Yesterday I managed to knock off work early – which is nothing short of a miracle at the moment I can tell you – and spent my hard-won free time assembling some of the models from the new Cursed City game. Let me say this first and foremost, they are downright gorgeous miniatures and will be a real pleasure to paint. However, having found myself enough time to catch up on world events I also discovered this week’s big news – that Cursed City has mysteriously vanished, as though into thin air.
I must admit, I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised that the game sold out so quickly. This has been a trend with recent releases from Games Workshop, with supply being far outstripped by demand – particularly on these boxed sets. Knowing that I wanted a copy, and reasoning that I would treat myself and get it straight away rather than wait until whenever it came back into stock, I set an alarm to remind myself and was waiting, wallet in hand, as soon as it went up for pre-order. I did not for a second imagine however that once it had sold out it would be gone forever. Indeed Games Workshop were quite openly promoting the idea that this game would be around for a while. It seemed natural to expect that this successor to Blackstone Fortress would be available in the long term, and just like Blackstone Fortress would have plenty of expansions to enjoy in the months and years to come. To illustrate the point here are a few comments that were made by Games Workshops promotional team on social media over recent weeks (cropped to protect the privacy of those members of the public who were being replied to).
Based on that one could be forgiven for assuming that you could take your time before ordering, plan your budget and buy a copy when it suited you, rather than having to shell out mere seconds after discovering the (not insignificant) cost of the damn thing. However the message from Games Workshop has now changed radically. As far as I’m aware the only official statement from GW has been this “tweet” posted on Twitter, which makes it clear that the game is now gone and gone forever…
Nor have they tried to make this announcement obvious. Instead it’s hidden away in a reply to a comment on a different topic, on a social media platform that many people don’t use (I know precisely zero people with a Twitter account) where it would be remarkably easy for it to go overlooked. Not that it has of course, judging by all the chatter that’s been generated online and the number of angry comments that appeared in that Twitter thread alone.
“But the plans were on display…”Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”
So what happened? Frankly your guess is as good as mine, although lots of people are guessing and very few of them are giving GW the benefit of the doubt. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity but right now it looks a lot like GW just spent the last couple of months drumming up interest, generating hype and focussing the attention of their fanbase on what then proved to be a spectacular own goal. It’s similar to the situation that arose with Indomitus last summer – with a few key differences. For one thing Indomitus was the “launch box” for the latest edition of Warhammer 40k – and that remains GW’s goose that lays the golden eggs, the behemoth that – regardless of what you think of it – dwarfs everything else in the miniature’s hobby without breaking a sweat. It was always going to be popular. Secondly GW made it very clear that Indomitus was going to be a limited release – and much as I disapprove of limited run releases at least they were upfront about it. Thirdly, when it sold out in precisely 3.5 seconds – reportedly making an absolute mint for GW in the process – they kept it on sale for a few weeks on a “made to order” basis. This time around none of that has happened.
Instead the game has vanished like a vampire caught in the rays of the morning sun, and GW would appear to be engaged in pretending it never happened. Scent of a Gamer reports that references to the game are even being removed from GW’s various websites and social media platforms. The past has never been altered. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. There never was a Cursed City and there’s nothing to see here…
Based on what we, as outsiders, can see this appears to have been a last minute decision, made after the game launch was already well underway. Despite all the (completely understandable) ire that’s being flung in GW’s direction I don’t see any evidence that they set out to lie to their fanbase, although the above screenshots demonstrate that time has indeed made liars of them. We live in a world where politicians cry “Fake news” every time they encounter a story they dislike, NGO’s promote a platform of “no debate” rather than attempt to convince a sceptical public that their ideologies have merit, and campaigners will stubbornly repeat “That never happens” regardless of how much evidence is brought to them that the thing they want to assure us never happens actually happens all the bloody time. Is it any wonder that businesses too prefer to obfuscate their way out of trouble? Equally is it any surprise that a public which trawls through a slurry pit of conflicting lies and counter-lies on the daily news might be feeling averse to bullshit? I, at least, will attempt to be honest with you and say I really don’t know and can’t guess at what happened. Perhaps some catastrophic breakage occurred which left the mould needed to cast the models beyond repair? Perhaps they strayed into someone else’s Intellectual Property and found themselves at risk of being sued – just a little bit ironic given their past behaviour – although I admit I can’t see what exactly that might be.
Regardless of what happened I managed to snag myself a copy so I can now sit here, looking over the rage and disappointment that GW have spun for themselves like the smug, self-satisfied bastard I am. As I’ve previously mentioned the models in this box are amazing and I’m looking forward to getting to work on them – although I acknowledge that this will no doubt rub salt in the wounds of those who missed out.
Anyway, I’m off to pat myself on the back for having managed to quote both George Orwell and Douglas Adams in this post, then cry in the shower whilst muttering “Must get clean, must get clean” (a normal side-effect to looking at Twitter and no cause for alarm) before getting back to painting my lovely, and apparently now very rare, miniatures. If you have a Sherlock Holmes style deerstalker, or a tinfoil hat for that matter, feel free to wear them and expound on your pet theories in the comment’s section below. It may well be that they are as close to the truth of what happened as we ever come – although I’d have loved to be a fly on GW’s office wall over the last few days…