Is there really room for four new Total War games?

Last month, UK developer Creative Assembly proudly announced it has teamed up with Games Workshop to combine the worlds of Warhammer with its PC strategy series Total War.

There were plenty of serious, business-related questions to ask about Total War: Warhammer and its prospects. But there was one question that we were desperate to ask first:

Why not just call it Total Warhammer?

Brand director Rob Bartholomew laughs: Good question, and it’s something I’m sure we’ll hear plenty of. But for all branding purposes and my own marketing self-validation, we had to call it that. But I don’t think we will get too bent out of shape if everyone calls it Total Warhammer.”

The Total War: Warhammer project has been something that has been batted around the Creative Assembly office for around ten years now. The UK studio is best known for developing historically accurate PC strategy games, but Warhammer would give the firm the chance to try their hand at the fantasy genre.

But the developer never really had the resources to make it a reality. It made more commercial sense to focus on their own IP, rather than partnering up with a licence.

But that all changed a few years ago, when Sega restructured its business.

"Total War has received a huge amount of attention
from Sega in terms of resourcing
up and making sure we
have enough guys to start producing multiple
projects at once."

– Rob Bartholomew, Creative Assembly

Sega put all of its passion and resources behind the key Sega IPs and studios, including Sports Interactive with Football Manager, us with Total War and Alien, and with the Relic purchase a couple of years ago, Company of Heroes is part of that mix as well,” he says.

And as part of that emphasis on crown jewel IPs, Total War has received a huge amount of attention from Sega in terms of resourcing up and making sure we have enough guys to start producing multiple projects at once, and attacking new markets.”

There are currently five Total War development projects. As well as Warhammer, there is a team dedicated to downloadable content for the recently released Total War: Atilla, a group are working on Total War Battles: Kingdom for tablets, another team is developing the MOBA-esq Total War: Arena while a final set of developers are currently in pre-production on the next entry in the main Total War series.

Before this year, there had only ever been ten Total War games. And many of them are still played regularly years of their launch. The six-year old Empire: Total War remains a popular title, and hit 3m sales just two weeks ago. So it begs the question: is there really room for so many Total War games?

It’s something we have got to bear in mind, but we have not seen any evidence that we are saturating the market,” continues Bartholomew.

Previously there had been at least two years between major tentpole Total War games, and that will still be the case, it is just on top of that we have a number of other side projects that will fill in the gaps in the mean time.

All these projects mean we can still deliver the high quality that we are known for, whilst putting out different things within the Total War universe. I don’t think we have saturated a market of ‘thinking person’s game’, and there’s plenty of room for us to manoeuvre there.”

"I don’t think we have saturated a
market of ‘thinking person’s game’."

– Rob Bartholomew, Creative Assembly

So let’s take a closer look at some of these games that are currently in the works..

The biggest new title is Total War: Warhammer, which is being billed as a ‘trilogy’. Bartholomew explains that this will consist of three ‘massive’ standalone titles that can be connected together to create a ‘giant experience’.

The combination of the fantasy franchise with Total War sounds like an ideal match-up, yet there is a concern over the strength of the Warhammer IP. There are multiple Warhammer (and Warhammer 40,000) projects in the works for all varieties of platforms, but their quality varies widely, and this appears to have damage the strength of that brand.

Well, we are bringing that Total War magic to it,” defends Bartholomew. We talk about it internally as being a match made in heaven. We will have to go a long way to mess this up. Warhammer is a fantastic IP that has been going for many years, Total War is a great IP that has been going 15 years, there is a lot of stuff to like in that recipe, which I don’t think a lot of other strategy games – or any games really – have going for them. It’s a real marriage of IP.”

Another game on the schedule is Total War: Arena, a sort-of-but-not-quite MOBA that is going up against a slew of other PVP MOBA-type games. The ‘MOBA-like’ market has become inundated with competitors, so what can Creative Assembly bring to the space?

What Arena really delivers on is not just that authenticity – which it has with all the detail we put into the armies – but also that scale,” answers Bartholomew. When you are fighting in that massive battle with nine other guys, versus ten other real human beings, is quite a magical feeling, especially when your team comes together and it works really well.”

Then there is Total War Battles: Kingdom, which marks the firm’s latest foray into the mobile space, and Bartholomew says there is more cross-over between PC and mobile audiences than some might assume.

It’s not necessarily true that somebody who plays Total War on the PC will not be interested in a more pick-up-and-play experience on mobile,” he says. It is obviously a market that is really attractive, and should be to any game developer. We have had success on mobile before, we had Total War Battle Shogun, which was a paid app in a market where paid apps were definitely in decline, but it still did well.”

"We are mindful of not doing an injustice
to the brand we have created
and that fans love. You often see those
well-loved games that have been ruined by free-to-play."

– Rob Bartholomew, Creative Assembly

Arena and Kingdom are two games that represent a change in business model for Total War, as both games are free-to-play. Free-to-play is a term that strikes fear into the hearts of certain core gamers, but Bartholomew says the firm is careful not to damage the gameplay with the business model.

We are mindful of not doing an injustice to the brand we have created and that fans love,” he says. You often see those well-loved games that have been ruined by free-to-play.

There is always a concern from the core end of the market – which we speak to – about pay-to-win. So that the more money you pay, the more advantages you have. With Arena and Kingdom we are making sure that is not the first impression people have. They should be able to play the game, enjoy it, and if they pay some money they can alter their experience, but they won’t get an advantage over people who haven’t paid. That is a very important.”

There’s certainly a lot for Creatively Assembly to be getting on with, a plenty for Total War fans to look forward to – although whether they have the time for all these dif

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