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It has been a number of weeks since my last ‘ponderings’ article so I thought that it would be good time to write another. After racking my brains for an interesting and relevant topic, and failing miserably, I decided to look for inspiration online. What I came across was a lot of Games Workshop bashing (I know, unheard of right?) over the limited release Void Shield Generator.


The general consensus is that GW really dropped the ball on this one by only producing 1000 kits worldwide. They have been criticized for underestimating demand, over selling and fueling the eBay profiteers. Now after a little thought on this and a bit more research I came to the conclusion that this wasn't the case. In fact, I believe that the image of GW being slow witted and short sighted over this couldn't be further from the truth.



Before I get branded a ‘fan-boy” because I don’t subscribe to most of the Games Workshop hate out there let me explain my position. I do believe that an awful lot of GW criticism is unfounded, be it through people being more willing to voice their negative views than their positive ones or the fact that people just don’t read up enough before they voice their opinions. Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things that GW do that leave me thinking “Seriously?” be it their peculiar announcement strategy or the overly high prices attributed to some of their products (How much! For sand!?). But in general I don’t think they do too badly, but anyway back to the topic at hand.

My opinion on the Void Shield Generator limited release is that this was a thought out and calculated stunt by Games Workshop. I believe this for several reasons which I will outline is some neatly separated sections:

The Quantity

I agree that 1000 void shield generators is a tiny amount compared to the number of people who are involved in Warhammer 40k. At a census during the Eye of Terror campaign it was estimated that roughly 500,000 people actively play the game with another 1,500,000 on top of this who support the hobby (this information is a little outdated but it will do for our purposes). When we compare the 1000 void shield generators to the very rough estimate of 2 million 40k fans we see that only 0.0005% of people will have been able to get their hands on one, if we don’t count people who have more than one. That is a ludicrously tiny fraction of 40k fans even when we take into account those who do not want a generator and those who cannot afford one. So what gives GW?


Well like any publicly trading company Games Workshop is at the behest of their shareholders. Should GW want to start any form of project which will cost the company a large sum of money, and potentially effect profits, they need to prove to their shareholders that they will get a return on their investments. So what better way to prove to investors that they have a good idea than by generating hype by sticking Limited Release everywhere and then going on to sell out within an hour of the pre-orders going live? You don’t need to be a city investor to realise that shifting 1000+ (due to oversell) units in an hour is something worth backing.

By only creating 1000 units, the productions costs would have been kept relatively low therefore mitigating the risk of the Shield Generator being a flop. Even though I have seen the words ‘Shield Generator’ and ‘Failure’ often being paired together recently I don’t think this is the case, not in GWs eyes anyway. From their perspective they have proven to the finance guys that their idea would be profitable should they go large scale while generating demand at the same.
Unfortunately this has been at the expense of us, the hobbyists. Not only have we been denied access to a rather nice looking scenery piece, a lot of people were unfortunate to be over sold the generator. It’s not all doom and gloom though, if my suspicions are correct there is a very real chance that we will see a second release in the future.

The Manufacture

This leads me to my second reason of why this was a meditated action by GW, the manufacture of the new kit. With a number of people receiving their Void Shield Generators this week we have begun to see some information on the kits contents which has led to some interesting revelations.

First of these is the fact that the box states ‘Made in China’, this is new for GW who usually manufacture in the UK. Now on its own this isn’t really significant but with GWs recent reduction in profits they may be looking to maintain current prices but reduce manufacturing costs. By creating a limited run they can test the waters of Chinese manufacturing without committing to anything large scale. No doubt they were looking to see if the quality lived up to that which GW are often attributed with. From early reports the thoughts on the kits quality are generally positive.

Another interesting point to be made with the Void Shield Generator is its material used, polystone. This is also first for GW who usually deal with metal, plastic and resin. It would be reasonable to assume that they may be investigating polystone as an alternative material for scenery pieces. The advantages of polystone are that it is cheap, fine detail can be achieved and it is not overly weighty. Although it does have a slightly coarse texture this disadvantage can be overlooked when producing scenery. By not committing to a large run they reduce the damage should the material prove unsuitable for prone to problems.

Learning from The Past

Chapel of Sanctuary
It’s all very well me speculating on GWs actions but without something tangible to use as an example I imagine some people would find it difficult to agree with me. So let me present you with an example from GWs past, the Chapel of Sanctuary.

Some of you old hats may be familiar with this, it was a rather nice looking pre-painted (Yes! PRE-painted) terrain piece which was a limited release. Although at the time the reasons behind its release weren’t as suspicious it was not long after that we started to see the rise is scenery kits for both 40k and Fantasy. It would be quite reasonable to argue that GW were looking to release pre-made scenery kits and wanted to gauge reactions before piling a lot of money into designing and mass producing terrain. While it has never been officially stated that this was the reason behind the limited release, there are a number parallels to be drawn between the two releases.

Summary

So far we have seen at least two new strategy’s in test here both the new polystone material and the Chinese manufacturing. Both of these are gambles for GW so it is more than reasonable for them to want to reduce the risk and keep shareholders happy.  When you take these factors into account, a limited release of 1000 isn’t really a failure. In fact if these were GWs aims then the Void Shield Generator was in fact a resounding success. Base on this I would like to think that we will be seeing the Void Shield Generators returning in a more general release but only time will tell. It is annoying when you cannot physically get hold of something you really want, but if that’s the price for some new ideas from GW I don’t mind paying it.

If you have got this far in article let me thank you for hearing me out all the way. Now I hope that even if you do not agree with what I’ve said, that you have been encouraged to think about these kind of events in a different light. Sometimes these things aren’t always as clear cut as “LOL, epic fail GW”, regardless of how much some people would like use this as ammunition for their GW hate gun (Range: ‘The Internet’ S1 AP- Assault 500,000). After all, spending a little time to gather a bit more information and to contemplate an issue can sometimes reveal some interesting things.

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