Well the worst kept secret since the last worst kept Games Workshop secret is out... yes, they're doing a game based on the Hobbit. I can hear the gasped shocks at the back of the room, and yes, I know, I didn't see that one coming either. OK, so I'll turn the sarcasm down a notch or three, because actually I'm not feeling all negative Nelly about it. True I'm not over the moon, frothing at the mouth and salivating like a starving man staring at a juicy T-bone stake cooked medium-rare, with peppercorn sauce... mmm. I'll let you all into a secret though, despite my floppy Finecast Gandalf I'm actually quite a fan of the Lord of the Rings range of miniatures. Arguably the painter in me feels it was the best range of miniatures Games Workshop have done so far. There were certainly some startlingly good miniatures amongst them... as well as some duffers... yeah I'm talking about the wonky faced Legolas from the Mines of Moria boxed set. However, I did pick up a few pieces and paint them from time to time simply for fun. So the prospect of new miniatures being added to the range is at least appealing to me on some level.
|LotR's wasn't as rubbish as many people made out.|
The bigger shock though, I'm sure for many of you, will be that I actually quite liked the Lord of the Rings game when it first came out. No, I wasn't duped by 50% off staff discount (although it helped) and being force fed White Dwarf. Nope I actually felt the game was quite good fun when it was played as it was clearly intended, as a small narrative based skirmish game. Honestly when playing things like the Attack at Weathertop missions et al, the game was actually really entertaining. I actually enjoyed it so much I was insane enough to volunteer being the intro games guy on launch day... and you know what? I enjoyed it despite not getting a lunch break due to the never ending queue. Where I personally think the game went wrong for me was the over saturation of LotR product that they brought out, and the fact they started trying to treat the game like one of their normal wargames, with factions and army lists and... blah. Didn't work for me, and I'm not sure the universe, or indeed the 'factions' lend themselves that well to a typical wargame product. Hence I think the reason they went for a narrative game the first time round.
Obviously there are those out there who disagree with my assessment, and think the game worked well as a standard straight up wargame. Of course they're entitled to their opinion... but they're wrong. Joking, joking, of course they're not entitled to their opinion. Oh snap! Clearly I'm joking... or am I? No I think LotR's became confused as a product, and ironically the very thing that drove its sales, the release schedule of the films, also sort of trashed the game as well. the release of the second and third film in quick succession (well for a wargame anyway) meant that the game never really stabalised and found its feet, so it got a bit off track and bloated (how many Gandalfs does a miniatures line need!?!?!?). I also think that at some point Games Workshop themselves got into a bit of a mess about what they wanted the game to be. I think the game lost its early focus in favour of going down the same well worn path of Games Workshops other two core games, 40k and Fantasy. I maintain that was a mistake, and I also maintain the rather large range they developed around the three films was never likely to be sustainable after the buzz surrounding the films had died down. And so it proved to be.
|£75, but I bet you'll be able to find it cheaper.|
However, they may have learned a lesson or three about how to price their movie tie-ins. As I've said, I worked at Games Workshop during the Lord of the Rings launch, and I don't think it's quite possible to explain to young whippersnappers just how huge that launch was. The game was also really quite reasonably priced for what you got in the box. Sure I still think Games Workshops core boxed games are relatively good value for money now... well compared to the rest of their product line, if not necessarily some of their competitors products. But, the Lord of the Rings boxed game was a bargain. So much so that we as staff members were limited in what we could buy, partly due to the popularity of it, but also due to the fact that it was rumoured heavily amongst staff to be a loss leader. A product that didn't make money. The razor blade principle if you will, sell the handle at a loss and gouge them on sales of the blades. Except it didn't quite work like that with Lord of the Rings.
|Yeah they're nice mini's... but £45 for four minis? You what?|
Those who were already in the hobby brought more stuff, but many of the new customers who came through our doors specifically to buy the game acted like they were buying a game in a box and that was it. Box purchased, glue brought, paints in bag, we're done. Many we never saw again unless it was to complain the miniatures were broken, because they weren't assembled. Only a very small number brought further Lord of the Rings related product from us. So selling a huge amount of product as a loss leader, or even a break even / small profit product wouldn't be great for cash flow. Managers also told us to concentrate on selling Lord of the Rings, and only Lord of the Rings. There are myths and legends about that being what New Line Cinema demanded, but whether that is the case I don't rightly know. Our manager though didn't seem to fussed, and actually told us to use the new influx of customers to sell Games Workshop and not just Lord of the Rings, I specifically remember him saying "sell the hobby" in staff training. One of the few times I respected his decision.
This time round though it certainly looks like Games Workshop won't be in that position. The Hobbit: Escape from Goblin Town boxed set is due to retail at £75 here in the UK. That is more than their other boxed games, but not by huge amounts. I would bet though that they have at least built in a decent profit margin into that, even if it isn't as large a margin as the rest of their range. They should turn a profit on each boxed game if they have similar levels of customers walking through their doors and treating it like a game in a box. Hell the White Council at £45 should have a tidy little profit on it too. The question that has been buzzing around the Internet though is whether these prices are too steep. Only time will tell, but I have to admit to nearly choking on my caffè macchiato when I realised the prices Aussies and Canadians were expected to pay... what's that all aboot? But, I suppose we shouldn't have expected any differently. If the product sells this time they should be in a better position to maximise profits lets just say that shall we!
|I'm not sure I like the look of the Goblins, but that's more New Line Cinema's fault.|
Although I was sort of reminded by the pricing of a conversation I had with a housing developer about a potential development site a few years back. He'd employed me to look into the viability of the build. He wanted to sell 1 bedroom flats for £105,000 and 2 bedroom flats for £135,000. Now, within the neighbourhood you could buy freehold 2 bedroom houses for £85,000 and 3 bedroom houses for £100,000. Yeah it wasn't a great place to live. I informed him that at those prices he wouldn't sell the flats. He told me if he sold them at any lower prices then the development wouldn't be profitable. I explained that I felt the development wasn't viable then. He then explained to me what an idiot I was, and how I didn't understand anything about anything, but especially development. They went bust about 12 months ago as the site they'd developed hadn't sold a single damn flat, half of the site remains undeveloped, much to the annoyance of the local authority. So have Games Workshop priced the Hobbit line of miniatures out of the market place in a similar way? For me personally, yeah probably, I won't be buying much, if any of it. But, I bet they still sell a fair few copies of the game and some miniatures to go along with it. Peace out!