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State of the Microworld 2021

 Post subject: State of the Microworld 2021
PostPosted: Thu Jun 24, 2021 3:39 am 
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On the 2020 thread I was asked to give a 2021 update.

I had to think a bit about what to say in an update for this year. For now I can give a bit of a mini-update, no pun intended. It is hard to give a concise picture of what is going on with the business, the why’s and what not. It ends up covering many different topics which makes it all confusing. I’ll do my best though.

A good summary would be: Until my work situation changes, many of my release plans are on the backburner. I have a huge backlog of products in a diverse set of genres and scales that need to be released, but currently lack the resources to do so. When I say resources I actually mean time and motivation, both of which kind of feed into one another.

In a way I can’t really believe it is already June. My life this year has been completely and utterly consumed by my day job. I had hoped that things would gradually improve for me, but that just doesn’t seem realistic. I don’t expect anything to get better for me before September. After that…who knows. I know that it has to let up eventually, because I can’t continue on at the current pace. I was supposed to be logged back in right now actually.

As a result of my working situation, I am often left mentally exhausted and with very little free time. The exhaustion + lack of time has the side effect of sapping my motivation to do anything but just exist. At a high level, the business continues to operate much the same way it has been operating. I pack and ship orders, do inventory (poorly), cast some minis, send casting orders to the various casting houses, coordinate with sculptors, artists, etc. The thing that suffers is that final, time-intensive step of actually getting new products out there.
A few other things have sapped my motivation and hurt morale a bit this year. The changes to the various tax rules and global shipping rules…just suck. They take the joy out of it. Getting murdered on shipping is one thing, but now I have to manage an Etsy store as well, which complicates inventory, costs me money, as well as time in adding the products, which I am still far away from completing. It just complicates everything, which means I need to invest time to figure it all out (see lack of time above).

My casting machine also died earlier in the year, huge pain. Also cost me thousands of dollars to fix. Huge bummer. I technically should have just upgraded at that point to a more expensive compressor-based machine, but I was not set up to have a machine of that kind running on my premises, and couldn’t imagine sending tons of molds out to my casters as a stop-gap and then having them mail them back to me later when i get my situation sorted. Also, given the rise in 3d printing in these niche scales...not sure it is really wise to dump like $7k on a 300 pound behemoth of a casting machine.

Last year I ran a successful Kickstarter, which was great. But it also confirmed something I already knew…it doesn’t pay to release anything that isn’t a Kickstarter. The difference in sales was insane. But it takes time and planning to run a KS. It is a ton of work to fulfill the KS afterwards. This really impacts my release schedules, as I have to pick and choose what I want to take a massive loss on, and what I want to kind of almost break even on (maybe). The whole shipping and taxes thing also sort of shit on my KS plans a bit, as I wouldn’t be able to ship to folks in the UK. I guess I can still ship to the EU, but all parcels now qualify for tax and surcharge.

I guess the last thing that has been a general bummer for me that I touched on earlier is the rise of 3D printing and digital sculptor Patreons. Long story short, artists make more money doing Patreon than they would freelance sculpting. So, at least for me in these small scales, it is getting seriously tough to find folks that are available, or available enough to commit to doing a full release worth of work.

Anyway, I guess this wasn't so mini of an update. I’m not going to give any vague release schedule or order of releases. I look back at these posts over the years and I am nothing but wrong most of the time. If anyone wants an update on a particular product line, feel free to post a question, I would be happy to discuss the gory details.

I can share a list of Kickstarters I had rattling around in my head, any of which are viable to be launched assuming I had the time (no particular order):

Generic 6mm scifi – a bunch of generic infantry, 3d printed power suits and mechs, and a ton of resized 6mm vehicles from the National Cheese Emporium Shapeways store.

3mm Fantasy Dwarves and Goblins

6mm Warring States Chinese – huge line, will be a glory to behold

6mm Elven Kingdoms – aka the unluckiest product line in the businesses’ history

6mm Bronze Age – aka the 2nd unluckiest product line in the business’ history

15mm fantasy barbarians and giant warbeast – Sculpted several years ago, I don’t think I ever bothered to show previews after how poorly received the initial 15mm stuff was

6mm Renaissance expansion - Mostly sculpted, but still need to have all the pikemen redone with 18mm thicker pikes

Tons of fantasy naval stuff

You start to see the problem. Given I can probably run 2 KS’s per year…I really just have to pick and choose what to take those big hits on.

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 Post subject: Re: State of the Microworld 2021
PostPosted: Thu Jun 24, 2021 4:05 pm 
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If I can comment on the morale issue, I know it doesn’t help, exactly, but I am 100% on board and understanding of that issue. The past year has been just awful. I lost people I was really reliant on, and friends who I had thought I could count on to help me through it instead abandoned me over stupid, made-up reasons, which still have me scratching my head. I have been crawling my way back to doing comics again and just keeping the ship afloat has been enough of a problem that it’s sometimes all I can think about. Trying to do creative and intellectual work like this is not helped by low feedback and being trapped inside. But as a friend of mine said “It’s an epidemic, not an arts retreat.” The wellspring of creativity is very fragile and can be shut off by a lot of things, not least of them fatigue. So when you say how heavy it feels, I completely understand.

But I can say this much: Microworld is absolutely my favorite minis company, and losing it would be a real blow to the hobby. Your willingness to do things outside the rote, mainstream copies upon copies we see today is a real benefit to the whole hobby.

I know you can’t build a business on one person’s orders, but as long as you’re making minis you have a dyed in the wool customer in me, and I will continue to promote your work every chance I get.

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 Post subject: Re: State of the Microworld 2021
PostPosted: Thu Jun 24, 2021 6:48 pm 
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If you so the 3mm Dwarfs and Goblins kickstarter I'm gonna support the shit out of it!

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 Post subject: Re: State of the Microworld 2021
PostPosted: Fri Jun 25, 2021 1:47 pm 
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A bajillion times yes. I would support the hell out of a 3mm fantasy Kickstarter. Or even three - one for the Dwarves, one for the Goblins and one for the Humans.

In my fevered imagination I’ve begun working on a campaign-and-tabletop game system for your 3mm line. Quick play - sit down and maneuver your armies and fight three or four battles in a two hour session. I’m even already thinking up ways to build a modular terrain set for it.

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 Post subject: Re: State of the Microworld 2021
PostPosted: Fri Jun 25, 2021 2:33 pm 
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Quote:
I guess the last thing that has been a general bummer for me that I touched on earlier is the rise of 3D printing and digital sculptor Patreons. Long story short, artists make more money doing Patreon than they would freelance sculpting. So, at least for me in these small scales, it is getting seriously tough to find folks that are available, or available enough to commit to doing a full release worth of work.

This is a very tricky one. I've been discussing it with Vanguard Miniatures as well, but it tends to end in lamentations of the market having changed. As a digital sculptor I'm a bit conflicted, I've been doing a lot of designs for Vanguard and others, but sadly enough many of those designs (whilst the rights to them were sold to the clients) have never been released, they are basically in limbo because other items have higher priority and what not. From an artistic point of view I find that very frustrating since I did put a lot of time in those creations and would love to see them being used by the community.

The fact that some companies are now also considering selling STL's directly to their customers, what's in it for the sculptor? You can say "well, but I pay you", but that doesn't fully cut it in this case. The reason I'm selling the rights to my designs to others is because they can produce physical models (read: high end printing, casting, and the whole distribution thing). I'm more than willing to sacrifice in my pay to see models released that way (and I have been sacrificing greatly on that regard). But if it's just the sales of STL's it becomes odd, I can simply dump my designs on a Patreon or other platform and not only does it mean that people will get direct access to my designs, I'll also get paid more. For those without a printer at home, I can always licence 3rd party printers to sell the prints of my designs directly. Again I'm making more money on that and said designs will actually see the light of day.

However, if I were to run such a project, it would also mean that I need to do marketing, so promote it on social media and the various forums. I think for many designers/producers this is an annoyance, for me it's something I've grown kinda used to considering I've been almost singlehandedly keeping many Facebook groups and 40k/Epic themed forums updated on each release Vanguard Miniatures has been doing for the last couple of years.

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 Post subject: Re: State of the Microworld 2021
PostPosted: Sat Jun 26, 2021 2:53 pm 
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@Malika

That is exactly what I am talking about. Its like, hey, I can pay you a one-time fee for these $800 worth of models, but then I can't commission anything else for probably 4 months, and these models won't be released for another 8 months VS. just create a Patreon and get steady income and people print and play immediately, or even a KS for files.

I think for me its just wrestling with the fact that the market has significantly changed again, and whether or not I want to be part of that change. I think there will always be a market for little metal soldiers, but the market just may shrink significantly.

I could just become a print farm and start licensing and selling prints from across the various patreons. That might be the smartest thing to do, but I didn't really get into the business to do that though. Something I am working on now with a 3D file creator is licensing the designs specifically for 6mm metal production. The sculptor retains the rights to the files, and for the fee I pay they do any work necessary to downscale and make castable, and I am able to sell the metal casts in perpetuity.

The sculptor may then do whatever they wish with the files. It solves the problem of not being able to find people to sculpt. It also means I am not really master of my own destiny in terms of commissioning things I want made.

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 Post subject: Re: State of the Microworld 2021
PostPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2021 3:45 pm 
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Printing with casting as a hybrid option is an interesting approach to evaluate as well perhaps

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 Post subject: Re: State of the Microworld 2021
PostPosted: Mon Aug 02, 2021 4:41 pm 
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That's really interesting to read Malika and it does sound like a bit of a quandary for you.

I will definitely say you have been the most visible mouth-piece for Vanguard and I can see you do an awful lot of work publicising the releases. Your posts on here, Dakka, B&C etc are probably the reason I know about their new releases, have then gone on to buy stuff etc. and I'm sure I'm not the only one in that position.

Have you thought about doing both and running your own site to directly publish your own materials, or at least dipping a toe in both options?
I know what you mean, on the one hand you don't have to go through doing the business admin stuff (and in effect are going through a publisher) which means you don't have that bother. But, it seems like there could be a better approach to however you get compensated if they are just going on to directly sell the STL files you have created.


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 Post subject: Re: State of the Microworld 2021
PostPosted: Tue Aug 10, 2021 4:27 pm 
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I have been considering selling my own designs (STL's). First I wanted to do a Patreon, but my output is too irregular for it to be worthwhile for anyone. So now I wanna open up a shop on one of the existing platforms (3d cults, cgtrader, etc) and sell the STL's there. Perhaps also licence printing services to sell the printed versions of those designs. There's just one thing that's currently holding me a bit back: once the files are out there, anything could happen to them. I don't mind people remixing my designs for personal use, I'm more worried about files being shared or my designs being copied / reserve engineered and then sold off.

So yeah, some stuff to ponder about and sort out before opening up shop.

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 Post subject: Re: State of the Microworld 2021
PostPosted: Wed Aug 11, 2021 12:16 am 
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Love all the Steampunk vehicles ! Any idea when APC will back in stock ?

Also any word on these guys ?


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 Post subject: Re: State of the Microworld 2021
PostPosted: Sat Oct 09, 2021 11:03 pm 
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Despot 29, any chance of getting an update on your situation please?

Thanks


Gerard


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 Post subject: Re: State of the Microworld 2021
PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2021 1:20 am 
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The only update is that this has been a pretty shit year.

The not so fun stuff:

My work situation has worsened even since the summer. Theoretically things should be "better" in December, and hopefully not as crazy next year, but I will believe it when I see it.

Probably the largest blow to the business I guess ever occurred this past Saturday. The location where I housed the business suffered a catastrophic flood. Which means that I spent the weekend cataloguing damage and moving my entire business to a new location. I am definitely far from set up as I type, I have molds scattered everywhere, it is really a massive disaster for business and family.

3D printed products are going to be a bit scarce as my former 3d printing room is going to be a guest bedroom for a family member for at least 3 months.

Same problems still apply re: sculptors, slow death of the old model of garage gaming companies etc. I expect that not to change.

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 Post subject: Re: State of the Microworld 2021
PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2021 1:31 am 
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The more fun stuff:

I am trialing a new digital sculptor now, so I have high hopes there.

November was meant to see the release of the long awaited 6mm Bronze Age line, but the flood will likely delay that to December as a best guess.

A Kickstarter for 3mm Dwarves and Goblins was in the works, but that is also going to be delayed due to the flood and related cascading failures. I am holding out hope to run it in November...but honestly it might not be possible, I won't know really until the first week in November probably.

Other progress...some 6mm elf castings going to IWM for molding next week I guess (was supposed to be this past Saturday!)

A ton of Renaissance stuff was commissioned back in August, so I should get some completed shots in November I expect.

Dieselpunk stuff, we have had some challenges around getting a single sculptor to work on the remaining items for the various armies, not for lack of trying.

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 Post subject: Re: State of the Microworld 2021
PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2021 9:09 am 
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really sorry to hear re the flood despot, the sort of thing can be absolutely gutting, best with getting set back up

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 Post subject: Re: State of the Microworld 2021
PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2021 2:38 pm 
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Hear hear! You’re my go-to fantasy supplier, and at least half of my sci fi! Please let us know what if anything we can do to help! Should we order? Should we refrain from ordering? We want to support your business, please let us know what will best do that for you.

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