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Online Trends

Published August 10th 2020

Games Workshop: The Story of an Unexpected Winner in 2020

Business for Games Workshop is thriving, despite the tough times. What is the company doing right?

The pandemic has been a disaster for many companies, but some businesses have thrived despite the grim economic forecasts that have accompanied Covid-19.

Games Workshop manufactures and sells tabletop wargaming miniatures. They are best known for their Warhammer Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000 games, which involve creating your own army and battling against others.

The company has been a financial success for years, despite operating in what many may consider to be a niche interest and market. What’s interesting is that while the pandemic caused an initial dent in their fortunes, Games Workshop quickly recovered and saw their stock value reach an all-time high.

This is quite a curious turn of events. How could a company which generates a lot of its revenue from retail locations and selling a game that involves people playing in close quarters thrive when lockdowns have closed shop doors and stopped people meeting up?

There’s no single reason, but we can highlight a few.

Even without any games or tournaments taking place, many of Games Workshop’s customers are still collectors. With the company still releasing new products, people have been buying them just to add to them to their collections.

Then there’s another pandemic outcome that we’ve talked about before. With people stuck inside, many turned to new hobbies and interests, or found more time to dedicate to pre-existing ones.

Gluing together and painting miniatures has been popular in lockdown. It can be a solitary activity that requires a lot of attention, and there’s something nice to show for your hard work at the end. It’s a perfect activity when you can’t leave your home and need a good distraction from the world.

Another strong factor in Games Workshop’s favor is the huge and active online Warhammer community. From showing off their latest models to arguing over the minutiae of the games’ lore, players love to connect over the internet.

Based on the activity of two big Warhammer subreddits, the pandemic has been a perfect time to kick discussion up a notch.

Activity on /r/Warhammer and /r/Warhammer40k was up 56% year-on-year in July. That’s quite the explosion in discussion for an already well-discussed topic. It’s evidence that interest in the games not only jumped as the pandemic was declared, but that it’s continued to rise.

In other words, people got hooked.

Games Workshop have noticed how important their community is to the game, too. They’ve had a section on their site and an Instagram dedicated to this for years, but in March they turned to Twitter and created the @WarComTeam account.

Whether this was entirely in reaction to the lockdown, or already in the works, Games Workshop obviously saw that lockdown was the right time to encourage more people to talk about and show off their products.

It’s worked incredibly well, too. The account already has over 25k followers, while use of the #WarhammerCommunity hashtag has skyrocketed.

Games Workshop now sees over 1,000 accounts posting about their miniatures every week. That’s a lot of free promotion and, if you’ve ever collected figurines before, you’ll know how seeing other people’s painted, finished models generates a strong ‘I need that’ effect.

While Games Workshop have been doing well for a long time, they’ve managed to ride the pandemic storm and come out even stronger. Some of this is the simple luck of selling the perfect product for being indoors, but the company’s move to encourage extra online community engagement has almost definitely helped.

It’s an excellent example of turning potential disaster into a resounding success. With the company set to publish their highest number of Warhammer Community articles ever in August (the current count is 90 so far, compared to a previous high of 116 in July 2019), they’re clearly not resting on their laurels either.

If Games Workshop can continue to maintain and grow their community in the long term, they can expect to see strong financial results continue.

This data originated in our Covid-19 Data Bulletin. Subscribe now to get it to you inbox three times a week.

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