Monday, April 17, 2017

Why the Thunderhawk isn't Plastic... and what should be!

Recently Forgeworld re-released the Thunderhawk Gunship and despite what the rumour engine said (or rather "wished for"), it was not in the form of a new GW plastic kit, but rather a resculpted refashioned FW resin kit.

TBH I thought all along it was going to be this. It was wishful thinking that we were going to see plastic. Really REALLY wishful thinking. Granted I would've welcome it and been super happy if it was, and likely preordered mine, but it wasn't going to be. Here is why

1- Plastic Injection Molding is expensive. Like REALLY REALLY expensive. The master mold designs for the sprues are tens of thousands of dollars. The baneblade is already 7 sprues. A thunderhawk would likely have to be AT LEAST double that. If not more. So design would be costly and as such...
2- It would be too expensive of a Plastic Kit. Lets go back to the Baneblade, $140 for the combined kit, $100 or $110 when it first came out (not-combined) IIRC. So if we go with double the sprues, lets imagine double the cost- $280. But as I said, it would likely be MORE. So lets look at the second number. Once more, IIRC that $110 price tag was around 65 to 70% of the original FW baneblade cost (and the current Stormblade, the only current Baneblade variant made by FW). Now the last version of the Thunderhawk was 435 GBP, which TODAY is $545. Keep in mine that right now the pound is down significantly, and that doesn't account for any taxes, but we will leave those out for now. If we go with our 65 to 70% mark, that would make a Plastic T-hawk between $354 to $381. So really, we are looking at some price in there likely- pretax and at a low conversion rate.
3- The T-hawk has too small a market of their already niche market. Sure, there are more Space Marine players than ANYTHING else, but even then you are targeting a small subset of the playerbase with a very factional model.
4- Customer willingness. Let us start with the fact that the model is nigh on unusable due to size and points. Most people would only break it out for a game a few times a year. Now you may say to yourself "but I would display it" and while this is true, it is still a factor in your model buying decision making for sure. If there are models you want that you will USE OFTEN they are likely to take purchasing priority over models you won't use often. Common sense really. Also, it is a flyer. Plain and simple, some people just avoid that part of the game still to this day. Add to it is is virtually impossible to store or transport easily. Like not at all. Stay is one gigantic piece and is huge. LET ALONE WHAT EVER BASE YOU NEED TO SUPPORT IT!!! Now on top of ALL OF THAT you are looking at spending a conservative $350. On something you barely use? That is enough to start some armies. A lot of people won't be willing to bite that bullet but...
5- Customer willingness. Again. Marketing probably figures making the leap from a max $140 plastic kit to a max $350 kit is too big a leap for most. But for some it isn't. For some, the model is worth that price. In reality, it is worth any price. So if you are willing to buy it for $350, you are likely willing to buy it resin for $545. So why not sell it for that much especially when...
6- It is cheaper to make resin and you can manage smaller production runs and handle more "just-in-time" production and warehousing techniques. This reduces costs. BY A LOT. It is no where near as expensive to make as plastic injection molding. At least not on the production scale it is at. This is where Plastic really comes into its own. WHEN YOU ARE MAKING TONS AND TONS. But points two through five really really eat into that demand. As a result, you won't be selling tons and tons. Therefor making tons doesn't make sense and plastic become a poor choice.

But that doesn't mean there isn't something that I feel GW should move from the MASSIVE Resin category to plastic.

I think a Warhound Titan is a much MUCH better candidate. "But didn't you just like totally argue that it would be economical to do that?" Well sorta. Here is why I think IT MAY BE feasible

1- Marketable to more factions. Instead of just SM, all armies of the Imperium AND Chaos can take it (and the most dedicated of Ork players too). Instantly expands the market.
2- The reason it costs so much from FW (A body and 2 arms is 362 GBP or $450ish USD) is not so much due to its size, but rather its technical design and status in and out of game. This is where we should start comparing it to a Knight, where as the Thunderhawk was best compared to a baneblade.
3- So if we start with that same 65% to 70%, we are already talking between $295 to $320, so less than the T-Hawk, and potential to really not cross that $300 threshold. But now we look at the 3 and 4 sprue knights (the 4th sprue being an upgrade sprue) . They are $140 and $150 each. Now if we DOUBLED the sprues we are at the price range I am already predicting, BUT I think actually it won't take 8 sprues to do (just opinion really) because once more, this is a TECHNICAL build more so than a bulk one. My guess, 6 sprues, maybe 7. So still upwards around $280, but I really think that could be driven down to about $250.
4- Customer Willingness. Yet again. So at a $250 to $300 range, we aren't looking at as large of a leap in price from the current max to the "new" max. And if GW could keep it under that $300 threshold, they would likely capture more people and not have to rely on that customer base jump to the FW price between the $300 and $450.
5- It is a walker. These are much easier to use in game and much preferred for a lot of people. Furthermore, it is a logical progression of the Imperial Knight. And it can take D weapons, which is a big rules attraction.
6- It is FAR EASIER TO STORE. For one you can separate its torso, guns and legs. Magnets are king here. And it needs far less support, so smaller bases, if any (maybe 1 per foot? IDK. Either way NOT THAWK SIZE). Since it is easier to store, it is also easier to transport. Really making it a practical gaming piece I will be willing to use more often than a Thunderhawk.

Now, this is all just based on my limited knowledge of the industry and a lot of opinion, but is makes SENSE to me at least. What are your thoughts?