In the grim darkness of Warhammer 40,000's future, there is only one thing: war. In the grim darkness of Warhammer 40,000 fandom right now, there are only two: not enough hardback novels, and too many reseller bots gobbling them up.
In the vast array of tie-in fiction for the world of Games Workshop’s legendary tabletop wargame universe, few series hold a candle to the saga of the Horus Heresy. The long-running saga of prequel novels and assorted tie-ins first began publishing in 2006—set in what is in fact essentially Warhammer 30,000, during a time where the Imperium of Man faced a brutal civil war among the chapters of the Space Marines, spurred by the legendary Warmaster Horus turning to the side of Chaos. The mainline series of Horus Heresy books is set to end this year with the arrival of The End and the Death: Volume III, the 64th entry in the series, and the climactic 10th chapter of the Siege of Terra sub-series, depicting Horus and his forces’ assault on Earth itself as he attempts to lay his father, the God-Emperor of Mankind, low.
Suffice to say, it’s been a long time coming, and eagerly anticipated among Warhammer fans. Horus Heresy has spun off into its own popular sub-game of Warhammer 40,000 even beyond the novels, often regarded as some of the stronger in Games Workshop’s “Black Library” of Warhammer fiction. And given its importance to the narrative background even beyond that, the seeming final end of it all has drawn a lot of attention. Games Workshop has capitalized on this especially for the 10 volumes in the Siege of Terra collection, which kicked off in 2019 with a series of limited-edition hardback releases for each book in the series. Not only were the hardbacks given special, faux-leather bindings to look as if they were plucked from the shelves of a Space Marine Librarian, they were also the only way readers could actually get the latest, physical chapter of the story first—although digital versions would launch alongside the hardback release, the standard paperback release for each novel would only arrive a month or more after the limited edition books went on sale.
This creates a perfect storm of headaches for the invested Warhammer fan. Each limited edition release runs just about a couple thousand copies, so they’re very hard to come by, often selling out within minutes of appearing on Games Workshop’s online store. It also means that once you’ve gotten on board with buying them, you kind of want to go for the full set (Games Workshop, which is very good at selling things to its dedicated fans, also extended the Siege of Terra series by a further two novels, from the originally announced eight). It also means, inevitably, that Games Workshop has now spent the past few years trying, and largely failing, to combat resellers who scoop up the novels and sell them on third-party sites for magnitudes beyond the £50/$80 retail tag. Every time a Siege of Terra limited edition has released, the retailer’s official website sputters and wheezes out of functionality, and would-be collectors have to pray to the various gods, technological, chaotic, or otherwise, that they can get through and order. And if they don’t? They face having to pay quadruple or more on the aftermarket.
All this climaxed recently with the pre-order window for the aforementioned concluding chapter of the series, End and the Death: Volume III. The limited edition of the novel already sold out immediately upon release a few weeks ago, with Games Workshop’s still relatively new re-designed website—meant to more readily implement queue systems to mitigate high-traffic demand—leaving many attempted purchasers in the dust, as resellers picked up copies to sell on the aftermarket for hundreds upon hundreds of dollars.
Naturally, fans were miffed. To the point that Games Workshop announced, in an attempt to prove that it had successfully combatted resellers, it would be relaunching preorders across the world for End and the Death: Volume III today, January 24. “We are committed to only selling one per customer, so we have rejected any orders where a purchaser has tried to get more than one copy,” Games Workshop said announcing the re-release. “Our tech-savants aren’t revealing their methods, but needless to say they are not to be trifled with.”
Whatever those methods were, they continued to be considerably trifled with. Horus Heresy fans around the world rushed to the official Warhammer store website at 11 a.m. ET today to find a similar queue system—now with an added captcha code—that sent them into a waiting room with hour-plus wait times, with little indicator of progress. Over the next several hours, Games Workshop updated the queue to announce it was actually pausing its advancement multiple times, until eventually, just under two hours later, the site was updated to announce that End and the Death: Volume III had sold out once again, before promptly going into maintenance mode. As of writing, the queue system for the store is still in place, meaning if you just wanted to order literally anything from Games Workshop at the moment, you’re out of luck.
With more fans now even more disgruntled at missing out, Games Workshop has yet to comment on just how successful its anti-reseller techniques were. But considering the retailer’s social media mentions are filled with angry fans who were unable to get through, and sites like eBay are still filled with auctions for confirmed pre-orders, the answer is probably the same as it has been for most recent Siege of Terra releases: not a whole lot. Games Workshop is far from the only company that has had to deal with the reputation knock from resellers brushing up against fandom communities; just look at the furor Pokémon found itself in last year over a collaboration with the Van Gogh Museum. But its repeated failure to address the issue means that one of its most legendary series is going out on a sour note for many fans—more sour, even, than most things the forces of Chaos could cook up.
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