Sabertooth Games, the Seattle-based CCG publisher that has created a collectible card game based on Games Workshop's popular Warhammer 40,000 miniatures game, announced that 85% of the company has been acquired by Games Workshop. The Warhammer 40,000 CCG, which debuted in October (see 'Warhammer 40K CCG At Printer'), evidently impressed the management at Games Workshop enough that they decided to acquire Sabertooth with the intention of creating more CCGs based on Games Workshop games (although Sabertooth will not be limited to working solely on Games Workshop properties). Working on the acquisition did slow Sabertooth's progress on the first Warhammer 40K expansion, but the company plans to be back on schedule by the end of the first quarter.
For Sabertooth Games, the investment by Games Workshop provides the resources and access to Games Workshop artists like John Blanche that will allow the company to upgrade its products. For Games Workshop the acquisition means that the company will now have control over a company that can fully exploit the CCG potential of the numerous Games Workshop properties.
Based in Britain, Games Workshop has been viewed with suspicion by many retailers and distributors in the games business because of GW's interest in vertical integration from publishing all the way to consumer sales at company-owned Games Workshop stores. Sabertooth, which will remain in Seattle, took pains to announce that the Games Workshop buyout did not mean that Sabertooth games would be available only in Games Workshop stores.
Unlike TSR, which was never able to exploit the miniatures potential of its groundbreaking games, Games Workshop managed to get the most out of each consumer by encouraging the purchase of armies of miniatures to enhance play, but since the advent of WOTC's Magic the Gathering, CCGs have increasingly dominated the games marketplace (see 'Top Ten Games'). The acquisition of Sabertooth gives Games Workshop the best chance of maximizing its profits from and control over CCGs made from its properties.
A good indication of the amount of control Games Workshop will exercise over Sabertooth Games will be evident in how Sabertooth deals with its existing distributors. Games Workshop has consistently undermined distributors (by shortening or eliminating 'distributor' discounts). With a crowded CCG marketplace and many more potential distributors for CCGs than RPGs, it will be interesting to see if Sabertooth will change its patterns of distribution to put them more in line with those of its parent company.