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  • Writer's pictureAlex Payne

The Warhammer 40K App: A masterpiece of diminishing returns

Updated: Jan 4


Or, why GW's plan for the 40k app is a huge mis-step.

Like almost all players in 9th edition, I relied solely on Battlescribe and wahapedia for list-building and rules reference. But with the advent of 10th edition, that changed drastically with the arrival of the brand new Warhammer 40k app.


Taking a leaf from the Age of Sigmar app's* longstanding model, this app combines rules reference and a list-building tool for competitive and casual game of 40k. Aided in no small part by the divisive move to power level-esque points - a unified points limit for units, with no granularity between models - it was a breath of fresh air after years of relying on dubious third party apps in order to be able to utilise my forces on the tabletop. Straightforward, user-friendly list building and a phenomenal reference for both core rules and all the index faction rules: the Warhammer 40k app, on release, was a triumph.


But from sunlit beginnings, the future of the 40k app - and 40k as a whole - now looks increasingly gloomy.

"From sunlit beginnings, the future of the 40k app - and 40k as a whole - now looks increasingly gloomy."

With the arrival of the first codexes of the edition, GW has announced that the previously free to use app will be both:


1) behind the Warhammer+ paywall; and - more critically -

2) that as codexes arrive, their content will be locked without a code from the book itself.


Here's the rub: I don't even think that placing the app behind a paywall is particularly undue, or unfair. It's a great piece of kit, and an excellent addition to Warhammer+. It's the second point that I think is a real mis-step. Locking more and more content as codexes arrive will result in a future where, eventually, the app will be - save for the core rules - entirely sealed behind a paywall, on top of the existing paywall needed to access it. There will come a time when nothing remains but a sea of greyed out boxes where once lovely, lovely datacards were on display for all.


The more I think about this, the more I believe the proposed, diminishing returns of the 40k app aren't just a negative for the app itself (why pay for an app that you have to pay again to access even your own armies information?) but for the 40k hobby as a whole.

"The more I think about this, the more I believe the proposed, diminishing returns of the 40k app aren't just a negative for the app itself but for the 40k hobby as a whole."

The first argument for keeping the upcoming codex content available on the app is simple: accessibility.


The "hobby funnel" is talked about fairly regularly and it is important to remember that GW's biggest market is and probably always will be kids and more casual painters, picking up the occasional box of space marines. Nevertheless, there is a real commercial merit in developing those fans into more committed, long term comsumers of your products - and garnering interest in 40k the game, not just 40k the hobby, is to me, possibly the easiest way to do that.


There are already significant roadblocks in achieveing this. Cost, availability of opponents, and the obliqueness of the game itself; there's a lot to put would-be players off. If they can't even easily decide what to bring to a game, let alone understand what they and their opponents forces actually do, there's a major issue.


Newer players need access to both the rules of the game, the rules for the faction, and the rules for their opponent. If driving new blood, fresh faces, bright eyed and rosy cheeked, towards your product is an underlying aim (simplified, not simple, remember) of 10th edition, an accessible list building tool isn't a nice to have. It's a basic requirement.

"If driving new blood, fresh faces, bright eyed and rosy cheeked, towards your product is an underlying aim of 10th edition, an accessible list building tool isn't a nice to have. It's a basic requirement."

The issues with 40k list building is not merely one for newer players, either: it's also vital for all levels of experienced play. And a lot of that comes down to another 40k "buzzword": gotchas.


As part of my ongoing 40k league (wooden spoon here we come, baby) I played a game this week against the new Tyranids codex. In every other game (marines, Orks, Eldar twice - yuck), once I had received my list from my opponent, I was able to utilise the refernce section of the 40k app to review my opponents list, review their units, special rules, and strategems, so that when it came to the game, I was clued up on what my opponent could bring to the game.


In the Tyranids game, however, this was markedly more tricky, and resulted in a slower game with more questioning of strats, rules and abilities on both sides. I'm a believer that some players cry "gotcha" perhaps too regularly in games - there's a degree of strategy to the game, after all, and recalling information and countering your opponents strategy is certainly a key part of that. Nevertheless, players need access to a library of what pieces in the game actually do; the rules that make them work, and what to expect in a game. It is a baseline to promoting a more open and competitive gaming experience.


There's a final point here, and that is in the relation to the codexes themselves. I understand that the turnover on codexes is a fantastic money-spinner for GW. They're relatively expensive paper goods, that can be switched out at a regular and immediate basis (World Eater fans, I'm looking at you). It would be completely understandable that they would view an app with access to all codex information available outside of the books themselves as a threat to those sales.


Except here's the thing:


People will buy them anyway.

"It is understandable that GW would view the app as a threat to the codex sales. Except here's the thing: People will buy them anyway."

In a lot of instances in 9th edtion, I didn't even use my codexes for rules. I bought them because they're god damned cool. I bought them because they're a great accompaniment to my beloved little plastic men. The art, lore, unit background and splash pages are what codexes are truly for - not the rules. Those have been easier to review in app format (battlescribe, cough) rather than constantly flicking through a book (or books) at the gaming table for a lot longer than GW would like to admit.


As is perhaps becoming a theme in these little rambles, I'll end this on an open-ended appeal to Games Workshop. By all means, incorporate the 40k app into the Warhammer+ subscription. Hell, even keep the actual lists you can build behind the codex code paywalls.** But for the sake of new players, old players, burgeoning players and returning players, please, please let people access the reference rules for all the codex forces. It isn't just intrinsically good for the game - it'll be good for business. I promise.


That, though, is just some idiot on the internet asking a multinational corporate entity to maybe make less money. Screaming into the void, I imagine.


Still, a nerd can dream.

 

Until next time,


Alex


*The inability of GW to coordinate across game systems and departments would be a surprise to me, except that I work in an office. So, I get it.


**Even though there is definitely an argument to be made for the "window shopping" aspect of being able to spitball potential lists for new armies that must surely be worth something for generating new sales. Just sayin'.





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