Games Workshop move to resin! There could be trouble ahead?

April 7, 2011 by warzan


So we heard last month that Games Workshop were planning a move to resin and in itself it’s not a particularly interesting story... hell Privateer Press have been rolling out resin for ages!

However, it’s when you dig deeper that things start to get interesting...

The technicalities of moving to resin

First up, let’s see what this means for GW. Resin is an obvious choice, but not one without a bucket-load of challenges. Companies have been producing resin minis for ages, but all are generally at the boutique end of the scale, as it’s a very manually intensive process. Games Workshop have invested heavily over the years in the production of metals and have the process nailed to a fine art, with state of the art automation and control (even the moulds are RFID tracked through the process to see where they are at any given time).

Metal gives you little to no wastage, as all miscasts are just put back into the process, the down side is that the tin and its alloys are a commodity that has a very unstable price point, that makes life hard for the accountants!

Resin, on the other hand, has the potential to create massive amounts of wastage. It typically uses softer moulds, which degrade quite rapidly (with particularly fine moulds getting perhaps only 20 – 30 uses!), it brings with it, health and safety issues too. With many resins being touted as carcinogenic (cancer causing).

Now it’s worth remembering, that GW own and operate one of the most successful resin cast businesses in the market, Forgeworld, so perhaps the growth and continued success in that area of the business has led to significant investment in the casting process, where the issues of automation, soft moulds, wastage, fragile casts and health and safety have all been addressed!

We cannot underestimate these challenges, resin moulds (especially multipart moulds) are a bugger to create and require perfect resin mixes and vacuum chambers, but even then, you may find that the stuff simply will not flow the way it’s supposed too. On a small scale this is manageable, but on the larger scale it’s a pretty daunting challenge.

So what’s the upshot for GW?

Why Bother!

Obviously the price point of resin is very stable, which makes life a lot easier for the accountants. Although we hear the price is really not that far from metal (unless they are getting amazing economy of scale).

The other benefit could be weight, resin models are significantly lighter than metal, which in theory may reduce shipping costs. However, if you consider that the packaging may be the most significant part of the shipping cost anyway and then take into account that the models are more fragile (and therefore may need more packaging) and you could be looking at things evening out there also.

Yet another benefit is in model quality, a good resin cast will have a very high resolution and enable the super-fine details of the models to shine, so we could start to see some incredible looking models come out of this whole process.

However, this leads me to the reason that many haven't considered... the 'perceived value' to the end customer of a resin model ... you see in general the cost difference in production between a resin model and a metal model are pretty negligible, but the grand experiment that they called Forgeworld, has demonstrated that the market is happy to pay more for this amazing medium called resin.

Could we be in store for a massive price hike? I wouldn't bet against it, that’s for sure.

Keeping Control

The other story that has been going on in the background for quite some time, is that the model range for independent stockists is being culled like it’s got mad cows disease! Line after line of product is being pulled from the independents and being placed on direct only orders (i.e. GW's Website only) some with basically no notice whatsoever.

Is this a sign that the models are being phased out and that resin is going to replace it... it certainly could be. However the interesting thing to watch is when the resin replacements are released, will they make their way back into the stock lists of the independents or will they only be sold from the GW website... think about what that might mean for you?

Like.... when was the last time GW had a sale...

Is this all speculation, certainly we don’t know for sure what the motives are, but there are enough rumblings in the industry to tell us to expect something. We can only hope the changes are for the better, and that what is a very cool move on the surface doesn’t have a nasty sting in the tail!

Your thoughts?

BoW Warren

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