Games Workshop Group PLC (often abbreviated to GW) is a British game production and retailing company. Games Workshop is one of the largest wargames companies in the world. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange with the symbol GAW.
Founded in 1975 at 15 Bolingbroke Road, London, by John Peake along with Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson (later known for their Fighting Fantasy gamebooks), Games Workshop was originally a manufacturer of wooden boards for games such as backgammon, mancala, Nine Men's Morris and Go which later became an importer of the U.S. roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons and then a publisher of wargames and role-playing games in its own right, expanding from a bedroom mail-order company in the process.
In order to promote their business as well as running postal games, attempting to create a games club and provide an alternative source for games news, a newsletter, Owl and Weasel, was commenced in February 1975. This was superseded in June 1977 by White Dwarf.
From the outset, there was a clear stated interest in print regarding "progressive games", including computer gaming which led to the departure of traditionalist Peake in early 1976 and the loss of GW's main income stream. However, having successfully obtained official distribution rights to Dungeons & Dragons and other TSR products in the UK and maintaining a high profile through the running of games conventions, the business grew rapidly and opened its first retail shop in April 1978.
In early 1979, Games Workshop provided the funding to help found Citadel Miniatures in Newark-on-Trent to produce the metal miniatures that were used in role-playing and table-top wargames. The Citadel name has become synonymous with Games Workshop Miniatures and continues to be a trademarked brand name used in association with them long after the Citadel company was absorbed into Games Workshop.
Their publishing arm also released UK reprints of famous, but then expensive to import, American RPGs such as Call of Cthulhu, Runequest, Traveller and Middle-Earth Role Playing; having previously done so for Dungeons & Dragons from 1977.
In 1984, Games Workshop ceased distributing its products in the USA through Hobby Games Distributors and opened its Games Workshop (US) office. Games Workshop (US), and Games Workshop in general, went through a large growth phase in the late 80s and early 90s, with over 250 employees by 1990.
Following a management buyout in December 1991 the company refocused on their most lucrative lines, namely their miniature wargame Warhammer Fantasy Battle (WFB) and Warhammer 40,000 (WH40K) lines. The retail chain refocused on a younger, more family-oriented market. The change of direction was a great success and growing profits, in spite of this fact, it lost the company some of its old fanbase. The complaints of these old customers led a breakaway group of GW employees to publish Fantasy Warlord in competition with GW, but this met with little success. Games Workshop expanded in Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia opening new branches and organising events. The company was floated on the London Stock Exchange in October 1994. In October 1997, all UK based operations were relocated to the current HQ in Lenton, Nottingham. This site now houses the corporate HQ, the White Dwarf offices, mail order, production and distribution facilities for Europe and the creative teams behind the miniature and games designs.
In recent years, Games Workshop has been attempting to create a dual approach that will appeal to both older, loyal customers while still attracting the younger audience. This has seen the creation of initiatives such as the "Fanatic" range that supports more marginal lines with a lower cost trading model (the Internet is used widely in this approach, to collect ideas and playtest reports). Games Workshop has also contributed to designing and making games and puzzles for the popular television series The Crystal Maze.
The release of Games Workshop's third core miniature wargame, The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game (LoTR SBG), in 2000 signalled their intention to capture the younger audience with a simple, yet effective and flexible, combat system.
Other key innovations have been to harmonise their core products, and to branch out into new areas of growth. The acquisition of Sabretooth Games (card games), the creation of The Black Library (literature), and their work with THQ (computer games) have all enabled the company to diversify into new areas which have brought old gamers back into the fold; plus introduced the games to a whole new audience.
In the 25 years since the first edition of their flagship game Warhammer Fantasy Battle, the cost of some like-for-like game components, have risen steeply - for example a metal "Goblin Fanatic" miniature has increased from 40pto £2.67, an increase of 667%. In early 2008 Playthings magazine reported that retailers selling Games Workshop's products had seen a reduction in sales due to market saturation and price increases.. In addition, the current fuel crisis has meant it is more expensive to export miniatures, and prices recently increased for metal miniatures and books on September 29th.
Alongside the UK publishing rights to several American role-playing games in the 1980s (including The Call of Cthulhu, Runequest and Middle-earth Role Playing ) Games Workshop also secured the rights to produce miniatures and/or games for several classic British science fiction properties such as Doctor Who and several characters from 2000 AD including Rogue Trooper and Judge Dredd. Alongside the rights to reprint ICE's Middle Earth Role Playing Citadel Miniatures acquired the rights to produce 28mm miniatures based on Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
In conjunction with the promotion of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy in 2001, Games Workshop acquired the rights to produce a skirmish wargame and miniatures using the movies production and publicity art, and also on the original novels by J.R.R. Tolkien. (Although it should be noted that the current line uses 25mm scale). The rights to produce a roleplaying game using the films art and both the book and the movies plots and characters were sold to another firm, Decipher, Inc.. Games Workshop was also able to produce a Battle of Five Armies game based on The Hobbit, although this game was done in 10 mm scale for the normal warriors.
The company is seen to have hard to reproduce, unique Intellectual Property, a good export record, and a distinct lack of quality competitors in their market.
The group reported sales of £136,650,000 sterling in 2005 and employs around 3200. Sales decreased for the fiscal year ending in May 2006. "For the fiscal year ended 28 May 2006, Games Workshop plc's revenues decreased 16% to £115.2M. Net income decreased 78% to £2M. Revenues reflect a decrease in sales from Continental Europe, United Kingdom, Asia Pacific and The Americas geographic divisions
In 2007 the group showed a pre-tax loss of over £2 million. after issuing profits warnings, closing non-profit-making stores, undertaking management restructuring and laying off staff in order to cut costs. According to CEO Tom Kirby the company had become complacent due to the relatively easy profits brought about by the popularity of their licensed Lord of the Rings products.
Link to the dedicated page for the Specialist Games division.
These games are aimed at the "veteran" gamers. These are gamers who are more experienced in the core games produced by Games Workshop. This is because the rules and the complexity of tactics inherent in the systems are often more in-depth than the core games.
Warhammer 40,000: Dark Heresy, the first of three proposed role playing games set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe was released in late January 2008 and sold out almost immediately.
Shortly after the release, Black Industries announced that they would cease producing role playing supplements in September 2008, in order to focus on the more profitable Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 novels. A later announcement indicated that the game would continue to be produced, however; production had simply been turned over to a third-party publisher, Fantasy Flight Games, instead.
Licensing for an undisclosed proportion of Games Workshop's back catalogue of board games was transferred to Fantasy Flight Games as part of the same transaction which included Black Library's Role Playing Games. Fantasy Flight had already republished revised editions of a number of these games. At the time of the announcement, Black Library had only one boardgame in print, the 4th Edition of "Talisman".. Fantasy Flight have announced their intention to publish a "Revised 4th Edition" of Talisman but have not yet indicated their plans for the other games on the list.
Games Workshop licensed or produced several ZX Spectrum games in the early years, none of which were based in the usual Warhammer settings:
Many computer games have been produced by third parties based on the Warhammer universes owned by the firm. These include (miniature game they are based on is included in parentheses after the game name):
Each Warhammer campaign has had a new codex published with the rules for special characters or "incomplete" army lists. Below are listed the Games Workshop Worldwide Campaigns (with the campaign's fictional universe setting in parentheses):
These Campaigns were run to promote its miniature wargames, and attracted interest in the hobby, particularly at gaming clubs, Hobby Centres and independent stockists. Forums for the community were created for each campaign (in addition to those on the main site), as a place to "swap tactics, plan where to post your results, or just chat about how the campaign is going." In some cases special miniatures were released to coincide with the campaigns; the promotional "Gimli on Dead Uruk-hai" miniature, for example, was available only through the campaign roadshows or ordering online. As a whole these events have been successful; one, for example, was deemed "a fantastic rollercoaster", with thousands of registered participants.
Games Workshop also published Fanatic Magazine in support of their Specialist Games range, but this was discontinued in print form after issue 10. Fanatic was preceded by a number of newsletters, devoted to the particular games. After the cancellation of Fanatic Magazine, an electronic form, known as "Fanatic Online" was published from Games Workshop's Specialist Games website With the re-launch in 2008 of Games Workshop's global web store, starting with a revamped US site, it was announced that the Specialist Games site would no longer be updated and that Specialist Games content would be published within the Games Workshop website proper; this has also meant the end of Fanatic Online.
There was also the Citadel Journal, intended as a "deeper" magazine for modelling enthusiasts and more experienced gamers. It often featured unusual rules and armies, and was occasionally used as an outlet for test rules. Under some editors, they also published fan fiction and fan art. This is no longer published.
For a brief period in the mid-1980s GW took over publication of the Fighting Fantasy magazine Warlock from Puffin Books. The magazine turned into a general introductory gaming magazine but was discontinued after issue 13.
There was also a fortnightly series called "Battle Games in Middle Earth", which came with a free Lord of the Rings SBG miniature. Though the miniatures were made by Games Workshop, the magazine itself was written by SGS (part of Games Workshop) and published by De Agostini. It was published in Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, and Poland. The magazine became more popular than the publishers had anticipated, and the deadline was extended several times and ended on Pack 91. Battle Games in Middle Earth was reported as being the biggest selling part works magazine in De Agostini's history.