Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thoughts on the State of Gaming, Part 1

It's been almost three months since I bought anything GW-related. The reasons are many--but boil down to distractions and discipline, pretty much in that order. As can happen with many hobbies, it's become a situation where I want to get back into it, and even feel a little guilty about not being more into it, but I'm not motivated enough to dive in it yet. Possibly this is related to the fact that I haven't even played a game since early June.

My White Dwarf subscription is nearing expiration, and for a while I was seriously considering not renewing (eventually I think I'll crack).  The battle reports in White Dwarf were the original reason I got into doing up my own battle reports, and were by far the most interesting articles to me. Nowadays, even though their battle reports are little more than showcases for their army of the month, I still find them interesting reads, if only to read about the new armies and what has changed.  Sure, I can probably get more news and battle reports than I know what to do with on the internet, but there's still something about having the magazine in hand that is appealing (much in the same way that holding an actual miniature can in ways be more appealing than just looking at a video game character).

Despite the fact that I haven’t played the games all that much recently, nor have a I painted very diligently recently, I’ve spent plenty of time thinking about it, both the games and the hobby.  What I like about it, what I don’t like, and what I think is missing.  The benefit of being out of the loop is...perspective.

I found an interesting link while surfing recently: It's some generic rants about the state of GW games and the company's marketing practices, and even though they are 5-6 years old, much of it still rings true.

One of the rants in particular talks about the demise of the Specialist Games, which I think is a real tragedy. The short of the story is this: Back in the old days GW had its two flagship games, Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000, but also released rules and miniatures for many other games. These other games, while popular with dedicated fanbases, didn't attract quite the same audience as the two main ones. As such, GW has essentially discontinued the specialist games in favor of their "primary" games.

This seems antithetical to the original purpose of Games Workshop. I don't purport to know what GW's original "mission statement" was, if it even had one, but a company that has a name like "Games Workshop" seems to have an implied purpose. Namely, creating games. Creating two games and then sticking with them (albeit with new editions) doesn't fit that title very well. Back in the 90s when there were a dozen games running around, many with their own dedicated miniatures lines, with new games being developed all the time...that when was Games Workshop actually lived up to its name. Even though I'm not interested in playing all of the games available then, I still wish some of them were still around.

One of the major problems I think is maintaining the multiple miniatures lines. With the move to mostly plastic miniatures, I would think that separate miniatures lines would be easier to maintain. I think the market still exists for Epic 40k and Battlefleet Gothic, and probably a smaller market exists on the fantasy side (Warmaster and Man O'War (the latter despite being discontinued)).  The online communities that remain for these games are a testament to this.

The example set by Gorkamorka was a bad move in my opinion.  while the miniatures themselves were cool and usable in 40k, why the switch to different bases? The only reason I can think of to do it is to provide some distance from 40k and emphasize the game’s differences.  But why would you want to do that?  Perhaps the fear was that people would think the game was essentially the same as 40k, and so there was no reason to get it.  But it’s well known that many players buy the various boxed games because they just want the miniatures.  By having a different basing style, it’s an immediate turn off.

The current method of revitalizing The Lord of the Rings line by making The War of the Ring game is a better approach. Yes, The War of the Ring uses additional bases, but you don't have to re-base the existing models you have--you just plop them into the new, large bases. 

Space Hulk is an anomaly--which makes me think it was an experiment to test the waters.  From the beginning GW said it was a one-shot deal-- (although this has generated no end of skepticism by the cynical, who assumed that it was just a marketing ploy, and that it would remain in production indefinitely).  As a one-shot, the fact that most of the miniatures can’t be used in 40k without modification to their bases isn’t as much of a problem.  But still...I’m hoping that Space Hulk was just a “one shot” in that it they won’t support it beyond the initial release, and not that it was the only “old school” game that they ever intend to re-release.


Chicago Terrain Factory said...

The loss of Specialist Games is more a mater of economics than anything else - if the department was making money, do you think GW would have ever closed it?

I have a feeling the Gorkamorka base size had more to do with the game being vehicle centered than a desire to be distanced from 40K. A smaller base allows more figures to fit into the truks.

You can live without White Dwarf - I had a subscription for years and years, but found I needed WD less and less. The internet provides all the resources that once made WD important. All the products are on line, painting tutorials are online, even plenty of battle reports are online.

J. E. Badelaire said...

Cycles of interest come and go. Not only have we not been able to get in a game for a while, but I've been working on my RPG project, which has pulled me away from 40K for the last couple of months.

It's a hobby that provides a lot of enjoyment, but you need to invest a lot of time (and money) in keeping that interest fresh and new. If something else comes along, you'll get distracted easily. I know I've got a few dozen Space Wolf minis I need to paint, but I just haven't had the motivation needed to invest the dozens of man-hours necessary to do it right - therefore, the minis stay paint-less.

Flamekebab said...

If I remember correctly, all Gorkamorka models came with both the GoMo style bases and rounded 40K slot bases.

As Chicago Terrain Factory said - a large part of GoMo was focused on vehicle combat and so smaller bases meant more models would fit. Vehicles didn't have a fixed capacity, it was simply "however many will physically fit".