Hello hobby friends! It’s been a while, but in an effort to prove that I’m still alive, and to address something that I’m now slightly worried about, I thought I’d pen this quick post as it helps me to work out some stuff in my brain, and it might help to give you some insights as to why I’m worried. Golden Demon is coming back, but will it really be Golden Demon if everyone who wants to enter is unable to do so?
Earlier this week, some tickets went up for sale for the Heresy event at Warhammer World. They were sold out in seconds by all accounts, and this has left some people rather put out. Now, this was bound to happen. The Horus Heresy has a large, dedicated community, and the excitement surrounding a new iteration of the game has exhilarated even more people about this branch of the GW hobby. It was always going to be supremely popular, and due to the uncertainty caused by the economy and the pandemic, holding an event to celebrate this was always going to be held at Warhammer World. The issue here is that Warhammer World, despite being a fun venue (gives us all a chance to get another picture with the Rhino in the carpark), is not a big venue. Not for a global company like GW at any rate. Hobby popularity boomed during lockdown and more people than ever are enjoying toy soldiers, and the converted sports hall in Nottingham is a fine base for smaller events, but it’s just not big enough for these sort of hype events anymore.
So when those Heresy event tickets sold out in a couple of minutes, I was not surprised, but I was a little shocked to see so much anger towards the situation online. I knew it was going to be popular, but the number of complainants surpassed my expectations, and should make those in charge of such things at GW think again.
Holding important and prestigious events in the hobby at Warhammer World in 2022 would be like asking Liverpool FC or Manchester City to play their home games at Oxford United’s ground. There are too many fans, and it just doesn’t work.
But Games Workshop is not often capable of responding quickly to things like this. The coffers are closely guarded, and the manpower and resources are always stretched in areas like this, so they don’t have any other options really. I still know many of the people on the events team and they are among the most hard working and long suffering in the company, but there really aren’t many of them, which seems a little ludicrous considering how big GW’s events could become in the coming months and years. Games Workshop are a company constrained by old habits, an unwillingness to spend, and a fear of over-reaching that perhaps they shouldn’t have anymore.
That fear comes from a couple of times in the company’s past when they almost went to the wall. Their initial movement onto the stock exchange in the 90s nearly ruined the company, and the necessary shifts that brought AoS and Primaris Space Marines into being rocked the boat too, though both of these examples have proven to be great successes in the long run (though the company is not keen to place too many bets like this). GW would still rather be certain than take any risks, even when the potential rewards are huge. This may be sensible, but it can hurt them too in instances like this. Take the recent example of GW to suspend operations in Russia. Many companies did this early, some perhaps throwing caution to the wind, but many (most) will have been confident that their bottom lines wouldn’t suffer too much (and more than a few hopefully acted purely on moral reasons). GW did the right thing, but it took them too long. They were assessing, checking, double checking and making sure for too long, and so the statement they put out was met with little fanfare, and more than a few “better late than never, I guess” comments. I applaud them for the stance they’ve taken there, but I can certainly see why many were irked that it had taken so long for the powers that be to make the call.
This may all seem like I’m digressing a little bit, but with this in mind, you can see why they wouldn’t hire a larger venue to show off the big, shiny, new Horus Heresy. If this is going to be as big a game as we’re all anticipating, GW could have hired a bigger space, and spent a bit more money, but that inherent caution means they never would. Their mistrust of their ability to deliver, their caution over the economy and uncertain futures, combined still with their glacial pace when it comes to making big decisions has bitten them in the bum again and turned good will to bad.
So an event that could draw over 5000 people, is restricted to around 1000 people, but they don’t have to pay rent anywhere, and they can be sure they’ll hit those numbers. It’s like going into an exam and aiming for a C, because you think you might get an F if you aim for an A. Does that make sense to you?
So with all of this in mind, let us consider what happens with Golden Demon in October. It’s wonderful that it’s coming back to the UK after seeing the amazing pieces on display at Adepticon – I for one am very excited, but let’s ponder what happens if this will be as popular as the Heresy weekender. Ok, maybe that’s unrealistic, but I’ve heard from a lot of people inspired by that Adepticon Demon, and they’re now worried they won’t get in. To be honest, so am I.
Now I don’t believe I’m good enough to win anything, but Golden Demon has always been what I’ve cared about the most and I quite like pushing myself to paint to my highest standards for this competition. But if the tickets sell out in seconds, will all my efforts be for nought? Do previous winners get a guaranteed ticket? Would it be Golden demon if previous Slayer Sword winners were barred entry by virtue of them not having a ticket due to limited capacity? For aspiring painters, you want to see your efforts placed against the best of the best, and not just the efforts of whoever won the ticket-queue lottery. But then, would it be fair on all the keen and eager painters to potentially miss out, just because some previous winners get a free (or at least reserved) pass?
Adepticon and Warhammer Fest are typically held in huge venues where most people are able to secure their places, from Golden Demon entrants to those just wishing to play some games or check out the new stuff. Warhammer World cannot offer this sort of setup and some people, whether established Demon-winners, or passionate newcomers, are bound to miss out (and it’s a shame whatever way that cookie crumbles). Unless all aspiring entrants get a chance to enter, someone will be losing at an event that should be all about winning (in that we all win, and the hobby wins, and there are no real losers, just people who didn’t win). All because GW would never pay for a venue that would allow everyone wanting to attend to turn up.
At present, I can’t see myself coming out of this event with much of a smile. Even if (and I really doubt this will happen but go with my hypothetical here) I won a Gold, would the win mean as much (or anything) if some of the best painters in the world were unable to get in? Either that, or I may not even make it into the building because I could have a work meeting or a family event the second the tickets go on sale and so I’d miss the boat. Should I even carry on with the efforts I’m making right now?
All of this angst because GW moves too slowly, is too cautious, and not organised enough to get these sort of things right (and when they do get things right, they are unable to do so in good time). And it’s worth remembering that the first ever Golden Demon was held in the Victoria Leisure Centre in central Nottingham (long before they had Warhammer World to lean on) , so it’s not like this hasn’t been held on its own somewhere else before.
Yes, while these days, in a company driven by profits (which, by the way, does not in any way make them “evil” – they wouldn’t exist if they didn’t chase every penny, and they’re not as ruthless as many), Golden Demon is not seen as a great revenue driver and so it likely won’t get the service it deserves. What it is is a piece of prestige, history and legacy that Games Workshop could not recreate or buy anywhere else, and that is why this unique competition deserves to be open to everyone willing, wanting and able to enter.
To that end, I would like an assurance from Games Workshop that everyone wanting to enter Golden Demon will get the chance to do so. From established winners to newcomers, everyone should have the chance to put their miniatures in front of the judges. Can Games Workshop confirm that this will be the case?
Maybe this is all worrying for nothing, and maybe it will all be fine, but as an advocate, admirer and avid fan of this particular competition, I do worry for it. I know the people who look after it, and I know that regardless of what happens, the judging and organisation of the event itself will be kept at very high standards, so I have no fear there. The most passionate people are involved in these areas. What I worry about is the lumbering behemoth that is GW not doing the right thing by making it available to everyone. That penny-pinching and poor planning will hamper what is, for me, the most special event of any hobby year. I worry that those enthused to enter their first Golden Demon, and those legends of the competition who have numerous statues to call their own, will all be subjected to a cruel lottery that will see many miss out. That isn’t fair, that isn’t on, and if my worst fears and suspicions are proved true, it’s not really going to be Golden Demon.
Buy hey, let’s wait and see. I’ll continue working on a few pieces, and with any luck, I will be one of the many to get a ticket and no-one will have to be disappointed. Fingers crossed, right? And I would be delighted, elated and thoroughly chuffed if GW place it in an appropriately sized venue, or can ensure (and assure) every aspiring entrant has the chance to put their minis forward. Until I next feel the need to unburden myself, onwards!