WHFB is dead. Games Workshop no longer supports it. There is no 9th edition.
I am not going to get into if WHFB was profitable or not and the reason it was dumped in this article. That's all mostly speculation and the surrounding reasons why are a lot more complex than most people will have the attention span for. I will leave that for another post. What I am going to talk about is what has been done, and what we may expect in the future.
So first up lets look at what has been done.
First the barrier to entry has been substantially lowered. Gone are 100 pages of complex rules to read and memorize. In this age of low attention spans and Playstations, the market that Games Workshop needs to attract is substantially different than in the 90's.
If you take a look at other successful franchises, they all share a similar commonality. Simple, easy to pick up rules. Now I am talking things like board games and card drafting games. Each share a rules set that is often 2-4 pages long, and easy to read. X-Wing is riding a wave of popularity atm. Its easy to pick up, only a few pages of rules. Apparently there are people out there that don't think sifting through a tomb of rules is fun anymore. Yeah I know, weird aye.
Now I havn't mentioned model count or cost as a barrier to entry. These are really misrepresented in causality. They have nothing to do with why 8th edition was not growing. They where also self imposed by the player base, ie it was the customer that wanted to play massed ranked battles. There was nothing stopping people playing 1000 point games.
Cost is also a misnomer. There are many many examples of hobbies outside of tabletop wargaming that make it pale in comparison to costs. Ever tried airsoft? carting? how about football? Look a little more insular into similar fields. A PS4 will set you back a chunk of change, and then you will buy a dozen games a year. Just talk to a MTG player. They will tell you WHFB is cheap by comparison. Yet they are both very popular...
Whilst cost and model counts contribute, they are largely a result of the community. But I digress.
Next up, a total rewrite of the story. Not only just the story but the aesthetics to. Or an evolution if you will. Gone are Orcs, Elves, Dwarfs, and in come Aelf, Sigmarites, Duardin, Oruk etc I think its safe to say this is another flow on effect from the IP court cases of past. Games Workshop has made a move to protect its IP moving forward. The style is taken a step forward. We will no longer see classical or renaissance era models. To generic. Everything will be high fantasy, and at first glance a larger scale.
So this is what we have to date, well at least what we have confirmed to date.
Now the next part is a bit of speculation. Moving forward, what can we expect?
Now lets think of one of the more obscure rumors that came from reputable (in so far as rumour mongers go) sources. One stands out to me. Limited edition models. Not in the traditional sense that you would immediately think of, but more in a cyclic fashion. This was a rumour that was shouted down by many. The thought was cause for much internet rage.
But lets put this in a more rational light. Games Workshop wants to sell models. They don't value you as a customer after you stop buying. There is no money to be made in pandering to people with existing collections. Cry as you might this is the reality. Of life. If people for a moment think Wizards of the Coast or Privateer Press value your collection, you are wrong. They make no money off supporting already purchased product. They hold exactly the same view, despite outward appearances. They all play to our weakness of buying cool wardollies and collectibles. But after the sale has happened, there is no incentive to continue the relationship outside of trying to sell you more stuff.
So what better way to get people to purchase more models than to make last years stuff not as good, and the latest release the next big thing. Scandalous you cry! They already do you say. Well not to the extent I am thinking they will move too. Think discontinuing models and cycling them out, well at least, the less popular ones.
Welcome to Age of Sigmar: Magic the Gathering edition... (sic)
In MTG, the core rule set is about 4 pages long. It covers the basics, turn order etc. The complexity comes from the cards themselves, and the interactions they have.
There are 5 main "realms" red, white, blue, green, and black, and a huge array of cast which mix the colours.
Now each quarter, WotC will release a new expansion, and every year they release a new core set, cycling out the old. Cards from 2 cycles ago become invalid. If you dont buy the latest block expansion, your deck will become quickly invalid and uncompetitive.
MTG has no points values attributed to its cards, yet is entirely balanced. Everyone has access to every card yet cards will work much better by having synergy with the rest of your deck. There is no upper limit to the number of cards you can have in your deck, but you are limited to a maximum of 4 of each type (land excepted). There is a minimum size deck. MTG has sudden death victory conditions and a sideboard.
In MTG the lore is always advancing with each new core set and expansion. Nothing stays the same.
MTG is very expensive to keep up to date and competitive, yet is arguably the most popular scifi/fantasy game in the world.
Age of Sigmar looks to be built to a similar model
Simple short core rules
No points, no maximum size.
Victory conditions balance forces, sudden death etc
Complexity comes from a models "warscrolls/cards" interaction with other models
7/8 realms, 4 factions + opportunity to develop many many more
Releases will be cyclic. New stuff release is latest and greatest must have. It eventually moves to direct only support before getting discontinued to make way for more new stuff.
The lore/background fluff will be ever evolving, not static.
I think the new Warhammer replacement will be an ever evolving game. It might even be thoroughly competitive. The deployment rules are very interactive and add a whole new aspect to the game. Units appear to have natural practical size limits and there appears to be a lot of combo/synergy building set to happen with warscroll interactions. If there is indeed no points structure to balance the game, we could be looking at a full MTG model.
Would you play that game?
A lot already do.
But can it work with models. There is more investment (time) in models and there would not be the same trade market as MTG.