Is Tabletop Gaming out pricing itself?

Tabletop gaming is a hobby that is shared by millions of people around the world, played in clubs, conventions, shops and bedrooms of countless players.  But like many other hobbies it can be expensive and sometimes the price of starting something new can be off putting.

In the past two weeks, two of the biggest games companies in the industry have announced new products that have extremely high pricing point and this has lead some to believe that the industry is in danger of out pricing itself and making it so the majority of games players around the world can’t afford to get into games or buy expansions!

The two products in question are from Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight Games and have a price point that puts them over the £150 price mark!  The upcoming Adeptus Titanicus Grand Master Edition of the game has been price marked at £175.00 for this limited release that allows you to get the rules, miniatures and buildings in one place.  For Star Wars: Armada Fantasy Flight Games have just put the Executor Superstar Destroyer up on pre-order for just over £150.00!

Collectors like to collect things and often will not worry to much about paying a large amount of cash for a collectors edition of a product and one only needs to look at Hot Toys for examples as many of their excellent high end products are hundreds of dollars.

There comes a point however where products are priced out of the reach of normal gamers, meaning that it becomes harder and harder to have everything for your favorite game system! Sure Adeptus Titanicus is available as stand alone products to purchase, which means that not everyone will miss out, but a single miniature expansion in the form of the Executor is well out of the price range of all but the most hardened gamer!

So why so expensive?

There are perhaps a dozen different reasons for such high price points for gaming products, a lot of them are valid but many are just fly by night.

Companies are being greedy and just want to make money!

Well lets get this to bed right away.  Companies such as Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight Games are out to make money, its the nature of the business and any company that isn’t out to make profit is a company that is deemed to fail.  For many years Games Workshop has been viewed as an ‘Evil Empire’ among gamers, with high prices and reissuing games every few years.  This is a falacy of course and there are many reasons why Games Workshop release new versions of old products!  Space Hulk, Blood Bowl, Necromunda and now Adeptus Titanicus are all products that have been reissued more than once over the years and each has sold extremely well and all are very, very popular!  The idea that we don’t have anything new so lets just push out something old with a few bells and whistles is way off the mark.  It is simply down to the fact that the company owns all of these intellectual properties and wishes to introduce them to new players who are the lifeblood of the hobby.  What was released twenty years ago (in the case of Adaptus Titanicus) means that those players have grown up and now have children of their own and may wish to introduce them to something they loved when young themselves ( I did just this with Bloodbowl, introducing it to my then 14 old son who is now 26 and more recently to my 10 year old grandson!).

These much loved games are of course better looking and have far more detailed miniatures than the original as twenty years has passed and the company has made huge leaps in tooling and games design.

Greed is something that people tend to lump onto companies such as Games Workshop, stating its prices are so high as they are being greedy and cashing in on the fact that anyone will pay for its products (likewise with the Star Wars brand Fantasy Flight Games has more or less a cash cow for its products)!  Well lets just take a quick look at Adeptus Titanicus for an example.  The Grand Master Edition has two warlord titans, six knight models and several plastic buildings; not to mention the rules, counters and dice.  The titans and knights are all multipart plastic model kits, with each being made up from many parts, all tooled to fit neatly on sprues of plastic that we find in the box.  Each of these kits has to be not only designed and then sculpted (even if digitally these days) then be moulded to allow for mass production.  Moulds for plastic kits are extremely expensive and can cost many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands to make.  Each mould is made of stainless steel and has to be specially tooled to allow for mass production and this is the expensive part! The moulds are very time consuming also which adds to the overall production costs of the product, and while the designers work extremely hard to keep down the costs of the models, it is still very expensive!

It’s a case of bigger is better!

Sometimes it comes down to the fact that you need some punch with your armies no matter what game you are playing and quite often some of the larger model kits and expansions also tend to be the most expensive.  This is not a simple of matter of we make it more expensive because it reflects the points cost of the unit in the game, rather than it is expensive as it means less people will buy the model. So for example the release of the first Primarch Robute Gulliman last year was a £50 box set for three models, these three models are all unique which means that you can only field one of each of them in your forces and as such the company will sell a lot less of this product as compared to say a Landraider at the same price as those are not limited to taking just one in your army.

You pay for the name!

Again, this can be somewhat a myth that has grown over the years, though does have an element of truth to it.  Whenever you buy a product with the Star Wars logo branded on it, you are in a sense paying for the name, as the licensee has had to pay out a large amount to get the rights to produce this product, sometimes this can be a small amount but with the case of Star Wars it is most likely to be extremely expensive and as such the company producing the miniatures must recoup that cost in their products.  This is not done in a single product as that would be ineffective (nobody would buy it) but done over the whole range of models in the license and spread out over several years.   Each company that is granted a license has to meet very strict guidelines (though some IP’s are not as strict as others) and every item produced under license must go through a vetting process with the owners of the IP (in this case Disney) before the product can reach the stores.  This can mean that a licensed product can go through several changes before you finally get your hands on it.

Its too expensive to pay for a model no matter the quality!

While for some this can be a very true statement and we can often see things in games that we wish we could afford, the argument that its just to expensive is often made. There is a very old adage in the games industry ‘If you want a car that drives like a Porsche, looks like a Porsche and handles like a Porsche then buy a Porsche, if you want a car buy a Mini’

Sounds silly well put it this way the amount of people who complain that they are paying for some of if not the best sculpted miniatures in the industry yet are not happy that they cost slightly more (and I do mean slightly as other companies now are catching up in pricing with Games Workshop and some even more expensive!) though they are getting great value for money and amazingly detailed miniatures is staggering! I have had friends turn their backs on Games Workshop over the years as they are far to expensive for me now, only to come back a few years later and get back into the hobby with even more enthusiasm as they realise that they are paying for excellent quality!

So what is the cause of the high prices?

Well as detailed above the licenses for some IP’s such as Star Wars are very expensive and complex and the company needs to recoup that cost somewhere down the line!  As for the Adeptus Titancus game, this is a limited editon and a short run meaning that you will only be able to get it for a short period of time before it is discontinued in that format (won’t be available again till 2019 at the earliest once its sold out!). To be honest compared to other hobbies such as photography, wargaming is relatively cheap by comparison and as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for!  I know that many of us scoff at paying thirty bucks for four models for our favourite game, but when you compare that to say a cheap end UV filter for a DSLR it kind of looks like a bargain.

Will they out price the hobby?

Short answer is NO!  Given the nature of the hobby and it patrons, I seriously doubt that we will see the demise of the industry as a whole, let alone games such as Adeptus Titanicus or expansions such as the Executor be the death knell in the hobby! Recently Games Workshop made the news by announcing that it had smashed its targets for the year 2017/18 and as such was sharing a huge bonus with all its employees and helping keep the wheels of British industry turning.  Fantasy Flight Games is so huge now that they own several smaller companies and have stakes in television, as well as turning out a vast array of games and products every single month!  Smaller companies such as Mantic Games, Warlord Games and Warcradle have all begun to carve out their own individual niches in the hobby pie, and are fast becoming leaders in their own rights, providing jobs for dozens of folks and providing high quality products and keeping the industry alive for new generations of gamers.  With games like The Walking Dead, Bolt Action and Wild West Exodus all at the top of their specific food chains, the gap between the big boys is ever narrowing.  Will it cause a price war?  Who can tell! A lot of bricks and mortar stores can’t compete with internet prices and even with postage you can pick up some amazing bargains if you shop around.  The whole point of this article is not to lay blame on anyone, or say that prices are way over the top, but to point out why this appears to be so.  To be honest when I first found out about Adeptus Titanicus and the Grand Master box I was thinking that the price would more than likely be around £195-£225 mark and was a little surprised when it was leaked at being £175 as it is a lot of product in a single box. Likewise the Executor is a great looking model and would be the pride of anyone who plays Armada collection, though I do find this price to be on the high side seeing as it’s a single unique model as detailed above!

You want lower prices?
Simple everyone wants to get something as cheap as possible, and one of the best ways to do this is to support your favourite stores and buy from them. Like Space Marines then buy from your local games store or Games Workshop directly!  Like Legion or Armada, then buy again from your local store or directly from Fantasy Flight Games.  Buy from eBay can often kill the market and sometimes you don’t really know what you are going to get unless its from a very reputable seller! By getting your models from the companies that make them or supporting your local stockists (either bricks and mortar or online sales) you are helping keep money flowing through the hobby!

In conclusion, You do get what you pay for and don’t expect to get a full sized Space Marine army without paying out for it.  A Porsche by any other name is just a car!

Published by

Marc Farrimond

I'm a 55 year guy from Wigan in Lancashire living in Edinburgh, Scotland with two of my four awesome kids and my long suffering wife Laura. I have worked freelance over the years for some of the biggest names in tabletop and roleplaying and I am a very keen cosplayer and photographer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s