Monday, May 23, 2011

Making a Bug a Feature (40K)

No, this isn't about Tyranids, it's about the launch of Finecast models from Games Workshop this week. As you probably know by now, there will be no more metal miniatures from GW. Instead, some metal models, likely based on the best sales, are being released in resin. There will be several hundred 40K and Fantasy models in total, with the first hundred released on Saturday with a hard street date, something reserved for special launches.

The fact that tin has doubled in price in a year and they can't really afford to make metal anymore is the bug here, with the alternative, a more expensive resin product being the feature. Making a bug into a feature is a software term in which we try to turn a negative into a positive. The higher resin price is somewhat hidden in the fact that GW is doing their annual price increase on the release date as well. You can see that on our website.

On the feature side, the resin will undoubtedly be of higher quality. Resin is good. It's potentially toxic and harder to safely work with (I haven't seen assurances otherwise), but I prefer it to metal for its higher detail. The packaging is improved with a clamshell design and a color photo of the model to help identify it. Current blister packs are atrocious and if you haven't read all the codices, you won't be able to properly shelve the products as a store employee (or find it as a customer).

The clamshelled models will be sold in singles of specific figures, not the random dual sleeved style of their tin predecessors. Space Marine Diaper Pail Apothecary with Heavy Flamer will be packaged individually, rather than in a two-pack with the Diaper Pail Apothecary with Heavy Bolter. For stores it means we can order one item at a time rather than pairs and know what we're getting. It also means those slow selling models don't sell out twice as slowly (blisters are by design, slower sellers). So there are features, I suppose.

As a store owner, I see these as a simple replacement for metal, with a different SKU and packaging and not much more. I can't even pretend to hype it. There will be no cake. So on release, we hope to get about 30 Finecast models, just the ones we need for 40K to replace what we can't get in metal. Lots of metal remain on the shelves and we're in no hurry to do anything special with it.

Those 30 models and box sets would retail for about $750, so it's no small chunk of change. As with other Fantasy models, if it's new, we'll pick it up, but not this stuff. When I warned about those inventory dollars sloshing around into other product, this is what worried me. If this doesn't have the enthusiasm of a new release week, it certainly has the invoice. We'll attempt to fill in holes with other Finecast models as the need arises, but they'll be in short supply for a while.

Is this an interim step? Some think so, a place holder while more models get made into plastic kits. Finecast is no better than metal from a store perspective. They're still small and stealable, fitting on the same blister racks as metal. They're very expensive too, about 20% higher than metal. Not having to order two is good. Getting exactly what you want is good. But that just makes them a normal rather than onerous product. So anyway, I greet Finecast like I would greet a restock of tin. Good, but no party.

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