Occasionally – rarely – myself and m’colleagues take a lunch hour. Get out in town for a walkabout and some fresh air. If we want to scratch the ‘buying-stuff-that-we don’t-need-but-really-like, really-want’ itch, we’ll walk to an independent game shop here in Leicester (Tabletop Tyrant – dead friendly, discounted Citadel paint and really good for all your Hordes, X Wing and even Ral Partha minis; no – I don’t have an interest in the shop but fancied givin’ them a plug). However, if we can’t be arsed to go that far and we have the imp on our shoulder, we head to Games Workshop…

Ever heard of the concept of 50 Quid Man? It’s a term that the record industry used to describe middle-aged guys with a bit of disposable income – ripe for selling-up to and a lucrative demographic to target. I feel that GW have missed a trick by not trying to capture the cash in my – and your – pocket, which may explain why the branches local to us (Leicester/Loughborough) only open now a few days a week. Maybe the kids that they were churning out stuff for aren’t getting the same amounts of pocket money now that the economy’s hit the skids.

If they were on the ball they’d have started to target the maturer gamer (is that an oxymoron?). You’d think that some bright spark would have spotted the resurgence in gamers returning to their youth and targeted the movement. All that money going via Ebay and the interest in companies like Foundry who understand their market – if I were a GW shareholder, I’d be asking the question. Anyways – back to the plot…

Of a lunchtime, I highly recommend an occasional trip to GW, browsing the paint pots for a length of time before the staffer approaches and usually opens with “So…what are you painting at the moment”.  To which you reply with one of the following – feel free to use your own variant:

“Some old Ral Partha figures / Grenadier figures that I just got from Ebay/ A Slann army/Squats/Necromunda Brethren”.

Stumped, the script ruined somewhat, you’ll then be asked what you’re playing at the moment. You can then reply one of two ways:

1. With blasphemy – any game, ever, including non-current GW output – (Runequest, Cthulhu and Paranoia are personal faves). If the staffer is over 30 you’ll find that you can quiz them about what they’re playing and keep pushing them til they admit that they still play Judge Dread and turn a blind eye to folks bringing in pre-slotta old school figure to battle with on their tables. If they’re younger, you tend to find that they nod like you’re insane and leave you alone.

2. With the spirit of the Trickster – reply “Warhammer” and then act confused and pretend that you didn’t know that they made any editions after 2nd or 3rd. This one is fun but needs a straight face as you start chatting about models that are verboten – Slann, Squats – or asking if they do beastmen with heads other than goats. “They all look the same – that’s not very chaotic is it?”

A fun diversion to lively-up yer working day but it prompts a valid thought – I wonder if GW’s business model is not fit for purpose any longer? I’ll admit that I don’t pay much attention but I don’t see their shops busy at the moment or vibrant with punters, chatting to other punters, buying stuff. Meanwhile, a good independent trader that seems keen to cater for it’s customers, sees how the wind’s blowing and starts stocking Ral Partha, Foundry  – stuff closer to the Oldhammer end of the market , plus newer stuff like X Wing. GW always makes a point that it’s shops aren’t the point – they pitch themselves as a manufacturer and not as a retailer. Churns out a few new models at ridiculous prices each month and assumes that folks will care. Misses the origins, misses the point, misses a trick.

I appreciate that I – we(?) – aren’t their target market. But why not? If I ran a company that was starting to have profits and shareholder dividends hit hard, I wouldn’t just raise the sale price of products by D6 pounds each year and introduce a small trickle of product each month. I’d look at where people are going, what they’re buying, what they’re playing  – and cater for it. Pre-slotta ‘re-masters’, 80’s classics re-issued – I know GW do the odd ‘redux’ mini, but properly priced and promoted/targeted? Maybe – stop me here, ’cause this one’s controversial – creating something new rather yet another edition…

Are we past the point of caring? Is it just an allegiance to a brand that we connect to from memory? Going into GW shops flexes some strange muscle memory in me. I want to go and buy stuff there. And then I get into the shop and just feel lost, I’ve made baiting the staff into a reason to step over the threshold. 

In the way that some shops and online retailers target maturer purchasers for their disposable income, GW aren’t.

I shouldn’t give a toss, but there yer go. In the meantime, keep the Ebay wheels greased but support your local games shop if you have one.