For a long time now, it has seemed that Rackham Entertainment, the French the French miniature modeling company in competition with Games Workshop (GW), was content to follow slavishly in the footsteps of their British rivals. With Rackham's Confrontation sales flagging in comparison to GW's Warhammer Fantasy Battles (better known in the community as WFB), and their new AT-43 system unable to get much traction against the entrenched Warhammer 40000, it seemed as though Rackham was at risk of going into the long spiral to oblivion. Enter new executive management, though, and all of that seems to be changing.
Until recently, Rackham has been content to follow GW's standard business practice and release armies and army books in a long thought out scale, hoping to make money both on the models and the books. Unfortunately for Rackham, while model sales have been OK, the sales of rules system sets and army books have not. Why? Well, the reasons are manifold, but the primary reason is that folks buy Rackham's models to proxy in other game systems like Warhammer 40000 or WFB. While this was an easy trend to spot, the real question was what to do about the problem. Rackham forwarded their gambit to overcome this loss at the beginning of March, and I have the feeling that this very well may do the trick of turning things around for them.
The beginning of March saw major changes come down the pike for Rackham's website. It went from fairly bland and clunky to sleek, exciting, and well integrated, but a new frock could not save the company by itself. The most important change to Rackham's new site was a section offering the rules for FREE. That's right, all of the rule books, all of the army books, all of the supplements, all for free. Now anyone can pick up Confrontation or AT-43 without having to spend money on the books, and can use those models they bought for a new game.
The main question now is: Is this too little too late? In spite of the lamed economy, GW is posting profits and sales increases, so obviously there is a market out there with money to spend on pushing small models around the table. Rackham's system is well developed, simple in its design, and well thought out in its execution, but will that be enough to offset the major advantages of GW? Of equal import is the question of something wargame players refer to as 'codex creep'. Rackham's most recent new armies have seen a massive scaling up of power in contrast to the original release armies. Does this mean that an entire new rules set is on the way, or that the older armies will be getting newer army books? Only time will tell, but I know that I will be watching with great anticipation.
If you would like to learn more about Rackham Entertainment or AT-43, keep your eyes on this blog on Thursday when Part 2 of my AT-43 series will come out.