Reddit has a section called "IAMA" in which actual and former employees of all kind of jobs talk about them. In this case, an ex trades sales representative who worked for severeal years at Games Workshop has given lots of interesting answers.
I'm going to do a small list of the most interesting points because the thread is huge and quite long read, but has some gems inside, and also other former employees (like a casting manager) added info and answered questions.
Italic parts are comments from me, the rest are some of the employee answers summarized.
- Price jumps and high prices are because miniatures are not a non-necessary commodity, and because people can pay for those prices.
They are also high so that initially you cannot buy everything and you will come back next month for more.
- High prices also serve as entry point: GW doesn't wants everyone to play, they want it to be a "prestige game".
- Blood Bowl or Gorka Morka were great for players but terrible for sales, as the basic boxes had almost everything needed (so you wouldn't spend over time more money). That's why they don't reappear.
(but now that we've seen Space Hulk and Man'O War/Dreadfleet, maybe as limited reeditions...)
- The goal is to keep you in a cycle of perpetually buying your army, by generating the need to have the new things that come out.
- About how plastic models are created:
- Original plan for the 6th Warhammer Fantasy edition was to launch one army book per month. It didn't worked and now development cycles are longer.
- GW's policy is not to release information farther than one month out. They doen't want you saving your money until next month, they want you to spend it every month.
Also if you know that race X will be renewed in Y months , there's no reason for you to buy now instead of saving for the new models.
(apart from buying metal minis before they go finecast)
- GW and the stores do not want competitive players/tournaments. They want to run introductory leages, have new players, people spending in upgrading armies, but not playing just for winning.
- Armies are not perfectly balanced. There are "nukes" (too strong units), and GW does almost only internal testing of codexes.
- Gaming in-house (inter-staff) is way different than local gaming clubs. In-house want to play and have a great narrative, at stores/tournaments pleople play to win.
- Prices are not set by manufacturing costs, but for "play value". Their value to a gamer is where the price point is set, rather than what they cost to manufacture. This is the "goblin index". This is why plastic Terminators are only 5$ less than metal Terminators (while they are much cheaper to manufacture).
Employees paid minis by metal gram stock price instead.
- Space marines make up roughly 12% of sales, and all of the other races make up roughly 2% each, but that's lumping Ultramarines, Dark Angels, Blood Angels, etc. all in one big bunch.
40k and Fantasy actually split right down the middle in terms of actual sales. Popularity, may tend towards 40k in your area, but overall, both are really equally popular, according to the actual sales figures.
- The company LOVES and listens to the online community.
(Or so he says...)
- You get paid less than you would elsewhere (working at GW), as they have a steady stream of young fans who would just LOVE to take your job. The turnover rate was pretty high.
- GW isn't really afraid of any other company. For one thing, no other line can sustain an entire store on its own, unlike the GW retail outlets.
- The move to Finecast was due more to the rising costs of metal than anything else.
While they were not able to lower the costs of Finecast models, the cost of resin is much more stable than metal so, hopefully, this will keep price increases in check and make them less frequent.
- In his opinion the company has suffered a bit for losing so many dedicated, experienced folks.
Masters for plastics used to be made as "3-ups", 3x larger then the finished model.
They then use resin castings of those 3ups to make a layout of the mold in clay, contouring the mold lines where they need them to follow the edges of the model so there are no undercuts.
Then they make a resin "mold" of the layout. Then they do the same for the other side of the mold.
The resin mold they just made from the 3ups is then used on a machine called a pantograph engraver. The moldaker uses a stylus, which is attached to a flexible arm to follow the cavities of each part, on the other side of the machine there is an engraver removing metal from the aluminum or steel block. The mechanical arm that connects the molddmakers' stylus and engraver can be set to reduce the size to whatever you need, so when the stylus moves 3", the engraver will only move 1" for example.