Geek Economy – the Monopoly of Games Workshop

So this afternoon I just went into my local Games Workshop to buy some supplies – I have currently 2 very neglected armies (Dark Eldar and Brettonia – yeah I like playing hard core where the rules are against you). Moreover, I was bought some lovely Wood Elves for Xmas and I find the painting very therapeutic and relaxing. So I needed some spray paint, glue and some 5 New colours/shades for these models…and just like that 40 pounds disappeared and I virtually bought nothing…

Here is me thinking, I could have got at least a decent deck/cards worth if I had made that investment on Magic The Gathering, bought a few comics, one board game or two…so tell me, why did I do this? This is how the economy of the geek works. There are plenty of comic book producers and game developers. Magic the gathering is not the only collectible card game in the martket with a large enough fan base – Yugioh, Pokemon, etc. But if you want to play table top wargaming, your options are limited.

Don’t get me wrong, there are figurine suppliers and rule books outside Games Workshop. I am the proud owner of Fields of Glory and In her Majesty’s Name. Both the game play and the consistent rules make them worth while. But they cannot compete against Games Workshop. Why? A few reasons:
-GW has an elaborate collection or armies that are fully customisable because they make their own models. For most of the other games you have to buy from generic wargamming suppliers who will stock from different retailers. However as these other games are so niche and in most cases of historical nature, their miniatures are less detailed, usually prebuilt so they are ready to play and useful for several games/campaigns/scenarios.

-This causes an issue with your ability to personalise your army, but it also limits your chances to make it visually pretty. To stand out. Yeah, sure those tanks are pretty cool and actually look like Panzers, but they ain’t no Leman Russ!

-The playability of other wargammes can be limited or perhaps not always innovative – once you nail the tactics, you’re down to the luck of the dice. This is because the armies will be a tad present and predetermined. I mean this eventually happens with every strategy game, but perhaps the prolongued illusion that you can still beat Space Marines with your Dark Eldar if you spend more and more money in some Incubi seems more appealing, at least for a while. Maybe a new squad or type of troop that they are releasing next edition will give you the victory. New troops and armies appearing in other wargammes is a rare occurrence.

-Citadel paints are the devil – they are no better than any other gaming paints, but there is a ridiculous range of colours simply not always available elsewhere. So if you want your team to look flashy to detail, eventually you’ll have to go to the dark side (unless you’re ace at making your own pallet of colours, but let’s face it that’s the minority).

-Ever changing rules, ever changing story line with a world wide fan base able to take part in international competitions to decide the fate of the universe…again not saying that other war games are non existant at pro level, but they are hidden away.

So this just becomes a vicious circles. Because the universe story is cool then they also get you with the derivate products:board games, card games, video games, novels merchandise…they get you hooked and the get you good. Games Workshop owns your soul, and they know it. Because, at the end of the day, they control this market.

The funny thing, or at least in my opinion, is that as the years go by you see their stores with less variety of things, and with higher prices. Just as I was going to buy my paints I asked if there were any Banshees I could have a look at. I was told those aren’t stocked in store anymore and that if I wanted them, I would have to order them online… You’d think at least they’d keep you happy – us nerds are dedicated consumers, the money we have, little or not we always spend it on our hobbies. But no. This is the marketing technique, this is how it goes. When I started playing (around the year 2001) you could buy a Skavens general for around 5 Euros. Translate that to pounds – no way you getting a HQ for that money these days.

My question really is, why does the competition to the big giant of wargaming remains so niche? Why has no one managed to have the same success and debunk them like Upper Deck did with Wizards of the Coast? That remains a mistery. I do not have the answer. I open the floor, any comments and suggestions are welcomed. Geek economy Matters – after all it’s our money.

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