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Q&A with Jon Gillard, EVP, Global Licensing, Games Workshop, Owner of ‘Warhammer’

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License Global speaks with Jon Gillard, executive vice president, global licensing, Games Workshop, owner of “Warhammer,” to discuss the raft of launches bringing the vast world of “Warhammer” to life.

License Global spoke with Jon Gillard, executive vice president, global licensing, Games Workshop, owner of “Warhammer,” to discuss the raft of launches bringing the vast world of “Warhammer” to life. 

How is this new emphasis on content and entertainment going to change the game for the “Warhammer” universe? 

There are many millions of “Warhammer” fans worldwide, some who are currently very actively engaged through the hobby angle and some who never got into that side, or don't do it anymore, but do read the books or play the video games. What they all have in common is a love of the IP and an incredible appetite for content based on it. It's been our long-held desire to serve that need and doing it in entertainment formats is the next logical step. 

In addition, we know there is a massive global audience for really cool, exciting sci-fi and fantasy, with great stories and characters in unique, distinctive and compelling settings. The “Warhammer” universe is unlike anything else in the world, and we've already got lots of experience doing this through our Black Library novels business, so we're excited to repeat this success through various entertainment projects. 

To ensure we're addressing both current and potential fans, we have developed a two-pronged approach. Firstly, there is already a lot of great fan content out there. Some of that is being brought in-house to sit alongside other internally generated animation projects. All this content will be aimed squarely at “Warhammer” fans and will provide levels of depth and nuance for this highly “Warhammer” savvy group. Secondly, in licensing, we will develop big content projects in partnership with companies worldwide that we expect to appeal to that broader audience that is less knowledgeable and will need more accessible offerings. I guess a similar comparison would be the difference between the sort of fans who read all the Avengers comics ever written (which I probably have!) and the broader group who watch the movies. Of course, it's vital that all the content is authentic to the IP and that any larger-scale projects are still appealing to the core fans.  

This content strategy also enables us to build specific franchises within the wider IP and build licensing programs based on those interpretations. This is a strategy we are already applying to some of our video gaming IPs. For example, the highly anticipated game “Warhammer” 40,000 Darktide' – releasing this year off the back of the hugely successful ‘Vermintide’ games – will have a host of associated licensed products and programs around it from launch.

What was your first foray into gaming, and how can players, audiences and licensees expect that gaming brand to grow? 

Well, we've been a gaming/miniatures company since the very beginning, “Warhammer” the tabletop game was originally released in 1983 and as one of the great seminal fantasy/sci-fi IPs, it has inspired a lot of what came after it but has always stayed unique and distinctive. Nowhere is this more true than in the video gaming space. Since the release of 'Space Hulk' in 1993, we have seen enormous success with several best-selling games on PC and console, and increasingly mobile. The nature and sheer scale of the “Warhammer” universe is so huge, detailed and inherently created to give flexibility that video games have been an obvious way to explore them as well. We've created video games in genres as diverse as grand strategy world domination titles like 'Total War: “Warhammer” to more up close and personal action fests like 'Vermintide' or 'Space Marine.' The worlds we have created – and continue to build – lend themselves to many different gaming experiences. There will be more AAA game releases over the coming years as part of our strategy to work with the best publishers and developers worldwide and bring audiences the most immersive games from all parts of the “Warhammer” universe. We're also increasing our reach into different demographics and territories with mobile games such as “Warhammer 40,000 Lost Crusade” and “Total War: Warhammer Battles” working with established partners like Sega and new Chinese partners like Netease. We intend many of these games, like “Darktide,” to be built into successful franchises and live outside of just the video gaming category. 

The Eisenhorn series is in development. Why was this the first property touchpoint for GW's transformation into television? 

The Eisenhorn novels are some of the best-selling we've ever done. They're written by the NY Times best-selling author Dan Abnett whom we've been working with since the beginning of our publishing business. As well as being a “Warhammer” aficionado, Dan has worked on multiple other properties for Marvel and other universes and has a great ability to make characters accessible and engaging while staying true to their lore.  

The story involves characters who have a unique position in the universe that explains it to an audience unfamiliar with our IP. At heart, they're ensemble-cast crime dramas with lots of action and diverse and complex characters, kind of (elevator pitch warning) 'Breaking Bad meets Sherlock,' but in space with a backdrop of humanity under constant threat. So definitely “Warhammer” 40,000 in aesthetic and style, but also relatable dramas with compelling core characters who have to make difficult and often fatal choices. Working with Frank Spotnitz and his production company on this has been a joy. Frank gets character and sci-fi dramas, as shown by his previous shows ('The Man in the High Castle,' 'The X-Files' Etc.), and has fallen in love with the universe and themes. As our first live-action project, it will be a great way to introduce people to the glorious scope of “Warhammer.” 

Games Workshop speaks exclusively to License Global about the detailed universe of “Warhammer,” the upcoming content launches and the details behind the brands growing success in the forthcoming Games Issue, launching April.

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