Hi guys. Today I’m talking about 9th edition — and why it probably won’t be hugely different to 8th.
People like just the right combination of novelty and familiarity. As much as I would like to take credit for such a wise statement, I can’t. That must go to the excellent Tom Scott.
In his latest video, Scott discusses why you can’t name a file ‘Con’ on a Windows operating system. Like most of Scott’s work, it’s a great video, full of interesting techy tidbits. If you’ve not seen any of his stuff, I’d highly recommend it.
But why is this relevant to the 9th edition of 40k? In addition to the top notch computer nerdery, Scott discusses how most people feel about change. Indeed, people like novelty and familiarity in just the right balance.
I think that this is a useful way to think about 9th edition — or the potential of 9th edition. Game systems need to change, but they shouldn’t change too much, and at the moment with 8th edition we’re at the point where some change is needed, just not too much.
Overall, 8th edition is a great game. Like any game, it’s imperfect, but 8th gets most things right. And what’s more, we’re right in the middle of some great updates to the game in which each faction gets something new. Granted, not all faction updates are equal, but this way is far better than some factions missing out.
But these updates present problems. The game used to be streamlined, lightweight, and easy to jump in to, but it’s not anymore. 8th edition, like most game systems after a few years of updates, is bloated.
And when game systems become as bloated as 8th edition, the usual response is an update.
As a T’au player, I’m relatively fortunate. To play a game, I need a copy of the rulebook, the T’au codex, and The Greater Good supplement. To make things easier, I usually don’t bring a physical copy of the main rulebook when I go to play. My opponents are almost always well familiar with the core rules, so I find that a digital copy on my phone works fine. That said, if I were going to a competitive tournament, I would want hard copies of all of my rules. But all things considered, two or three books isn’t so bad.
But if we consider the game’s flagship army, we find a different story. It wouldn’t be uncommon for a Space Marine player to need four or five different books to play. Of course, this would depend on the Chapter in question, but most Marine players will need a good few books.
But we’re not just talking about books. GW has released dozens of FAQ and errata documents for both the main rules and army-specific rules. Indeed, keeping track of the latest update can be tricky. And what’s more, tournament organizers might not be familiar with the latest ruling from GW. And while organizers should do their best to be up to date, there is a lot of content out there, and it’s perfectly understandable that a busy tournament official misses something.
The average player, then, might need to bring four or five physical books and a further three or four update documents to an event, and we can’t guarantee that everyone is going to be up to date.
Needless to say, this can’t go on for too much longer.
But I would argue that it’s not necessarily the edition bloat that will herald a new edition. Put simply, I think we’re due one.
GW released 8th edition 40k in June 2017. We’re a couple of months away from 8th edition’s third birthday.
And the average time between editions — not counting 2nd edition and Rogue Trader — is a little over three years. That 8th edition is coming up on the average edition length doesn’t necessarily mean that a new one is in development, but I’d say that it makes it much more likely. GW knows that it needs to continue to build on past success, to continue to drive the creative process forward. If a business isn’t growing, it’s in trouble.
But I don’t think that 9th edition will be particularly different from 8th. Like Scott said, novelty and familiarity. The Psychic Awakening series brought lots of new content into the game, and it would be unwise for GW to invalidate their work on this series with big, sweeping changes.
When 9th arrives, I think we’ll see relatively small tweaks to what is already a great game system.
But how would this deal with the problem of bloat? It wouldn’t — unless GW look to a digital release model to coincide with a new edition. I think this would be a fantastic move.
There is a lot of scope for GW to build a digital model, and there are plenty of different ways to do it. When I discuss this issue with my gaming group, one theme always emerges: a subscription service that gives players access to all releases, fully up to date.
There’s a lot to go into there, and that’s a topic for another time, but I want to briefly mention how this would affect new players. Indeed, I’d say that it’s the issue of new players — the lifeblood of the hobby — that would stop GW from going all-in on a digital model. I would well imagine that it’s much easier to generate interest in the hobby with physical, hard copy books. While it’s by no means impossible to do so with digital content, it’s much more difficult.
There are a number of reasons for this. The hobby is, at its core, tangible. 40k isn’t a video game. It’s a game in which two individuals must move three dimensional objects around a three dimensional setting. Most 40k players will distinctly remember the first model that they ever picked up. It was probably a Space Marine. Mine was the Space Marine bike, a sculpt that still exists.
We won’t see the end of the physical codex, at least not for a good while yet. But I think we could be pretty close to a all-digital model for serious players of the game.
However, what I’ve written above presumes that we’re living in normal times. And of course, for the moment, we’re not. Before the lock-down, GW was in excellent financial health, and it would be reasonable to assume that the development team were working on a new edition. But now, it’s anyone’s guess. While development on new products will probably continue, the likelihood of GW actually releasing a product as important as a new edition of their flagship game is unlikely.
But this prompts another question: how long can GW hold off on planned releases? It’s a question that most businesses are dealing with at the moment, and it’s certainly out of the scope of this article. In response to current circumstances, we’ve put the global economy on life support, and it’ll take time to return to the where we were only a couple of months ago. Here’s hoping it takes months and not years.
When it happens, then, I think we’ll be looking at a new edition — that is slightly different but not completely so.
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