Games Workshop Vs Inflation: The True Numbers Behind The Price Increases

I’m still the same price from 2004!

Games Workshop get a lot of grief from fans for their seemingly annual price increases.  With all the good news coming out lately—the sixth edition rule set and the upcoming boxed sets—its been easy to forget about the disappointing news from May when GW decided to raise prices for 2012.  It is not hard to get worked up about price increases, but have the increases really been that serious?  In all honesty, I couldn’t recall the price of miniatures when I first started collecting them.  Out of curiosity, I decided to look into previous GW pricing and compare it to today’s pricing.  As we go along, keep in mind that the average inflation for the US has been roughly 16% over the last eight years.

I compiled a 21 item list consisting of a wide range of GW items to compare day’s price to the prices eight years ago (2004.)  The list offers a decent sampling of the types of products most fans would be interested in such as codices, rulebooks, battleforces, starter sets (boxed editions), single troop kits, vehicles, and squads.  I do not have access to dealer inventory lists and the few dealers I did reach out to did not have documents dating back far enough to be of much use.  Surprisingly, it was quite difficult to obtain solid pricing numbers from first party sources.  GW’s tight internet sales policy may have something to do with it.

I was able to use web.archive.com to find archived snap-shots of the Games Workshop webpage.  From there I could piece together some prices directly from their web store, although a lot of the webpages were completely broken.  I did find a very workable snap-shot that was taken from 2004, so that’s what we will be looking at today.

No more metal for you.

Something that caught my eye was how many miniatures were metal eight years ago.  I remember buying a lot of metal kit in the past, so it was quite refreshing to go back and see how much of the line up used to be metal.  What was interesting was that the main reason GW wooed fans into accepting plastic models instead of metal was the cost savings that would supposedly be passed along, however prices have increased way over pre-finecast days.

Metal Models 2004 USD 2012 USD Increase
Space Marine Captain 10 22.50 125%
Space Marine Dreadnought 40 46.25 15.63%
*Space Marine Command 45 59 31.11%
Necron Nightbringer 35 37.25 6.43%

*The Space Marine Command Squad was compared to the more appropriate Finecast squad instead of the sprue based plastic squad.

It is quite apparent that the consumer savings through going plastic instead of using metal has all but vanished throughout the numerous price increases over the last eight years.  Models like the Space Marine Captain aren’t even Finecast.

Single models have always been high margin items from GW, especially from a points perspective.  What about media such as codices and rulebooks?  Let’s look at those next:

Model 2004 USD 2012 USD Increase
White Dwarf 6 9 50%
WH40k Rulebook 50 72.50 45%
Codex: Eldar, SM, Orks 15 33 120%
Codex: Chaos SM 20 33 65%
White Dwarf (Boxed sub) 50 95.75 91.50%

The price of media was the most surprising to me. We are looking at a 65-120% increase across the board for Codices, a large increase in magazine prices, and a rather large increase in the already high-dollar rulebook. I’m starting to wonder at what dollar value would the price increases cease? GW couldn’t have a $100 rulebook by 2020 could they? Could they? To be honest, Codex quality has increased over the years though.

Lastly, let’s look at some boxed sets:

Model 2004 USD 2012 USD Increase
*Battle for Macragge 45 99 120%
Warhammer Starter Set 80 99 23.75%
Necron Battleforce 80 115 43.75%
SM Battleforce 100 125 25%

*Battle for Macragge was compared to Assault on Black Reach.

Again we see a decent increase in price on some already high-dollar items. The small annual markups over eight years really adds up. What’s curious is to why Games Workshop would put such a hefty increase on the Macragge/Black Reach set, which is supposed to draw new players in.

What’s represented above is a nice cross section of the prices I found. Overall, everything I found came out to an average increase of 45% across the board over the last 8 years. When we compare the price increases to the average 16% inflation, it becomes quite apparent that GW has doubled down on pumping up the prices to near premium-luxury levels. I remember struggling to purchase a few kits back when I first started in my youth and it kind of saddens me a bit to know that some younger people these days may not ever get to experience the games GW has to offer because of the monetary barrier.

Look out for next year!

For the average fan or working man/gal, these price hikes aren’t going to keep us from gaming and enjoying the hobby. However, I hope GW doesn’t cut off new blood by sticker shocking would-be buyers. By the time a new player buys AoBR, some paints, hobby supplies, and a codex, they are in over $200 without even playing.

Overall, GW miniatures are still an extremely fun and creative hobby. They are a fantastic way to enjoy arts, crafts, and gaming with friends and family while still being cheaper than a lot of other hobbies out there. I came into this analysis thinking we, the fans, were over reacting a bit, but I came out a little shocked by the magnitude of the increases over only eight years. On the plus side, it makes me want to spend more time on each and every model, so maybe my painting skills may benefit from these increases!

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11 Responses to Games Workshop Vs Inflation: The True Numbers Behind The Price Increases

  1. diss says:

    I think i have an explanation for the increase that fits well with higher prices of the starter set:
    The THQ PC game series increased WH40ks popularity. Obviously, with more people interested in the game, you can make higher prices. The same is true for codices of the most popular races in the computer game.

  2. Jakesmum says:

    Hi, I find your comments very interesting, as the mother of a 10yr old who has shown an interest in WH40k I baulked at the uk price of £107 inc paints. This is an awful lot of money to pay for something he might lose interest in after a few months. To sum it up I think my son will have to wait a few more years before he can save up for a starter pack of his own.

    • subyman says:

      You are definitely correct about the prices, especially for kids. The good thing about the Warhammer 40k franchise is that there are many ways to enjoy the content without having to purchase the starter set. If your child likes to read, they may be interested in some of the Warhammer 40k novels that can be had at almost any book store. They are very action heavy, so keep that in mind. However, there are not any sexual scenes or very explicit language, so it can be good for older kids, especially boys that like action. There are also numerous computer and video games out there such as “Space Marine” for the Xbox 360 and the “Dawn of War” series on PC.

      You could also think about starting small by only purchasing a small pack, such as the 10-15 USD Space Marine box set that has 3 figures with weapons and some gear. A few paint brushes and and some paints would only have you spending around 20-25 USD. That way the children can see if they like painting and playing with the figures. A lot of online hobby stores let you mail order the figures for 20-25% less than buying them retail.

      Also, do not forget to look into used models and books. The older edition rulebooks go for much less than new, and many people buy the boxed sets and never end up using them. I was actually given an Assault on Black Reach set one time from a friend that purchased the set and decided it wasn’t for them. The great thing about this hobby is that you can approach it as quickly or leisurely as you like.

    • jimmy says:

      This is the view my mum had when I was about 11 even back then it was a lot of money to get started and my mum rightly refused to buy it for me. When I got my first job I got the starter set but even then I couldn’t really afford to add much else as my wages were so low, It’s taken 10 years for me to build and paint two 1500 point armies and most of that I brought off ebay. My son now shows great intrest but luckily he understands sometime the money just isn’t there to pay these prices and is happy to paint old models for practice and play small battles with the two armies It’s taken me all this time to build and paint. I think games workshop is really not for the true working class and single parent families or those where only one work really find it hard to get in to this hobby. I would advise you to look on ebay and see if you can find anything on there sometimes spelling things wrong on purpose can get you some hidden bargin’s, also you don’t have to buy the gw paints, glue, basing sand, I use glue from the pound shop, non gamesworkshop brands of model paint and my basing sand is from the pet shop. You could also look onto other manufacturers there are loads and some reaper minis are really good. I think your son may like the look of the models so maybe getting an airfix starter kit may be good, my boy love building and painting planes but give him a warhammer rule book to read and he looks at me like I just insulted him. Ha ha. Hope my ramble helps.

    • countermarch says:

      Also, jf he enjoys any particular historical period then there are cheap options for wargaming there. Browse the Victrix, Perry Miniatures or Warlord Games websites to get an idea of what things *can* be like.

  3. CLyde says:

    That is the main reason i have not bought them yet 200 dollars is alot of money for something i may not even like or have time to play.

  4. Al says:

    Nice research! Quite bothering for what is supposed to be an early-teenager game.

  5. Kingsley says:

    This post seems very misleading. You think that metal/Finecast is better than plastic? Most people I’ve met think the reverse– for instance, the new SM captain is generally considered a much better deal than the old one, since it is far more customizable and indeed provides a surplus of spare bitz that can be used elsewhere in the army. Let’s say you make a Captain with a power sword, and later want to make a Sergeant with a power fist– if you bought the new Captain, that’s a zero-effort bitz swap with a normal Tactical Sergeant. If you bought the old Captain, you’d have to buy a new Sergeant model– probably another metal blister. Not so good.

    Similarly, once you account for this bias and compare the old Command Squad to the new plastic Command Squad, you’ll find the new one both offers much more customizability and costs less (35.00 USD) than the inferior metal one did in 2004 (45.00 USD)!

    Further, Dreadnoughts were included in the Assault on Black Reach set and hence became easily available on the secondary market for 20-30 USD– another price decrease. Both the normal plastic Dreadnought and the Black Reach plastic Dreadnought are also far better kits than the old metal Dreadnought.

    As for the Macragge/Black Reach comparison– well, the Macragge set had 10 Marines, a pilot (not usable in a Space Marine army in game), and 24 Tyranid infantry models (being generous and counting the Spore Mines). So 35 models (realistically 26 playable models since Spore Mines and the pilot are basically never used), all of which were basic infantry. Black Reach had 10 Marines, 5 Terminators, a Captain, a Dreadnought, 20 Orkz, 5 Nobz, a Warboss, and 3 Deffkoptaz– 46 playable models, including 10 heavy infantry, 3 large jetbikes, and a vehicle! The Black Reach set is generally considered a *much* better deal than the Macragge set– it costs more because it has way more content!

    Do GW increase some prices beyond inflation? Sure– just look at the price of Imperial Guardsmen, for instance. But by and large they’re actually much more reasonable than the community gives them credit for. Dark Eldar prices often went *down* while the models improved on a huge scale!

  6. This post seems very misleading. You think that metal/Finecast is better than plastic? Most people I’ve met think the reverse– for instance, the new SM captain is generally considered a much better deal than the old one, since it is far more customizable and indeed provides a surplus of spare bitz that can be used elsewhere in the army. Let’s say you make a Captain with a power sword, and later want to make a Sergeant with a power fist– if you bought the new Captain, that’s a zero-effort bitz swap with a normal Tactical Sergeant. If you bought the old Captain, you’d have to buy a new Sergeant model– probably another metal blister. Not so good.

    Similarly, once you account for this bias and compare the old Command Squad to the new plastic Command Squad, you’ll find the new one both offers much more customizability and costs less (35.00 USD) than the inferior metal one did in 2004 (45.00 USD)!

    Further, Dreadnoughts were included in the Assault on Black Reach set and hence became easily available on the secondary market for 20-30 USD– another price decrease. Both the normal plastic Dreadnought and the Black Reach plastic Dreadnought are also far better kits than the old metal Dreadnought.

    As for the Macragge/Black Reach comparison– well, the Macragge set had 10 Marines, a pilot (not usable in a Space Marine army in game), and 24 Tyranid infantry models (being generous and counting the Spore Mines). So 35 models (realistically 26 playable models since Spore Mines and the pilot are basically never used), all of which were basic infantry. Black Reach had 10 Marines, 5 Terminators, a Captain, a Dreadnought, 20 Orkz, 5 Nobz, a Warboss, and 3 Deffkoptaz– 46 playable models, including 10 heavy infantry, 3 large jetbikes, and a vehicle! The Black Reach set is generally considered a *much* better deal than the Macragge set– it costs more because it has way more content!

    Do GW increase some prices beyond inflation? Sure– just look at the price of Imperial Guardsmen, for instance. But by and large they’re actually much more reasonable than the community gives them credit for. Dark Eldar prices often went *down* while the models improved on a huge scale!

  7. Bud says:

    Found this article while doing some research, so I’ve zero idea if I’ll get a response.

    I think some of these inflationary numbers look much more evened out if you search further back. Inflation over a 10 year time period can have high variance because of short term shocks – supply shortages, R&D costs, new models, whatever.

    Looking back at what models cost (and having access to receipts and retailer info as far back as the mid-90’s), GW’s historical repricing is just slightly over the rate of inflation. This doesn’t even take into account some of what you mentioned, especially the quality of product. It’s cringe-worthy to set models purchased in the mid-90s next to models released here in 2014.

    • subyman says:

      That’s a great point with regards to model quality. The problem with using standard inflation models is due to the inflation being averaged over all aspects of the economy. A more interesting approach would be to find the inflation rate within the sector that Games Workshop resides. I’d argue they would be judged against the entertainment sector. The increase in the rate of disposable income would be a great starting point. I haven’t researched the topic, but looking at the rate of increase of disposable income could give us an idea of the true inflationary rate of GW figures. If people’s disposable income is flat, but GW keeps increasing their prices then that directly translates into less figures for people per year. GW may have worked out that higher margins but lower sales is better long term for them. They do reside in a high end market compared to other games and toys. I may revisit this topic in the future. Thanks for your comment.

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