What would it take for a Games Workshop Universe to go Mainstream?

One of the perennially interesting questions to engage in is: What would it take for the Warhammer 40K or Age of Sigmar Universes to go mainstream? Now, in a sense, the games themselves are already mainstream within the miniature gaming community. To define what we mean by “Mainstream” my definition would be that the average member of the public would have heard of one of these two universes (even if they were fuzzy on the details). Examples of similar franchises would be Star Wars, Game of Thrones or even Dune (arguably a reachable goal). The average person may not be able to tell you who Wedge Antilles is or what the words of House Reed but they are aware of those franchises.

Through this next series I will be examining two avenues that Games Workshop could pursue to reach this level of relevance:

  • Through the tabletop games.
  • Through their Intellectual property.

The following articles will unpack these ideas in more depth so I will finish this article by providing a defense of why I chose these two items and whether Games Workshop should even strive to this level of popularity.

Why would you want to go Mainstream?

At first blush it’s easy to sweep this question away as ridiculous, but it is a valid question. It is not easy to establish oneself in the national consciousness, even for a brief period of time (short of committing a significant criminal act). Thus to achieve this goal would take a serious commitment of resources. This would hamper a company’s ability to improve it’s product, can cause you to lose focus on the purpose of your company and might even get you attention that doe not translate into revenue. Furthermore, broadening the appeal of your product can water it down in such a way as to remove it’s original appeal. We have already seen the 40K universe shed some of its grimness in order to appeal to a wider audience (if you wish to learn more seek out some people who have played since the first editions of the game, they are never shy when sharing their opinions). In addition, the tone of the Age of Sigmar universe, while not exactly cheerful, has a level of color and energy that did not exist in the Warhammer Fantasy setting. Finally, it is worth mentioning that many companies are perfectly productive and profitable while remaining unknown to the wider public. What matters to a company isn’t that it is known by all people, just that it is know to the right people, its intended customers.

My response to these questions is to begin by pointing to an example of a setting that is quite mature and grim but still found broad appeal: Game of Thrones. Granted this argument worked significantly better before the show ended in the disastrous fashion that it did.

But what the show does prove is that there is a market for more adult themed stories and universes. You can even look at the Mandalorian show which has some decidedly grim moments nestled between the shots of baby Yoda that provide depth missing from some of the films. Thus it is possible to have setting that isn’t “kid friendly” but still successful without watering it down. The second objection I will address is that just because more people know about Games Workshop doesn’t mean that sales will increase at a commensurate rate. To this response I would argue that while that is possible, Games Workshop has a diverse set of product offerings that could still generate a significant amount of revenue outside of the cores games. If you subtract the miniatures from the two leading games that Games Workshop offers for sale, you still have the entire Black Library range, as well as countless other boxed games. True, Games Workshop mainly produces games (shocking I know) but these are spread out over a variety of levels and interests. When you factor in other merchandise such as clothes and audio books there is wide array of branded accessories available.

I am sympathetic to the argument that Games Workshop currently does not possess the manufacturing or retail infrastructure to make the most of a sudden boom in popularity. However, for my analysis I will be assuming these booms in popularity are a number of years off, and could be addressed over the course of such growth.

As this article is already beginning to grow significantly in length I will save my first analysis for the next article. I hope to perform an analysis of both the IP and tabletop games using the following criteria:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

Feel free to leave any comments or specific questions you have or would like to see addressed through these reviews. I don’t claim to be all-knowing and am always happy to try to factor in additional variable in my articles.

Cheers

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

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3 Responses to “What would it take for a Games Workshop Universe to go Mainstream?”

  1. Avatar
    Hard Truth November 21, 2020 12:26 pm #

    ” What would it take for the Warhammer 40K or Age of Sigmar Universes to go mainstream?”
    It would take an act of _____ ( enter what ever deity or scientific equation you believe in )

    The mentioned “main stream” examples you gave were all large movie franchises
    GW has never made a big screen film, and seeing what they have produced I pray that they don’t attempt it any time soon ( Remember the D&D movie from 2000 ? )

    Also every thing would be based off of a game, yes they have Black Library but the game came first, when people hear that the road to “Main Stream ” will be an even harder trip ( Battle Ship the movie any one? )

    Also price. I know people complain all the time about GW’s Prices , and the people that complain are the ones who play the game.
    Now imagine if John and Jane Q, Public decide to buy the game for a family fun game night
    Not only do they have to shell out a butt load of money for them and their kids but now they need to read a rule book that is over 30 pages long , build the minis and of course have an area to play.

    GW’s Board games are a friendlier avenue how ever you still have to build the models and read a rule book that could choke a horse.

    So if I am John Q. Public I think I will go with the easier to run Monopoly, Scrabble or any of the other board games that already exists ( This is also why a lot of the Indy board game companies go under, People want to sit and play a game not read a tome of rules)

    Now the die hard players and worst of all the Fan Bois ( you know who you are and we all hate you ) will of course believe this is easily done , but you forget one thing one very important thing …… WE ARE NERDS!!!!… nothing wrong with that but the general public will not want to go as deep into depth with lore and other things as we do and in the end it will anger you or anger them to the point that some one will quit GW investors will lose a ton of Money and the whole experiment will be cast aside for another two decades ( Hero Quest ??)

    Just my two cents worth ( Maybe Half a Dollar )

  2. Avatar
    Graham November 22, 2020 7:06 am #

    Hate to say it but GW needs a more catchy mainstream name than Warhammer to go mainstream. I have no idea what though.

  3. Avatar
    Ohlmann November 22, 2020 11:57 am #

    GW *is* mainstream. It’s like saying Gorillaz isn’t mainstream.

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