So in this update we’ll be covering the responses to our recent survey. Before we do we just want to thank everyone who took part, and remind you to claim your 20% discount in the store if you haven’t done so already. The responses have been helpful, and encouraging, with a few areas that need attention. We’ve looked at the responses in detail and are taking every step to improve where we can, and to put actions in place to ensure we deliver on everything we promise. So let’s dive into the survey results. First up Speed!
So hands down, this has been the overall largest concern highlighted by you, and one we fully agree with. We are currently taking measures to expand the team and bring on board further artists to ensure a swifter turnaround. And given the amount of output this year we’ve already pulled our socks up and no mistake!
So what took up the time?
Well first up our turnaround over the course of our entire studio lifespan has performed reasonably well. However we hit a massive dip in terms of output while we went into some heavy R&D with the modular tavern system; over a year to refine and test all the components in total. Everything before and since then has been swift. The amount of content released this year is considerable. From the start of the year we’ve released the tavern, and adjusted the parts for better tolerance, launched the core of Pintsized realms with all the amendments requested such as more ground detail, scaling adjustments, and stronger trees and fences. That’s well over 300 parts between the Tavern and Pintsized Realms finalised.
On top of completing the core deliverables for both projects we’re at completion on the stretch for Raghaven (2 stretch packs due to launch following test prints), and at present we may have both projects wrapped up by the end of the year (ahead of our recently announced schedule). We’ve also made the Tower with full playable space, we’ve printed off the lower section, and this thing will be huge! It’s an additional extra that we decided to throw in, likewise with the final bandstand there’s further work done here as well, and it’s a piece that we can’t wait to launch (you’ll see why soon). On top of that we’re already on to the Pint-Sized Realms Stretch with the Stone Keep, Round Keep, Motte & Bailey, Ruined Cathedral, War Camp, and Ruined Keep modelled and awaiting final details. Overall in 12 months that’s a huge amount of work. Both projects possibly to be completed by the end of the year. We’ll still hold ourselves to the Late March deadline, however at current rate we’re well ahead of that estimation as you can see from the timeline below.
While we went a different route with the Tavern it did cost us, however helped us improve technically to a strong degree, and led on to a further popular product line that wasn’t available on the market. There were pros and cons to this decision, and we’re sorry to those who feel let down in regards to the speed we’ve delivered. We’re taking measures to improve on this front and hope that with the visual representations above that it helps provide perspective on speed of delivery, and amount of content we’ve generated overall since we started retailing way back in 2016. We’re insistent on keeping quality, and print-ability as our core principle and getting the product right, as would be expected from a leading designer. It’s the customer experience we have in mind with every decision, and it’s what keeps us focused on the best quality possible. We’d prefer late, over rushed, and the consensus overall is the same from the responses that we’ve received.
That can’t be it, there has to be more to what takes up the time?
There is, certainly; We’ve had one full time dedicated artist since we started; Lawrence, and he’s an absolute legend for handling the pressure of delivering the pieces and ensuring the quality is on point. We’ve had the fortune of intermittent interns and the occasional friend help us out with paint jobs and Photos etc. from time to time. However it’s been the three of us keeping the company spinning. Jordan as you know is our online face, and handles the community management, sales planning, analytics, and all the tasks associated with modern online marketing… That’s another single person handling the workload of an entire team. Myself I’m split between oversight, art duties where they can be fitted in, bringing in any further opportunities such as client work, cross-promotion and handling the dullardry of admin, HR, Legal, and accounting, along with project management, IT, infrastructure, on-boarding interns and keeping any number of plates spinning whilst providing feedback to the team and ensuring they have everything they need to run and be happy.
When you consider what we’ve managed to do with three people, and intermittent temp staff, it’s fairly astounding. We do all our own paintwork, 3D renders, graphics, video content, sales, data collection and analytics, and keep up with customer service queries, social media channels… Heaps to be honest… and obviously creating the cool printables that you all love. Throw in one technical fault, or a setback such as 3D printer repairs, PC infrastructural setup, illness, or non-work related problems and it’s incredible we’ve kept this thing running for four years on the minimal resources we’ve had. None of this is a sign of poor planning or bad resource management in our book. However from what you folks see on the front of the business versus background operations we can see how this doesn’t always readily translate.
Rest assured We have taken measures to improve output times as can be seen, we’re currently scaling, have brought on a fully paid artist for the next three months with the view of it becoming a permanent position, and have plans to scale the team further over the next 12 to 24 months providing opportunities and plans work out favourably. We have heaps of plans and cool projects we want to move on to, however we want to be sure people can see we’re committed to our current promises and obligations as well.
This is a tricky one, in one regards to communications we’ve setup a number of channels by which we discuss and engage. We have Reddit channels that we moderate regularly, our Facebook page and group, our newsletters, a discord channel and Kickstarter updates. We do want to do so much more, and will aim to return to more regular blog posts, and Kickstarter updates, this is something that has slipped whilst focusing on product development and generating website sales. We’re also planning on launching some video content and podcasts over the next 6 to 12 months, however we’re cautious of bringing further responsibilities in to the mix. While ever we’re bootstrapping the company we have to pick and choose our battles carefully.
The take away is that everyone wants more of what we do, more content, more audience interaction, and more of the fun and interesting elements we bring to the hobby. All of these are good problems to have, and we’ll be hard at work improving on these fronts as we progress. We’re also itching to attend conventions, sadly we haven’t been able to justify the expense at present. Here’s hoping next year we’ll be able to get to meet more of you face to face at maybe UKGX, we’ll do our best to make it happen!
This was actually quite a relief when we saw this result. The majority have said we are “priced accurately”. This has been a concern of ours for a while, and goes to example that sometimes the vocal majority online aren’t the actual majority in terms of data and facts.
That said we are going to start reducing prices of some of our earlier content, and we’re going to see when we can start creating further free items for Thingyverse. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a while, and it’s been requested a number of times. The focus at present though is bring on-board the talent, scale the team and fulfil current responsibilities.
We have always aimed to have a pricing structure that allows everyone a buy in level at some point. Be it through massive savings by backing the Kickstarters, to sales, discounts, being involved with Humble Bundle (Thanks Tom!), and generating free items when time allows. We’ll be exploring further options over the next year on how else we can provide payment structures that suit differing budgets.
The kicker here is, that even though the quality of our items is approved, and the pricing is on point. It doesn’t translate to a business model that is fully functioning just yet. We have our problem solution fit down, however that product to market fit still needs work. We have some pretty good opportunities and ideas in the pipeline and given our approach to product refinement and being quick to spot what others in this early market aren’t, we’re confident that we’ll put our money where our mouth is over time.
I’d just like to touch briefly on the business model, and why the Kickstarters are so relevant to the STL companies. It’s the Kickstarters that keep studios like ours alive, they’re the large injections to survival that keep the cool things coming. Our process has been to create the items following the backing of the project, whereas most other providers have projects built and good to go on launch. Sadly we didn’t have the circumstances by which to do this when we launched Raghaven on Kickstarter way back in 2016, we took a chance on launching with concepts only and broke many rules on how to launch a successful campaign, but it paid off. We stand by it, it kept us in the running and has allowed us to do so much more than had we kept to 3rd party e-commerce alone. It has meant we’ve been on the back foot all the way through though, and had to think on our feet as problems and set backs arise, (we’re scrappy if nothing else).
We’re starting to have more content generated before launching new campaigns, and it’s the campaigns where the larger returns are still to be found. Rolling development is the nature of any creative company, while Kickstarter runs more physically shipped, product orientated models of delivery, the perception carries forward that it’s bad practice to have more than one project running, which in terms of digital development that’s not necessarily the case… think video games for instance and you get the gist. With digital creative content, it’s always best to have projects phasing out as new one’s start. We’ve listened to the audience, and won’t launch another project until the two current projects are completed… This does place us in a difficult situation of finding a larger revenue injection to carry us over where the Kickstarter would usually keep us afloat. We’re exploring options, and have ideas, one of which is IP licencing, it’s been a large request on a number of occasions, and could help carry us over until the next window when we can launch our first 28mm, mini based Kickstarter.
It’s worth considering though that a campaign launched in the next couple of months would ensure we continue to deliver on all items with a lot more ease. We won’t press the issue beyond this, however it would provide more certainty overall that we’ll stay in development. It’s also worth noting that the Kickstarters from an audience perspective allow newcomers and those on tighter budgets to gain access to the upcoming products and the fantastic savings as evidenced in the product map (see below). If the consensus changes in light of this then we’ll adjust course to launching whilst delivering on current responsibilities, which as you can see are now underway at a rapid pace. If not then we’ll find a way as we always have done up to present.
Why not Patreon?
Patreon requires more content and upkeep, which takes more time and would slow down production on current deliverables while we adjust focus to monthly generation and get used to the new process. We’re exploring patreon as a subscription service, however this means longer delivery times on the projects underway. A Kickstarter launch or commercial licences (or both) ensures we can complete the two projects and then focus on next deliverables, and have further items banked for ongoing delivery.
Why don’t you guys make money though, your stuff is cool?
Thanks, we agree, super cool, yes! As we’ve had pointed out to us on a number of occasions though; “the market determines the value”. From the beginning we’ve been up against free items, and over-priced low quality models. There are a number of artists in the market currently whose items blow ours out of the water and they under-price themselves massively! Given the feedback we’ve received on pricing though, it confirms that we’ve been right to stick to our guns on this. Sadly while there are options out there that devalue the creative content, then quality providers will struggle to find a way through.
There are also more STL providers arising each year, Patreon creates another problem for competition. While it’s a platform that allows more providers to emerge, it also reduces returns due to the “middleman” nature of such platforms. We’ve seen some companies lower their standards, and it’s worked out well for them, they’ve been able to generate a heap of content and excel the amount we’ve raised on previous projects. We want to break out in front. Sadly you can do all the right things and still get it wrong, or do all the wrong things and still get it right. If the value perception isn’t there, or we’re just not able to reach the audience effectively enough, or scale too slow then we’ll be out paced. That’s the nature of business, a bitter pill to swallow, sad to see, and we can only make decisions on the path in front of us as it happens. We’ll look at options, make decisions and like we did with our first Kickstarter take a chance if our backs are against the wall (which in this line of work they always are). One thing we’ll guarantee is that regardless, we will always deliver on what we’ve promised even if we end up on the 9 to 5 grind in a “real” job.
This has been a resounding “we like your stuff!”. You’ve all been quick to see the details, and printability in our work. That’s the result of rigorous testing and improvement to the files. We want to push more on this, break out of the projects we’re on and deliver some really interesting and quirky stuff. There’s other genres besides fantasy, other realms besides medieval, the Pint-sized Realms has so much potential to grow and develop, and when you consider tech innovations like 3D printable, integrated circuit boards that show promise down the way, tech innovations like these open up a whole new field of things we might be able to do. We aim for quality in everything we do, granted some things need work, but we do the punch above our weight massively on all fronts.
Your website is slow, and has problems though, what gives?
It does, and we’ll improve it to a more bespoke site. At present it’s a WordPress, plug-in heavy slug of a platform. Nothing much we can do when the budget dictates priorities. At present we have good branding that people enjoy, a good quality colour scheme that works, modern design practices that ensure flow of the site. We did initially put considerable thought into how the library of the site functioned (however this needs some work to bring it back on point). We need a full visual overhaul and want to introduce more tools and features to the platform, more compatibility across devices, loads of plans. We stand by that our site does have a really strong visual appeal, however we’re aware of the slow down, and will turn attention to improving it when resources allow. Our product photography has improved significantly, and we always get comments on how good the paintwork looks on our models, however some consistency to certain images needs attention. For now we can only plan to bring in improvements when time and budget suit. Give us time and it will be brought up to scratch with the experience we want you all to have when engaging with every aspect of what we do.
The Tavern isn’t what I asked for! No kit build, no more buying your stuff!
We understand the sentiment and frustration here. We took a different direction on the Tavern, however we have delivered a tavern none the less. We know that many still want a kit-build version of the tavern in fewer and larger parts. We have every intention of delivering on this also, however given the deliverables still outstanding, the faster way to complete the projects is to complete the add-ons, and stretch across both campaigns with the tile based system already developed. With the base system for the tile format in place, it means no slow down to R&D on the next buildings. There’s some project challenges on the cliffs, and the mini-figs for Pintsized Realms, but overall it’s nothing major and we’ve moved onto the stretch for this campaign ahead of our recently updated schedule. I’m sure that the majority would prefer we deliver on all our promises rather than focus entirely on the tavern. We’re not happy about the circumstances on this, we don’t like letting anyone down, and refuse to do so, the kit-build, non tile based version will happen… again its about ensuring the smartest route through.
The stretch and add-ons allow for further money to come through the website, and we can launch the next large project to bring some longevity back, once we have delivered on all the items. Once we have some pressure off on the financial front then we can place attention back here and ensure we keep to what we promise. We can only apologise again that people feel they don’t have value from what we’ve created, or that they haven’t received their money’s worth from the average backing of £67 on the first Kickstarter, or the £135 buy-in for the full shebang. With the Stretch goals, the amount of parts to the tavern, and the add ons that provided access to all our back catalogue at the time… well you can see how that isn’t the case when the product map below highlights everything received and what is due to arrive by March next year (possibly by the end of the year at current speed). The only disappointment is slow delivery, which we’re taking every stride to overcome at present as evidenced by everything we’ve launched this year, and will soon have completed. We do sympathise fully, we know the slow down and decision made with the tavern has been somewhat divisive, we will make it right along the way, pinky swear!
When you look at the amount of content produced its pretty astounding to see it all laid out this way… it took us back at least anyway. The savings of buying the files on Kickstarter compared to the website are significant to say the least!
To those who feel that withdrawing from further purchases means we’ll deliver faster, or somehow pressure us further, it won’t. We’ve learned our lesson that pacing the work versus burning out on ridiculous hours yields better results, it’s not attitude or ego, it’s based on the pragmatic steps, and perspective of the best route forward in the studio. We’ll be sad to loose anyone’s custom, or voice from our channels, we try and get it right for everyone as much as possible. Decisions occur though, that’s the nature of product development and only goes to show how difficult it is to bring products to market successfully. This is the first business any of us in the studio have ran, and considering what we’ve accomplished to present, there’s all the hallmarks of a really good company that will grow from these early days. We all take part in that journey, and we want everyone involved as we continue to build the fantasy world we all like to escape to.
The kit build will happen, however the ETA cannot be determined at this point. Withdrawing consumer confidence sadly works counter to the aim of ensuring we can deliver. We already operate on a really tight budget. Given the whole value triangle rule, fewer returns lead to lower quality and rushed content, or high quality and longer deliverables. The survey response insists we keep the quality and to keep going as we are. As with the decision not to launch our next Kickstarter campaign without approval, we can only listen to what people want from us in the present time and base our decisions accordingly.
There has to be another solution, it can’t be that difficult to make 3D files and sell them online?
In a perfect world true, sadly we live in a world where independent studios now need to be media machines, marketing experts, technical experts, business strategists and wear any number of hats. It’s now easier than ever to launch a business, which means competition is fierce. We’ve always intended to be independent, to keep the company built around people not share holders or outside investors aiming to make a quick buck. To go it solo, and build something that has a heart to it… well it’s tough. To have a business run for four years with no prior experience and hit the right notes we have so far, given the stats for how many companies fail after their first year, then we’re doing pretty good overall at keeping it going. And it’s thanks to you guys for getting what we’re about, it’s thanks to companies like Fat Dragon Games, Humble Bundle, the YouTubers who support us, and the grit, determination, and resilience we have as a team to slug it through these early days. We can see potential, and a future in what we do. We firmly believe we bring a heap of value that we add to the hobbies, and even more we can contribute along the way. It’s never easy, nothing in life ever is, as always we just roll with the punches and keep going.
That about everything covered. We’re hard at work. Currently the company aim is to attract and retain talent, work on methods to improve sales on the website, deliver on the current projects and find further sources of revenue to keep us going. The feedback has been hugely beneficial, for the most part super positive, and has given us a huge boost in team moral, it’s highlighted what we’re getting right, and where we need to pull our socks up and deliver. We’re working on it, we’re getting there, and will do everything to make things happen. If there’s any major concerns we haven’t addressed, please let us know, if there’s further (or fewer) details needed, likewise sound out. We can only improve based upon what people say, and continue to be around the more you folks like, share, shout about, post about and print. And as always thank you from the three nerdy goblins for all the support and sticking through the rough times with us! Right… back to getting the models wrapped up and solving the eternal problem of independent studio survival in a crazy human world. Thanks all talk soon, much love the Goblins! <3