Before you get confused I’m not talking about any sort of diet, although I’m sure the spammers will jump all over this. No, what I’m asking is; how much does it cost to design, prototype and mould a gaming figure of 28mm?
The reason I’m asking is because there seems to be an ever-increasing number of figure-making companies around. From the more boutique-style of Victoria’s Miniatures through to Warlord’s Bolt Action and on to Mantic’s Deadzone. I’m well aware that this is kit an exhaustive list and really I should also mention Empire of the Dead and In Her Majesty’s Name. No doubt there are others, just google them.
Let’s say that I have come up with a universe that I think would work. I can easily produce the rules and indeed, I could just recommend that players use figures from other systems.
But, let’s say that they don’t truly represent all of the races, creatures and characters of that world. How do I move things forward?
How can all of these people afford to go through the process and then produce them at very affordable prices? Take a look at Warlord who are – I believe – owned by Rick Priestley. For around £20 you can get 24 or so really well made figures.
So, answers on a postcard please as I would really like to understand this market
That’s a REALLY complicated question, Matt. There are way too many variables you haven’t touched on. For instance, do you want one-piece or multi-piece minis? What level of quality are you after? Will you need concept and design work done? And – vitally important – what production medium are you looking at? All of these questions impact at multiple levels and have knock-on effects. For instance, plastic minis can be produced a gazillion times before a mould shows appreciable wear, but requires specialist sculpting (for instance – no undercuts and draughting at 3 degrees); each moulding run costs pennies, but your initial mould-making costs are in the thousands. Then theres the question of direct sales versus trade sales and the impact that has on price-point and packaging… It’s really an involved issue, but if you ever want to explore it let me know 🙂
Thanks for your reply. Let’s say that – since they’re the vogue – multi-piece, good quality (not sure how to quantify that, Cadian-level), concept and design work all needed and plastic/resin. All products would be boxed, with Clams for characters. They’d all be slotta-base as well.
As I said in the article, I’m amazed that some individuals have managed to produce models at all, and the whole process fascinates me!
Well, getting the moulds cut for a regiment set of plastics is going to cost a small fortune. You’ll need a sculptor who has the specialist skillset necessary to produce for plastic either as 3-ups or digital sculpts (that choice depends on who your plastic producer will be). Setting up sales and marketing is easier if you used to work as Head of Sales at GW (like John Stallard who is at the top of Warlord along with Paul Sawyer). All told you’re looking at comfortably upwards of £40k before you get a single production run. Then there’s the box art, the concepts and the VAT.
For a boutique level operation you’re probably better of with metal than resin or plastic (at least for the numerous gang-members). For characters and heroes drop-cast resin becomes a possibility and can give decent results at relatively inexpensive costs. Metal has a bad name lately, but production is fast and mould-life is good. Resin requires curing times meaning you have to wait far longer than casting in metal before you can de-mould (reducing production rates) and the chemicals that are part and parcel of resin just devour moulds (meaning regularly needing to make new ones).
The miniatures business is very expensive even when things go smoothly, and it’s tough to make a decent living. Hell, it’s tough to make minimum wage.
But I still have a house filled with little painted lumps of joy, including many I sculpted myself that can be bought all around the world. Now, if only I could see my books as widely spread 😉
It must be a great feeling to look at something and say ‘I sculpted that, and people all around the world are painting it, playing with it and converting it! Shame you don’t get royalties for each figure sold 🙂
Honestly? Yeah, it kind of is. I get the biggest kick from seeing someone else’s paintjob – especially when the colour scheme varies from my own. A couple if my busts were pro-painted for a magazine a couple of years ago and inspired me to go and paint one of my free castings (yes – many of my freebies remain bare and boxed). Watching a friend read one of my published stories was a bigger thrill though – especially when he started asking about the creative process and choices that I’d made.
I would love to creat a world and have people inspired not only to read about it, but to go out play it, seeing my warped creations springing into life 🙂