The Ferrari Mentality

I know, I know. I’m so ridiculously behind here.  I do have some pretty good reasons, though, so I’m hoping you’ll cut me a little slack.

I jumped back here for two reasons.  First, shamelessly, is to promote the new book release.  Broadway Paperbacks just released Ex-Communication today (third book in the Ex-Heroes series).  It’s available at your local bookstore, Amazon, on the Kindle, at Audible.com... everywhere.  Check it out.

Second is to rant a bit about a phrase I see popping up again and again, usually to explain (or excuse) Games Workshop’s prices.  Because they’re really getting kind of crazy.  I originally started this page because I was a struggling writer who couldn’t afford to pay GW prices when I need to pay rent.  Well, paying the rent’s a lot easier now, but—as much as I love it—I’m still not sure I can afford how much this game costs.
Anyway, the phrase in question is “the Ferrari of miniatures games,” or some variant on it.  If you follow this hobby on the web (and you’re here, so I’m guessing you do), you’ve probably seen this idea expressed one way or another.  Simply put, Games Workshop feels like they’ve got the best products which carry a certain prestige and status to the owner, and that warrants the highest prices—much in the same way a Ferrari costs so much more than a Volkswagen or a Kia, despite having all the same basic parts made from all the same materials.

See, there’s one huge problem with this idea, though.  And it’s the one GW—and most of us—tend to overlook because it reflects on us.

Everyone knows what a Ferrari is.  Everyone knows what it’s worth.  Everyone knows it is a high point, if not the pinnacle, of automotive ownership, and almost half the people in the world own cars.

Let’s repeat that word, because it’s important.  Everyone.  Not just the girls at the club or the guys at the office.  If I drive a Ferrari through a village of huts in Africa or a six-building town in the Australian outback, people there are going to point at my car and go “Holy Crap!  A Ferrari!  Here!  Holy crap!”
A Ferrari is a status symbol because of this universal recognition.  That’s how being a status symbol works.  Something can’t be “the Ferrari of X” unless X is also something universally known and recognized.  You could have the Ferrari of shoes or refrigerators, but the Ferrari of mellonballers is just kind of silly (no matter how beautifully designed that mellonballer is).  Something just can’t be that kind of status symbol if 99% of the world doesn’t use it or holds it in a poor light.

For example... little toy soldiers.

If I try to impress the girls at the club with my pro-painted Dark Eldar models, I feel safe saying I’ll be going home alone that night.  If I bring up my phenomenal Demon Prince conversion during my performance review at the office, it probably won’t improve my chances for that promotion.  And if I show up in that African village or Australian town carrying an armload of Space Marines, odds are I’m going to learn lots of colorful local terms for “geek” and possibly also “weirdo,” “man-child,” and maybe even “loser.” 

I don’t say this to be cruel, just straight-forward.  All of us here are a lot of grown men and women who play with little toy soldiers.  The vast majority of the planet’s population does not see this as something to be incredibly proud of or as a huge plus in the personality/ life choices departments.  I can try to spin it anyway I like, but that’s the simple truth of things.  I’m okay with it (hell, I also like LEGOs and I write about superheroes fighting zombies for a living), but I’m also under no illusions about it.  We're a minority.

See, that’s why this whole Ferrari mentality (and business plan) doesn’t work.  People are willing to pay huge sums of money for a Ferrari because everyone, everywhere knows what owning a Ferrari means.  Not to sound crass, but people get sex out of owning Ferraris.  Yes, even today. 

And that’s never going to happen with little toy soldiers.  No matter how crisp the lines are on those highlights, owning a box full of Game Workshop Fire Warriors and Crisis Suits is never, ever going to be a status symbol.  Which is why this mentality—and pricing system—really can’t be applied to them.

The whole idea of “the Ferrari of little toy soldiers” is just... well, stupid.

So, in conclusion, please buy my books so that I can afford a box set or two of toy soldiers this year.

Or maybe even a Ferrari.


  1. I have totally stopped buying from Games Workshop any more. In the last 8 months I have bought 40k materials at discount through resellers, people having garage sales, with coupons at my Gaming store, and off of ebay. On each item I have a max price I am willing to pay for it. $30 for a Storm Talon for instance. And that is what I am willing to pay for it. period. $30 including shipping and handling. if I can buy the one I'm looking at right now for $30 I will. If not, I'll keep looking. GW's current business trend seems to be one of "Give us your money now. We don't care about tomorrow. We want your money today. Period."

  2. good to see you back, Mister Clines! Was worried you'd forgotten about us. ;)

    Good point, well made. It's always confused me why GW charge so much... and they're really odd about who can sell their products - don't know if it's the same in the US, but over ehre only Official GW shops are allowed to sell GW products. Which means there is precisely one shop where i live that stocks the stuff, and they've got hardly anything in stock because there's all kind of weird rules on pricing and ordering etc. They still haven't received the Guards unit i ordered for christmas last year. It just doesn't seem like an effective business model to me.

    mind you, they must be making money, so what do i know? ;)


  3. I think you're missing a point.
    Miniatures do not cost $400k to get one.
    Ferrari owners in a small village can be looked atthis way:"tsss, another of those jerks not kknowing the real meaning of life, the joy in little things. Such a sad rich man"
    By that, I mean GW strategy is definitely not to be compared to ferrari. My view is that they know the financial power of the masses. They get hold of a fan base, and slowly but steadily increase their leisure expenses on what is important :their company.
    No company cares much for other companies. GW can't be bothered with you going to the movies. Same for your cinema and your GW addiction.
    It's business, and it's working. 3rd party sculptors are not that much cheaper either. The price is set even outside the main stream.
    So, excuse me for saying this because I like your blog and have nothing against you, but you're just being cheap. What happened? Somebody kicked your butt in a game and you believe you need to spend 200 to be able to have a chance to win? If you feel this way, then it's just that you're a nice customer :-) my words are harsh, sorry. Not mother tongue here, and I still want the message to go through, because I think it can widen your views. Compare your words with one of a drug addict. The one coming back to the dealer every week. You're not much different. I happen to spend on GW when it pleases me, which is when I have some money. Last time before the recent releases, I bought in 2001. Do i hate the price increase? No. Certainly making me feel nostalgic, but everything gets expensive, not only GW, but your bread, your milk, your eggs, your rent. You're part of the society. You keep paying more for the same. The problem is not GW, it's our society. But then, it goes on a different plane of discussions not belonging here :-)

  4. Aurelien, I had a larger response written out, but I think I'll just say that you missed the point. I'll politely chalk it up to your self-admitted lack of skill with the English language.

    Perhaps, in the future, you shouldn't respond with a lot of rude suppositions to something you admit you have trouble understanding...?