Games Workshop Group PLC (often abbreviated as GW) is a British miniature wargaming manufacturing company. Games Workshop is best known as developer and publisher of the tabletop wargames Warhammer Fantasy Battles, Warhammer 40,000 and The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, as well as Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and many other games. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange with the symbol GAW.L. The company's British operating subsidiary company is Games Workshop Limited.
Founded in 1975 at 15 Bolingbroke Road, London by John Peake, Ian Livingstone, and Steve Jackson (not to be confused with U.S. game designer Steve Jackson), Games Workshop was originally a manufacturer of wooden boards for games such as backgammon, mancala, Nine Men's Morris, and Go. It 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 and 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 This was superseded in June 1977 by White Dwarf.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 John Peake in early 1976 and the loss of the company's main source of income. However, having successfully obtained official distribution rights to Dungeons & Dragons and other TSR products in the U.K., 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 its role-playing games and tabletop 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 U.K. reprints of 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 since 1977).
In 1984, Games Workshop ceased distributing its products in the U.S. through hobby games distributors and opened its Games Workshop (U.S.) office. Games Workshop (U.S.), 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 by Bryan Ansell in December 1991, Games Workshop refocused on their most lucrative lines, namely their miniature wargames: Warhammer Fantasy Battles (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 in the move, the company lost some of its old fan base. The complaints of old customers led a breakaway group of two company employees to publish Fantasy Warlord in competition with Games Workshop, but this met with little success. Games Workshop expanded in Europe, the U.S.A., 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 U.K.-based operations were relocated to the current headquarters in Lenton, Nottingham. This site now houses the corporate headquarters (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, and blame was placed on the growth in popularity of collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon T.C.G.
In recent years, Games Workshop has been attempting to create a dual approach that will appeal to older customers while still attracting a younger audience. Previously, most of their special characters and vehicles were cast in white metal or pewter, but by the 2000s, most of them were replaced by plastics. With this shift, Games Workshop has been able to offer greater variety in the armies offered with introductory box sets (for instance the Space Marines in the 2nd Edition Warhammer 40,000 box had two ten-man Tactical Squads, while the 5th Edition has a Tactical Squad, Terminator squad, Dreadnought, and Captain). This change brought about the creation of "initiatives" such as the "Fanatic" range, supporting 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 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 showed an intention to find 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 and possibly bring old gamers back "into the fold". Plus, it introduced the games to entirely new audiences.
In late 2009, Games Workshop issued a succession of cease and desist orders against various Internet sites it accused of violating its intellectual property. The reaction of the fan community was generally anger and disappointment, as many of the sites receiving letters were viewed as sites that had supported various Games Workshop games during periods when the company itself was not supporting or selling them.
On May 16, 2011, Maelstrom Games announced that Games Workshop had revised the terms and conditions of their trade agreement with independent stockists in the U.K. The new terms and conditions restricted the sale of all Games Workshop products to within the European Economic Area.
On June 16, 2013, WarGameStore, a U.K.-based retailer of Games Workshop products since 2003, announced further changes to Games Workshop's trade agreement with U.K.-based independent stockists. In a move designed to restrict sales of their products in the U.K. by Internet-based retailers, starting November 17, 2013, Games Workshop only allows U.K.-based retailers to sell their products online if they also offer them through a "bricks-and-mortar" retail store. Games Workshop's business model is based on the recruitment and retention of players of their games through face-to-face contact in a store-based environment. They view Internet retailers as undermining this business model in that they both siphon sales away from stores and make no contribution to player recruitment and retention.
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 information provided by 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 role-playing 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 a culminating episode in The Hobbit, although this game was done in 10 mm scale.
On 10 February 2011, Warner Bros. Consumer Products has announced that it extended its six-year agreement with Games Workshop, continuing its exclusive, worldwide rights to produce tabletop games based on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Games Workshop announced plans to expand their offerings of battle-games and model soldiers, and to continue to develop and increase offerings based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy books.
Games Workshop has expanded into several divisions/companies producing products related to the Warhammer universe.
- Games Workshop now produces the tabletop wargames, Citadel miniatures, and the Specialist Games range.
- Forge World makes complementary specialist resin miniatures and conversion kits. Forge World is also responsible for the Warhammer Historical line of historical wargames rules, including Warhammer Ancient Battles, all of which were previously published by as a component of Black Library.
- BL Publishing is the fiction, board game and roleplaying game publishing arm of Games Workshop. They comprise several separate imprints; The Black Library, Black Flame and Solaris Books. Warp Artefacts used to produce merchandise based on Games Workshop's intellectual property; they are now folded into BLP as BL Merchandise.