A Case for Optimism

Hey guys. Today I’m arguing for optimism.

In times like these, we take solace in little victories. And what better little victory than the reopening of Games Workshop’s online store.

As a writer here on Frontline, I will diligently point out that our American readers can get their tabletop gaming goodies from the Frontline Gaming store at a discount everyday of the week.

But I’m here in sunny old Blighty — and we actually have had some sun in the past couple of weeks — which means that I’m not able to take advantage of the fine GW products available on Frontline.

As soon as the GW store came back online, I logged on in order to reinforce my paint supplies. I can’t be the only one who is running dangerously low on Abaddon black. But when I went to the page itself, I was placed in a queue.

That there was enough demand on GW’s site to warrant a queue is really good news. It’s a mild inconvenience, sure, but practically speaking it means that the community as a whole is still as interested as ever in the hobby. It also means that as a community we probably aren’t tackling those plastic piles of shame — unless we’re all buying paint, more paint, and nothing but paint. All things considered, we could probably be forgiven for not tackling that old box set that’s been at the back of the cupboard for a good few months. A small indulgence in some new toy soldiers probably won’t do any harm. Little victories.

And what’s more, GW has sweetened the deal for independent retailers, supplying these stores with a fantastic new Catachan Colonel miniature completely free of charge. This is a great move. It’ll have the obvious effect of driving more custom to these stores both when we begin to get back to normal and when their online stores are restocked, and most independent game stores operate on pretty fine margins as it, so any help that GW can offer will be welcome.

In my article last week, I mentioned the strong state of GW’s financials in the pre-corona world. But like almost all businesses that rely on brick-and-mortar stores to drive their sales, GW has had to close most of these stores for the foreseeable future. And while there is light at the end of the tunnel, some stores have reopened in China, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia, there is undoubtedly some way to go.

To point out that this decision has a serious effect on business would be an understatement.

But GW’s strong financial position allowed the business to pivot to online-only sales. I’m sure it wasn’t easy. I’m sure that the big wigs are rewriting yearly forecasts as I write this. But we’re all making the best of a challenging situation, and a temporary pivot to online-only sales is a good way to do so.

And what’s more, I understand GW has opted to pay all furloughed staff — which would include all brick-and-mortar store employees — their full wage for time being. While I haven’t been able to find official sources to confirm this, it certainly wouldn’t come as a surprise. GW will need to reopen stores in the coming months, and retaining staff is the best way to go about it. Furthermore, here in the UK we have a government furloughed workers scheme, which GW can take advantage of. I should point out I don’t know if GW has done so at this time.

Moreover, GW’s excellent online presence means that the company can continue to deliver content to players around the world while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Consider what the state of things would’ve been like if this community had had to deal with social distancing even, say, five years ago. There would have been no Warhammer Community to check out. GW wouldn’t be streaming on Twitch. There would be no official podcasts. A lot has changed in the past few years on this front, and it’s a great thing that GW is able to pivot slightly and continue to engage the community in such a strong fashion.

Indeed, that GW is continuing to produce content is great news for those who write and talk about the hobby in one form or another. There isn’t much going on in the world of football right now. There’s not much to say about the film industry. But this hobby has adapted, and while we can’t play at the moment, we can at least talk to one another, listen to podcasts, and read articles discussing GW’s latest releases. We can’t say the same for a lot of industries.

Let’s be clear: the best commentary on the hobby doesn’t come from GW. And we know that the lifeblood of competitive 40k is the ITC. But GW’s releases drive the conversation, and the chaps over in Nottingham have plenty more to come.

It’s in my nature to be optimistic — except for that time I wounded a Lord Discordant 12 times and my canny Kiwi opponent managed to roll ten 4+ saves. That was trying, to say the least — but I think that there really is cause for optimism. There is cause to keep on carrying on.

Things will get better. Nobody really knows when, but things will get better. And until then I would argue that this hobby gives us a lot for which we should be thankful.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!

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