First Warhammer 40K RPG sells out preorders, taps out its own publisher

The announcement is confusing on the surface, but really, I’m thinking the conversation went exactly like this: “We put in all that work, sold the thing out and only made that much? Bugger this, then. Put another dozen novels on the schedule, lads!”

Uh, to explain: after Dark Heresy, the first of three planned RPGs based on Warhammer 40,000, sold out its initial print run in preorders, its publisher Black Industries has announced that it’s getting out of the RPG business. This also has implications for the still-fairly-recently released Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay relaunch, to say nothing of the other two WH40K RPGs that were announced. No word from line developers Green Ronin on whether picking up the license is planned, or if it’s even an option (although they do have interesting details on A Song Of Ice And Fire and the Freeport line in the last installment of their year-end message).

Interesting times indeed. The complete (very brief) announcement is after the jump.

The following is press release text from Black Industries.

28/January/2008 – Black Industries Announcement
Black Industries regret to announce that Dark Heresy: Disciples of the Dark Gods out in September will be the final product to be released from Black Industries.

Kevin Rountree General Manager of BL Publishing said ‘As a result of the continued and impressive success of our core novels business, which we have built around 40K and Warhammer, we have decided to focus all of our efforts on growing this part of our business. Black Industries has seen fantastic success, most recently with Talisman and Dark Heresy. This change does not take away from that achievement rather it allows BL Publishing to focus on producing the best novels we can. This is a purely commercial decision and will enable us to carry on the huge growth that we have recently been experiencing with our novels’

For the time being Black Industries will continue to post articles in support of the products on their official website, which is a fantastic resource for scenarios and gaming tools for GM’s and players alike.


  1. This caught us all way off guard. People on the production staff, retailers, distributors, and fans alike. I mean, damn. THere is a huge part of me that feels like GW is up to something much larger than just shuttering BI. I mean, sure Talisman, WHFRP and the brand new 40KRPG are now homeless…but so is GW’s own Bitz program which they have cancelled “for refinement.” Thats 14,500 skus…just gone. Tie the two together…and you go…hmmmm…

    I feel REALLY bad for the fans and developers of the games. It seems like a very silly move, done in a very unprofessional manner. Looks like the GW of 2007 is back to the GW of good ‘ole times….

  2. It seems to me that being a publically traded company, they tried a bunch of stuff to create growth, and when the profits came in as modest as they did, they had to change tactics to maximize their return on investment. Sometimes it’s tough to do right by a game when investors are breathing down your neck.

  3. The day I can generate (by conservative estimate) over $300,000 and consider that “too modest” to continue is that day I have too much money.

    Considering some of the names I’ve seen affected by this re-org, I think it’s more than just a simple case of the RPGs “under performing”. I was a shocked as anyone by this announcement.

  4. I would suggest continuing to remember they are a publicly traded company as they do interesting things to restructure their revenue. They have now axed two profit centers. Outright. That will sure have an interesting affect on their trading price. This sure sniffs of a publicly traded company priming itself for a sale…but thats just me thinking out loud.

  5. Again, if they could take the same outlay and generate even more profit by doing something else with it, then it makes sense on paper. (Nik, what would your estimate be for BI’s outlay on Dark Heresy? “No comment” is of course a perfectly acceptable answer – your forthrightness thus far is beyond the call of duty and much appreciated!)

  6. It seems that I read an editorial in White Dwarf a few years back completely discounting the RPG market mainly because RPG sales compared to miniature wargaming sales in the UK were not even close. To this consumer, the decision for GW to close BI is surprising, but at the same time it isn’t.

  7. I can’t speak for Nik, but my source confirmed an amount similar (in GBP). With thousands more outstanding in unfilled pre-orders because they ran out of books.

  8. I think the answer if to be found here- frantic cost cutting as the GW group makes a loss –

    Games Workshop in the red

    Date: Tuesday 22 Jan 2008

    LONDON (ShareCast) – War gaming model specialist Games Workshop swung into the red at the half way stage, although it said the figures were “encouraging”.

    The group reported a loss before tax of £192,000 for the six months to 2 December versus a £127,000 profit the year before on revenue unchanged at £54.6m.

    “We have re-established constant currency sales growth in the UK, the Americas and Asia Pacific, our gross margins remain strong, and our cost reduction programme is delivering the overhead reductions we expected,” said the company.

    “The directors firmly believe that the prospects for the business remain very good,” it added.

    Once again, there will be no dividend, with the firm using the cash to finance the ongoing cost reduction programme.

    “The board remains confident in the future growth and profitability of the group and will resume paying dividends when appropriate,” it said.

    * News Channel

  9. Hah! They stoped making the RPG’s due to huge novel sales. Perhaps the huge novel sales were from the thousands of new customers playing the RPG’s? Heck I don’t table top game…but I bought doezens of novels to get info for my Warhammer and WH 40k games! You can’t tell me that the spike of novel sales was from the table top gamers…those games have been around for decades!

    It’s too bad because the RPG’s were the best darn advertising they had. Advertising costs a fortune…its a great way to throw away money, yet the RPG’s generated an entirely new customer base for the Novels and Minis…And they at least made some money!

    Doc J.

  10. I think they should look at the closest business model I’ve ever seen to RPGs. Management Consultancy Publishing. That’s a
    niche that should appeal to management types.

    Most management books make very modest profits, or sell at a loss. Yet the bookshelves at bookstores and airports are full
    of them. Why? Because the books allow you to sell seminars, business toolkits, consultancy etc. RPGs are never going to
    have a huge profit margin, because the ‘flight to quality’ sees increasing emphasis on production values to generate sales,
    which in turn drives up costs, both because of the manpower needed to produce it, and the production costs of the
    physical fabric of the book. But the spin-offs, the supplements, the models, the novels, all have bigger profit margins. But
    you can’t have one without the other.

    In other words, core RPGs fuel the growth, and the rest drives the profits. GW are saying, based on their financial results,
    that they can’t afford growth, and are thus shutting down all their non-core projects to concentrate on profitability.

    It’s understandable, but doing it at the cusp of an expensive success smacks of someone in senior management, someone not
    connected to the development process, panicking and pulling the plug. They’ve lost a business opportunity, for all that the
    financials may seem to make sense somewhere.

    The answer to me seems obvious – sell on the license to develop the product line.

  11. Having watched the actions of Games Workshop for the past few years I have noticed that they seem to have lost touch with the everyday person. Making games more costly and elaborate to get into (Apocalypse anyone) and for only the fanatical gamer instead of the casual player. Perhaps if they focussed on the majority (the everyday person) and their needs, perhaps total sales (and therefore profits) would go up…

    Alot of people have waited a long time for Warhammer RPG’s to come to life, both fantasy and 40k, and to watch these things crumble now is a sad day indeed. Come on people get your act together and do it for the fans and not the profits. Remember the dreams and core values that Games workshop were built on, bringing life to these worlds for the people to enjoy….

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