A couple days ago, I lost my damned mind. Forge World, as it is wont to do, discontinued some models. This always makes me lose my mind a little bit, because I’m a resin junkie, and few are the models Forge World makes that I can’t picture myself using someday.
But this most recent discontinuation felt a little different and made me ask the question “What the hell is Forge World doing?” The answer: I have no idea. But it would be really nice if they told us.
What I’m Not Upset About
I’m not upset that Forge World discontinues things generally. I’ve had some models I want discontinued out from under me. Some of them have been upsetting (looks longingly at super-heavy Eldar flyers). But I get those. I even get discontinuing the Elysian line – it’s a weird enough force that Forge World needs to maintain a “It’s like the Guard, but also not…” army list that never seems to be in sync, and when it comes down to it, if you want to play an airborne Imperial mortals list, there’s now a number of options.
Forge World is a business. Molds wear out. Shelf space is needed in the inventory room. There’s a limited amount of hours in the day to cast things. Forge World shouldn’t be locked into supporting every model they’ve ever made forever – and that does mean that there will *always* be someone who wanted to buy that model someday. And sometimes that someone is me.
Where the Problem Lies
The problem lies, in my mind, with what I’m going to call “critical” units – units that are the following:
- Part of a currently supported and active game system
- Part of the basic army list – a standard Troop, Fast Attack, Elite or Heavy choice
- Is made exclusively by Forge World
#2 is a little tricky. Basically, the idea here is “Without this, I can’t accomplish this role.” The Eldar Hornet doesn’t make this list, because when it comes down to it, a Vyper is a workable substitute. Nor is the entire Elysian line – you can build an airmobile/airborne-themed Imperial Guard army without ever visiting Forge World (though if you want to spend Forge World prices, I highly recommend Victoria Miniature’s Arcadian Guard for a “40K Vietnam” theme).
So what’s the problem with the latest discontinuation? The Solar Auxilia Rapier batteries. Do they meet this criteria?
1) Yes – Horus Heresy is still a supported game with new models coming out, including a brand new unit for the same army (we’ll get it this later).
2) Yes – if you want heavy, long-range but foot slogging firepower, this is the Solar Auxilia’s option. The only alternative argument is that you can buy a Space Marine Rapier and set two Solar Auxilia figures next to it, but they have a very different pose than the Rapier gunners, and lets face it, if you’re buying a high model count resin army for the Horus Heresy, “looking right” is an essential model function.
Before it got reintroduced, I would have put the Arvus Lighter in this category, and there are some other kits that I think are close – there are some discontinued weapon kits that are essential to make other FW models WYSIWYG.
Why is this a problem? Because unless Forge World reverses course on these models actually being discontinued, there are now options in the Solar Auxilia list that are gone. Not missing. Not “Hang in there, someday you’ll get your Primarch/Iron Havocs/whatever”. Gone. That obviously has an impact on the game, on how armies are built, how the meta evolves, and how new players (or experienced players making new armies) start.
There will, of course, always be third party sources, and converting, etc. But I’d assert that relying on “You can sculpt your own!” is not the sign of a healthy, vibrant game line.
There’s also, I’d assert, a business case for this. Many of these models might be considered “loss leaders” – if I’m buying some Rapier platforms it’s likely I’m buying more to push up the cost of the order to get free shipping, or also picking up more widely produced, higher margin units. There’s also the question of recasters. I’m squarely opposed to recasters – in many ways my own job relies on my creative output, and I think depriving the people who sculpted the models you want the income from those models is actively harmful to the hobby. But when models become abandonware? I struggle a lot more with justifying not turning to those sources, and I think it provides a prompt for people to become more familiar with the recasters market. A prompt Forge World would probably prefer people not have. The two combined is especially dangerous – if an out of production unit has me looking at recasters, those higher margin units are sitting right there on offer as well.
These problems also extend to the recent discontinuation of Forge World’s airbrush paint line. Do I get why they might be interested in discontinuing their line? Yeah – I knew very few people who bought a lot of those paints, even if they could get over the whole airbrush paints in non-dropper bottles thing. But again, they disappeared basically without warning, leaving those who did use their paints (a presumably very devoted group of customers) in a lurch.
What’s the Solution?
While in an ideal world, I’d say that Forge World shouldn’t discontinue critical units, but again, I get it. Forge World is a business, and businesses sometimes need to drop lagging products.
What I’d like is for this not to always be a mad scramble. Companies often release roadmaps, and announce that a product has been “sunset” – that it’s on the way out, and if you need to do something, do it soon. But soon shouldn’t be “today”, which is the circumstance with many of the things that Forge World discontinues – inventory is already so low, and availability is set to current inventory, that things sell out in a matter of hours, if that. Make the announcement before the last production run, not after. Preferably, have something resembling a known schedule for when something is going to be gone.
And make it clear what’s happening – the amount of Kremlinology that goes on because of something going out of production is hugely counter-productive. Releasing a new Solar Auxilia tank on the same day you discontinue some units sends a really mixed signal – is this the last hurrah of the Saturnine 1st? What other critical units are going away? Or is this just a one-off, an unfortunate circumstance where Rapiers just weren’t selling, the mold was a pain, whatever.
Forge World isn’t saying – and under those circumstances, it’s really hard to justify buying into a Forge World-dependent force like the Solar Auxilia if you can’t buy the entire army in one go. And honestly, who among us buys an army and then is just done?
I love the new Games Workshop, and I love how proactive they’re being discussing releases, new products, things in development, etc. I just wish Forge World was as clear with the things that are going away. Especially in a time when, if we’re being honest, it feels like the studio is being pulled in a lot of different directions and there’s a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt around the future of Horus Heresy as a game line. A couple paragraphs could go a long way.
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