to GW and this will be their evolutionary renaissance; a necessary sacrifice serving as harbinger to great things yet to come. More disappointingly though, perhaps my collection of Rogue Trader books will never be complete.

Those books were and remain incredible sources of fluff. I purchased many volumes, and have never played a RPG in my life. What they contain however, is something that any 40K fan will appreciate and enjoy regardless of their intentions to play any of the RPGs. That alone speaks volumes to their quality.

As always, questions, concerns, comments and existential dilemmas are welcome.

Regards, Mr Kalidor

Servo Skull Musings: The Re-Branding of Games Workshop Stores — July 31, 2015

Servo Skull Musings: The Re-Branding of Games Workshop Stores

Branding, branded environments and brand identity are such a critical component to modern business. The more successful the branding, the more ingrained we are in a brand’s culture. After skimming the Games Workshop financials released earlier this week I came upon a statement that stuck with me. To Quote:

Warhammer branding

We have taken the decision in the year to rebrand our stores ‘Warhammer’. It is what our customers call us. This will be rolled out progressively, as and when we open new or refurbish our existing stores. At the year-end date we had 13 Warhammer branded stores.”

I suspect when most people think of branding, they first think of logos, iconography and advertising. We see the Golden Arches of McDonalds or the Swoosh of Nike or the Bulls-Eye of Target. We unintentionally ask for a Coke at a restaurant instead of a cola or a Kleenex instead of a tissue. We know that ‘Just Do it’ is Nike, or ‘Eat Fresh’ is Subway or “Think Different” is Apple.

Slightly hidden behind the logos, icons and slogans is to me the far more interesting component of in-store branding. In a previous life I was involved with retail branding and in my experience there were three primary reasons for re-branding a retail store, exclusive or new product line launches:

1) A retail chain introduces a new ‘banner’- A conventional grocery store creates a discount grocery chain. The wish to convey value messages without diminishing the brand of their conventional stores.

2) A retail chain procures another retailer and consolidates its brand- A chain purchases a competitor and converts the stores to the host ‘banner’, making for a more consistent brand and culture.

3) Retail Staleness- In the same way a product can expire, so to can logos, signage, decor and fixtures. Brand messages change and evolve and so to must the in-store experience in order to remain viable, relevant and refreshed.

There are certainly other reasons such as the aforementioned product launches and some that escape my mind altogether but I believe these represent the big three reasons.

Every major chain goes through refreshes every few years at some level be it departmental refreshes or store-wide remodels. In the case of Games Workshop I believe a refresh is long past overdue. It will look good to the investors and justifies capital expenditures in addition to the safety of marketing, design and construction roles that perhaps exist at Games Workshop’s head office.

However, I see errors.

The first is the inflation of the Games Workshop and Warhammer branding. Neither are household names. At best recognized by some, at worst completely unknown and somewhere in the middle is the “oh is that that little weird store at the mall”. This may be a global retailer, but it is not a global brand in the sense of everything from Apple to Pepsi to Tesco and The Home Depot.

Will renaming Games Workshops to Warhammer add any brand value or return on investment?

Firstly, I believe little to no brand value will be added. I am a huge fan of Games Workshop, their brand, their products and their intellectual property. However, as a niche industry with a small yet dedicated following, renaming their stores offer little value or increased identification or idealization.

The only obscure thought I have with regards to brand value, and this is a stretch, is the licensing side. There are a great deal of licensed products from Games Workshops ranging from the similarly niche board games and RPGs from companies like Fantasy Flight through to a plethora of video games and browser games available on all manner of platforms. So the question evolves. Will Games Workshop’s miniatures hobbyists add Warhammer video games to their leisure activities? Probably. However on the opposite side are video gamers as likely to embrace the miniature hobby? Possibly but not as likely. Again, the licensing thought is a stretch but the only idea that comes to mind; “Oh, I have some of their video games. I should buy Dark Vengeance and paints and brushes and scenery”.

The other part of this is determining whether a brand refresh is required?

To this I agree. While I do not believe re-branding their stores as Warhammer will add any value I wholeheartedly agree that their stores are in need of a refresh. I cannot recall visiting any store that looks drastically different than it did when I first visited their stores seemingly eons ago. Rebranding and relaunching as a grand opening alone will spike sales. In major retail chains, major remodels and grand openings can spike sales for months. However with that said, part of that is the new shiny stores and part of that comes from the brand of major retailers. Not to mention to bonus of someone such as myself not only getting excited for product, but also all the potential new shiny signage, decor and fixtures.

So with these thoughts in mind, I am only halfway sold on the re-brand. I believe the stores are in dire need of an overhaul. I am however not convinced that ‘Warhammer’ stores are the answer. I hope to be wrong, but feel that if there is a slim chance of this offering long-term benefits to Games Workshop, it must be absolute. That means they must stick with it. That means that Games Workshop must simply be the parent company with little to no reference outside of their internal corporate world. Further to that they need to eliminate the superfluous Citadel Brand altogether. After all once all is said and done if I was a new player entering a Warhammer Store and seeing reference to Games Workshop and Citadel I will be confused. Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and Warhammer: 40,000 can be explained, but why this item comes in a white box that says Citadel cannot.

While always a fan of Games Workshop, I can say I have been impressed over the past twelve months with their clear effort at remaining viable, experimenting with change and adapting to their customer’s needs. They may be late to the party, but it looks like Games Workshop has at least started the journey to it!

As always, questions, concerns and feedback is always welcome.

Your humble narrator.

Mr. Kalidor