Falling model sales between 2014 and 2016 put such strain on Games Workshop’s cashflow that it came within “four to six weeks” of “having to lock the doors”, according to former GW Senior Hobby Products designer Tom Hibberd. Hibberd makes the claim in a video interview with The Painting Phase YouTube channel, while explaining the development of innovative Warhammer 40k hobby products including the Contrast Paints line.
Chris Peach, another former GW manager who ran the firm’s army painting team before moving to a role on Warhammer TV, corroborates the claim in the interview. He mentions a meeting in which managers were told “we are £15 million in debt”; around $19 million. Hibberd adds that there were talks the firm “may not be able to pay wages”.
The interview has plenty of interesting titbits about product design at Games Workshop, like how the company settled on the current range of Citadel paints for miniatures, and how Contrast was developed specifically to make painting miniatures “achievable” for first time hobbyists. You can watch the whole interview here:
Wargamer has asked Games Workshop for comment on the Painting Phase interview, and will update this article with any information it provides.
2014-16 was a time of major upheaval for Games Workshop. In January 2015, GW’s then CEO Tom Kirby stepped down after almost 24 years in post, to be replaced by Kevin Rountree. That same year the End Times campaign blew up the Warhammer Old World, replacing it with Age of Sigmar. Start Collecting boxes, the precursor to Combat Patrols and Vanguard boxes, also launched in 2015.
While GW’s fortunes would only begin its incredible upwards trajectory in 2017 with the launch of Warhammer 40k 8th edition, this would have been in development around 2015, too. The changes to the games and products that Games Workshop made were all geared around making the hobby more accessible to new players.
Making better starter products doesn’t necessarily make the hobby accessible for all people, as contributor Jack Trumbull argues in his excellent piece on the safety concerns facing LGBTQ Warhammer fans. If you’re keen to learn more on the business of miniatures, check out our interview with the wonderful Annie Norman of Bad Squiddo miniatures.