Nottingham-based Games Workshop is heading to Hollywood after it agreed to bring its sci-fi Warhammer 40,000 universe on to screens in a deal with Amazon.
The company, which makes fantasy war game miniatures, will develop films and television programmes based on its characters.
Although the tie-up is dependent on contracts being signed, the tech behemoth will embark on “certain development activities” such as holding talks with writers, Games Workshop said on Friday. Shares in the company rose 14 per cent, but it did not give a value for the deal.
“Games Workshop has been talking about the potential in TV and film for some time and Amazon is an ideal partner,” said analysts at Peel Hunt.
“There are no numbers at this stage and this will take some time to come to screen. Nonetheless this is major news as it could deliver material royalties as well as expand the reach of Warhammer,” they added.
Games Workshop shares staged a strong rally during the Covid-19 pandemic amid a general increase in gaming during lockdowns. At their peak the company was worth £4bn, almost 10 times its annual revenues.
Although those gains have now largely unwound the company, which has more than 500 stores worldwide but does not regard itself as a retailer, is still worth more than Pets at Home, Halfords and Currys put together at £2.7bn.
The group, which produces intricate figurines that its devotees then use to enact complex battles between the forces of Chaos and the Imperium of Mankind, has been slowly developing alternative revenue streams from what it terms the “grimdark” of its intellectual property.
Turning the fantasy worlds of Warhammer into computer games, films and television series will helps recruit new players, which Games Workshop regards as vital to the future of the franchise.
“It is intended that rights will initially be granted to develop the Warhammer 40,000 universe,” the company said in a statement about the deal with Amazon.
Games Workshop made no changes to its financial forecasts for the period to the end of May 2023. Licensing revenues are still relatively small at £28mn in the year to May 2022, just under 7 per cent of the total. But they have grown rapidly, having risen from £11.3mn in 2019, and they are very profitable.
Andrew Wade, at Jefferies, one of a handful of analysts that follows the company, said he had expected the pace of licensing income to moderate in future years in the belief that “only a major film deal would support another step-change”. “With today’s news, that is now a very real possibility,” he said.
Superman star Henry Cavill, who has previously spoken about his enthusiasm for Warhammer, confirmed he would star in the productions.
“I have loved Warhammer since I was a boy, making this moment truly special for me,” he said in a statement. “The opportunity to shepherd this cinematic universe from its inception is quite the honour and the responsibility.”