We've talked about 3D printing and it's threat to Games Workshop before. but now the Huffington Post is reporting that 40K-Infringing objects have begun to show up on the Pirate Bay.
Pirate Bay Hosts Physical Objects - And Violates Games Workshop Copyright?
Huffington Post UK
A model listed by an anonymous user as a 'Tabletop Wargaming Robot Model' - but identifiable to the Huffington Post UK as the likeness of a Warhammer 40000 Space Marine Dreadnought, which is a trademarked design of the UK-based Games Workshop Group PLC ...
I'll offer this advice to GW:
Look at what has happened to Music and Movies. You can't stop this trend, you can only co-opt it.
You can make money off of 3D printing if you move NOW. Use the time you have left (about a year) to set up a paid service that (within limits) allows your customers free access to your IP; so that they can mix and match model parts to their hearts' content. A head from this line, a chainsword from that one, a custom fan-sculpt of this other torso from the Horus-Heresy era.
Change poses, add a scenic base, and...
Then you print our models on your own high quality equipment and ship them to us at a tidy profit. Or you charge a set fee to let us download the customized model (to your protected printing app) so that we can print it ourselves using your own protected software. You can also offer creators of new models a cut of whatever their designs sell for.
Your model to follow would be Apple's iOS App Store. In addition to selling your own models, you want to leverage the creative efforts of your 3D-talented fans. So that you can then sell those models back to the 3D-untalented majority. Apple takes a third of what it's developers make selling their apps, there's no reason that you couldn't do the same with fan-made models. And... Just like Apple, you could charge "Model Developers" a fee to start working with your IP. With full control over what models get approved and which ones don't. So that you can provide a consistent level of quality.
An iPad/iPhone "Custom Model" app would be a great place to start. You can control the user experience much more easily, and these platforms are less hackable. Which protects your IP from being copied.
Get this thing up and running and you'll be amazed at the possibilities. Want to compete with Flames of War more directly? Just publish some 15mm 40K/Fantasy rules and the models will spring forth from the community over time. Providing you with additional sales without your having to do very much at all.
Then you can decide at your leisure whether there's enough interest to warrant full plastic production of a particular model line. Which could use some or all of the same sculpts that your fans have made already.