Games Workshop Group plc (GW) is a British game production and retailing company. Games Workshop has published Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange with the symbol GAW.L.
Founded in 1975 at 15 Bolingbroke Road, London, by John Peake, 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. role-playing 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, postal games, create a games club, and provide an alternative source for games news, the newsletter, Owl and Weasel, was founded 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 This was superseded in June 1977 by White Dwarf.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 source of income. However, having successfully obtained official distribution rights to Dungeons & Dragons and other TSR products in the UK, and maintaining a high profile by running games conventions, the business grew rapidly. It opened its first retail shop in April 1978.
In early 1979, Games Workshop provided the funding to found Citadel Miniatures in Newark-on-Trent. Citadel would produce the metal miniatures used in role-playing and table-top wargames. The Citadel name became 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. For a time, Gary Gygax promoted the idea of TSR, Inc. merging with Games Workshop, until Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone backed out.
The company's publishing arm also released UK reprints of famous American RPGs such as Call of Cthulhu, Runequest, Traveller, and Middle-Earth Role Playing, which were expensive to import, 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, listing over 250 employees on the payroll 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). The retail chain refocused on a younger, more family-oriented market. The change of direction was a great success and the company enjoyed growing profits, but the move lost the company some of its old fan base. The complaints of old customers led a breakaway group of two 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 organizing events in each new commercial territory. The company was floated on the London Stock Exchange in October 1994. In October 1997, all UK-based operations were relocated to the current headquarters in Lenton, Nottingham. This site now houses the corporate HQ, the White Dwarf offices, mail order operations, production, and distribution facilities for Europe, and the creative teams behind the miniatures and games designs.
By the end of the decade, though, the company was having problems with falling profits, blamed on the growth in popularity of collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon.
In recent years, Games Workshop has been attempting to create a dual approach that will appeal to both older customers while still attracting a 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). However the Fanatic line has been mostly dropped, leaving Games Workshop to concentrate more and more on the younger demographic. 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 a new audience with a simple, yet effective and flexible combat system.
Other key innovations have been to harmonize 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, it 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 40p to £2.67, an increase of 567.5%. 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 29 September 2008. At the same time, the cost of metal miniatures has increased, as new technology for the creation of molds for plastic models has led to a significant decrease (up to a 50% price drop in some cases) in the retail cost of plastic miniatures. For example, five metal-plastic hybrid Chaos Knights were priced at 45 US dollars previously; the new all-plastic models are priced at 22 US dollars for the same five Chaos Knights, a 51% decrease (49% of the original value).
In late 2009 Games Workshop issued a spate of Cease and desist orders against various internet sites it accused of violating its Intellectual property. The reaction amongst the fan community was generally anger and disappointment as many of the sites receiving orders were seen to be ones which had supported various Games Workshop games during periods where the company itself was not supporting or selling them.
What's it worth? Take a look at this Games Workshop price guide: sold listings for a value indication.