Miniature Ordnance Review looks at the world of historical and fantasy miniatures wargaming and model building. From 15mm Flames of War, to Warhammer 40K, to 1/35th scale tanks, with some potential surprises on the horizon - you'll find them here!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

What I Think I Think About the Indomitus Fiasco

Wargaming can be an expensive hobby. I wrote an article on this a couple of years ago examining the cost of several different gaming systems, and suffice it to say Warhammer products frequently occupy the upper regions of that cost band. While Games Workshop can continue to charge a premium for their products because they own the IP, there are an increasing number of entities trying to create miniatures suitable for 40K and Age of Sigmar. The rise (and slow improvements in quality) of 3D printing is another avenue many seem to be exploring. The problem is that you can't use these at any official Games Workshop event. As a successful company, GW seems to be trying to combat this trend by at least offering entry level sets at a discount - providing substantial value for the dollar and then charging prices with higher margins for the more specialist and advanced units. The new mega-boxed set for 9th Edition was to follow this strategy - a box with the new rulebook, 61 exclusive easy to build miniatures, and a host of other goodies for the (relatively) low price of $199. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, in this case, just about everything...

The excitement for this box was fairly high (including with yours truly). There had been a lot of back and forth about the various 9th edition rules that had dropped (with the usual mix of joy and hate), but the marketing campaign for the set had been unprecedented with a video teaser a few months back and continued content drops on Warhammer Community. While everyone was cautioned that this was a "limited release", Games Workshop initially indicated no concerns about supply - indicating as late as June 13th that they had produced "literally boatloads" of sets (see snippet from Warhammer Community below).

The Warning Signs

Everything seemed to be tracking to a spectacular launch until a couple of weeks ago. First Games Workshop set a limit of 6 boxes per customer. This didn't set off any immediate alarm bells for me. As with any new edition the goal is to both get new butts in the game, and provide some new toys for veteran players to enjoy. More than a few boxes per customer just screamed scalping on the secondary market and trying to take advantage of the "limited" part of the "limited edition" box. Then, on July 7 Games Workshop dropped the limit to 3 per customer (see quote below). Around the same time rumors started spreading that local retailers were having their allocations cut and by July 8 stores in the UK were being told the box was sold out.

It All Hits the Fan

Games Workshop staggers its releases across the world, with the United States and Canada being two of the last major markets to go live. Reports in Australia and Asia saw the set selling out extremely rapidly as the inventory allocated to those geographies was purchased. The UK sold out quickly as well. I tried to order one on the US web page, but the GW site was incredibly slow. The box showed up on the web page about 10 - 15 minutes after the hour (and therefore about 10 - 15 minutes late). By that point customers were limited to one set - not three - per customer (which is likely a policy that should have been instituted from the outset). I managed to get one in my cart before it sold out, but the site took so long to process payment, it had quite literally sold out before my card went through. What... a... disaster...

Enter the Vultures...

Within minutes of the run being sold out, ebay was flooded with ads for Indomitus boxes for 2X and 3X retail. It remains to be seen whether people will actually get that much for the set, but for those who pre-ordered from discount retailers at below retail - I wouldn't hold my breath that those orders will actually show up. The Sisters of Battle set last year faced similar issues, but eventually the supply situation eased up and people who wanted the box were able to actually get it by and large - at prices that wouldn't break the bank. In the short term, however, Games Workshop is facing a lot of really angry customers, and that is not how you want to start a new edition of a flagship gaming product. A few lucky folks will likely be able to pick up a set on July 25th when the Warhammer stores receive their stock, but I envision long lines before opening...

Where Games Workshop Fouled Up

First and foremost, they didn't make enough sets - they over promised and under delivered. Making matters worse in many cases, their point of sale system allowed people to begin the check out process, only to be denied product when it was effectively sold from underneath them. This sort of IT fiasco is unconscionable coming from a major worldwide retailer. It is unclear how and why Games Workshop misread the demand picture so badly, but I'm willing to bet the COVID-19 shut-down of the headquarters and manufacturing plant didn't help.

So What Now?

First and foremost, Games Workshop has a public relations nightmare on its hands. Big launch events were planned at the various Warhammer stores, including pre-order parties which reportedly ran into the same issues everyone else did - slow website and being unable to order anything. For American retailers still struggling from COVID related shut downs, this throws gasoline on the ongoing economic dumpster fire of 2020. Customers that would have been spending money at the store on launch day, are now staying home or (with rare exceptions) went away unhappy.

The most obvious thing for Games Workshop to do would be to actually bite the bullet and schedule a second run of the boxed set - or at least offer an equivalent Necron and Marine product with the miniatures from the set. Unfortunately production campaigns like this are typically scheduled months in advance, so re-setting up the production tools and getting more (or new) boxes printed would not happen quickly without a Herculean effort from the team in the UK. Although there are some unsubstantiated rumors more will be made, it may not be a viable option at this point as other scheduled product runs would have to be pushed out to accommodate it.

So far it has been radio silence from Games Workshop, but how they respond over the next day or two will be critical. Right now GW has both left a lot of money on the table in missed sales and angered a large portion of their customer base. Despite cynical memes to the contrary online, this is not where any successful company wants to be. Hopefully senior management is sitting down reviewing their options, and carefully crafting their response to the customer base now and we'll see something official no later than Monday.

No comments:

Post a Comment