I like Games Workshop, and I really like 3d printing – and one day, quite soon, those two likes are going to have an epic battle of their own, off the wargaming table.
We’ve seen the opening salvos of this fight – a hand-modeled ‘Tabletop Wargaming Robot Model’ was uploaded to Thingiverse and then taken down due to legal actions from Games Workshop, due to its similarities to some of their Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine Dreadnought models.
There was a bit of a follow up to that incident, where The Pirate Bay introduced a new category called ‘Physibles’ for 3d printable models – and that Tabletop Wargaming Robot Model was one of the first models uploaded. Taking a glance today, there are a few other files that seem to draw from similar inspirations.
But all of this is unrelated to the lovely model I’ve created by hand, above. I was reminded of tabletop wargaming, and Games Workshop in particular, due to a recent trademark controversy that swept across the internet this month. I’d been modelling some tabletop scenery (guard towers and stone wells) but wondered if I could model an actual character! Something that you can’t buy anywhere else – something that I felt would meet a niche need that wasn’t being catered to by lots of companies. Something like a female space trooper.
I checked to see how much prior art there was (and my – my searches turned up a lot of very angry forum threads about, for example, the impossibility of a female Space Marine) and I found a few customized male trooper models. This, unfortunately, usually involved gluing two hemispheres to the chest of an existing miniature, and were not what I was looking for. A few small companies produced a single female trooper each – amounting to approximately 3 different models in total. Not exactly a market with a great deal of variety.
So here she is – ready to 3d print on the printer of your choosing. Of course, she’s no where near as detailed as something you might buy from a real, injection molding or casting company – I am nowhere near as skilled a modeler nor is my (fairly fancy home) printer capable of achieving those resolutions – but you could easily use a squad of these on your table without too much mocking from your foes. In fact, my printer could be set up to do 27 of these lovely ladies in one build – that’s as good as an army in some tabletop games.
3d printing. It’s not currently a direct threat to some of those wargaming and roleplaying miniatures companies out there – I’d give it, say, 2 years before the quality is high enough from a home machine. I wonder what those companies are doing to prepare themselves for that day – what innovative and forward thinking business plans they have forged to embrace this inevitable eventuality, what customer friendly way they’ll be welcoming this revolution in their marketplace.
- Maybe they’ll offer ‘3d printed only’ models with a 3d printing partner like Shapeways?
- Maybe they’ll embrace the digital era and create posable character web apps that you can print and send to your home (or local gaming store for pickup)?
- Maybe they’ll let you scan your head to add to your favorite character?
- Maybe they’ll create a subscription service instead, and change to being a service provider rather than a conventional bricks-and-mortar retailer?
Who knows? I’m very excited to see what innovations we’re going to see in the very, very near future.