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Really, GW? Really?

30/08/2011

I hadn’t wanted to use this blog to winge about the business practices of Games Workshop, but I saw something on Friday that made me change my angry, angry mind.

I had popped into my local games store (not a Games Workshop) and was taking a look at the latest new releases. I was hoping they had finally got some Privateer Press stock in, having not had anything new for more than three months now. Sadly, it was the same old stuff, so I took a look at the new GW stuff as well. I haven’t bought anything with ‘Warhammer’ in the title since May, but I do like to look at the new releases as they’re some of the nicest looking miniatures available.

It was while I was looking through the Skaven models that I saw something that stopped me in my tracks. It was the new Finecast Skaven Warplock Jezzails. Three Skaven weapon teams that act as a unit, providing heavy firepower to an army that normally prefers to get up close and personal with their enemies.

They used to be sold in single blisters, so moving to a box containing the minimum unit size is a nice change. I was a little concerned that the opaque nature of the packaging might make it hard to spot mould defects while still in the store, but that was nothing compared to the thing that really shocked me.

The price.

If I had wanted to buy that box, here in New Zealand, I would have to pay $94. I’ll let that sink in for a moment. $94 for basically six half-sized models. That is, frankly, ludicrous. This is also a prime example of how GW’s pricing structure is so blatantly broken.

For starters, there is the exchange rate issue. Games Workshop assigns prices to a model for a number of international currencies. Best I can tell, they get the prices from a fixed formula, taken from exchange rates at some time in the past. There’s one problem with this, exchange rates change over time. When it was last calculated, the rate between the UK and NZ was sitting around 1GBP:3NZD, while it is currently closer to 1GBP:2NZD.

As you can imagine, the more favourable exchange rate meant that a lot of gamers here and in Australia have headed online to buy directly from stores in the UK. It took a year or so, but GW finally noticed and changed their terms and conditions to limit online stores in the UK to only sell to customers who are also in the UK, effectively forcing the ‘downunder’ contingent to buy locally, and at a much, much higher price.

On top of this, there is the also GW’s habit of pricing models based on their role within an army. Special and Rare troops choices are generally priced higher than their Core equivalents, while characters are often the most expensive of all. For example, the Eldar special character Eldrad Ulthuan costs NZ$39. For a single, average-sized figure. This is somewhat understandable. Players generally require less of these sorts of models in their army, so GW recoup some of the cost of making the figures by putting a small premium on them.

Bearing all this in mind, I decided to do a little digging when I got home. I wanted to compare the price of the Jezzails with other similarly priced Special choices. I also decided to stick to Finecast models where possible, but some armies forced me to use plastic. This is by no way a scientific comparison, but it does help show the ridiculousness of GW’s pricing. Let’s take a look how the models stack up…

  • Wood Elf Tree Kin (NZ$94): These three walking trees are more substantial than the Skaven, but do have a lot less detail on them. Detail aside, there’s a lot more resin here.
  • Tomb King Ushabti (NZ$94): Like the Tree Kin, each box contains three models. Large skeletal constructs armed with either huge blades or great bows. They are both considerably more substantial, and much more detailed than both the Skaven and the Wood Elf models.
  • Goblin Spear Chukka (NZ$58): Here’s one that’s a little closer in scale to the Skaven. You only get three Goblins in this box, but they also come with a fairly substantial artillery piece (well, substantial for Goblins). All this, and almost half the price.
  • Dwarf Bolt Thrower (NZ$74): Another artillery piece, but one that is splits the difference between the cost of the Jezzails and the Spear Chukka. It is a much more detailed model (and not as old, either, I believe). All the same, it’s not near the NZ$90 mark.
  • Lizardmen Stegadon (NZ$98): Yes, it’s a plastic model, and one that doubles as a character choice, but c’mon! If GW are able to put out something as detailed, well sculpted, and big as the Stegadon for less than NZ$100, surely three Skaven weapon teams could be much, much less.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that Games Workshop are fucking nuts if they think charging $94 dollars for such tiny models is an economically viable idea. Sure, there’ll be a few people with deep pockets or little sense (or both) who buy them, but I imagine most will build their own using Clanrats and spare guns.

A bit like this one on CMON.

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