Obviously this is a huge question lately as far as GW releasing AoS and replacing WHFB with it. The decision has alienated many long time fans and has divided the community pretty thoroughly. In fact at this point I think there is enough controversy that it’s time to dub it a “gate”, maybe Sigmargate? I dunno I’m not that creative with naming things ;).
So why would they do this? Well since GW is basically our version of the Dark Angels from 40k (ie: very secretive) I doubt we will ever truly know their reasoning, however we can logically make some good guesses. Sadly I have no inside knowledge so whatever I say here is based on rumor, speculation, and my personal opinion.
Ok, to start off let’s go completely off topic. About 7 months ago I read an article on medium.com called “Design Explosions: Mapping on iOS” (which you can read here). The article compares and contrasts the designs of the map apps on iOS from Apple and Google and tries to explain the decisions behind the choices. That’s not what’s relevant here though, what is relevant are the guidelines/assumptions the author follows in analyzing these products. They have 3 but only the first 2 are relevant to my discussion here:
1. The team that built these products are smart and talented.
2. There are many things we can’t know without joining the team.
It is FAR too easy to look at a choice you don’t agree with and just say “oh they are just idiots” or “they just didn’t think about it”. Thinking this way basically leaves nothing open for discussion though. If you look at the color someone chose to paint their house and you decide they are just total idiots, that just shuts down any kind of discussion and learning that could happen before it starts. Basically remember that in almost all cases when someone makes a decision they are earnestly doing their best, even if you may not agree with it.
Now that all that is out of the way let’s actually talk about GW. Why did they release AoS, why did they release it how they did, and why did they “squat” (cancel) WHFB? I understand people have strong feelings about this subject, please keep in mind I’m not trying to belittle anyone’s opinions or attack anyone. I’m just going to give my opinions on these subjects. If anyone has read some of my recent posts on places like Faeit and such some of this will be repeated, but it’s my blog I can steal my own opinions if I want ;).
As has been said on many other sites, WHFB has been in decline for a long long time. They have had little to no success getting new players into the game, and lately the players that they do have don’t buy much. Again we can’t know if that is true for certain, but from my experience online and off it sure looked that way. A few reports, from people who may know a little of what they are talking about, have said WHFB was selling anywhere from 10%-25% of the 40k line. Which from what I understand means the entire WHFB line was selling worse than JUST Space Marines in 40k and was also selling less than their hobby products. Considering up to a year ago they were supporting WHFB as much as 40k with releases, and how expensive plastic molds are to make (six figures) there is no way they could have continued on like this as they were most likely losing money. I don’t care how upset someone is about WHFB going away, I don’t see how anyone can say a company should continue with a product that loses them money. There was simply no question of if they would drop fantasy, but when.
So that is of course a big part of “why” AoS. We also have to ask why replace WHFB instead of replacing it. I see people everywhere online saying something like: “I can’t believe they released AoS, they could have easily fixed WHFB!”. Well let’s go back to that first guideline real quick and assume that the people who work at GW aren’t morons, and let’s also assume that GW as a company cares about making money (which it SHOULD).
Don’t you think they tried? It would be far cheaper to continue with their old product range than coming out with all these new releases, and it is generally much more expensive to acquire new customers than to maintain old ones. If GW only cared about the money, which is a popular thing to claim, they would have done their best to not have to release an entire new game. We have some evidence of this, after being able to attract new players they tried upping the model count significantly with 8th edition to get players to buy more, and they obviously put a lot of time and care into designing new and interesting models. After big models sold really well in 40k they attempted to carry that success to WHFB as well. We can only assume these strategies didn’t work as they still had to drop WHFB in the end.
I suppose my first paragraph handled why they squatted WHFB so the last issue I wanted to tackle is why they released AoS in this way. This is actually an issue I want to address in it’s own post later on so I’ll try to be brief. Really they need a smaller scale game that is easy to pick up for new players. If anyone has tried getting their friends into WHFB or 40k you may know how much of a struggle it can be. In my experience things like the charts can be a major hurdle for new players to get over. After you get the demo game done and they want to know how to start playing it gets even worse. Telling someone they need 5-6 boxes of models, plus army books, plus hobby supplies, plus accessories, etc… is huge. I am sure they designed the new game based on feed back like that. With AoS you can literally start with a single box of models and some paint and brushes. Adding a fairly simple rule set that is easy to learn but IMO still offers a lot of depth just makes sense from that perspective. Plus you can see plenty of inspiration from other games like Warmachine and Malifaux and even non miniature properties like Hearthstone (the easy to learn, hard to master thing). I’ll leave it there so I have something to talk about later.
Anyways that is my opinion of why GW made the decisions they did. GW had to make a big change and they did. Plenty of other companies have been in a similar situation but didn’t; like Xerox, IBM, Microsoft, etc…sorry I’m a tech guy so those are the examples that come to mind :).
I’d love to hear opinions and counter opinions in the comments, but PLEASE keep it civil! I like to argue so don’t get offended when I end up disagreeing ;). Going to actually play my first game of AoS tomorrow (I know I’m an idiot for posting all this before actually playing) so hopefully I’ll have a nice bat. rep. of that soon. Thanks for reading!