You may not have heard of Prodos Games. If you have, and especially if you backed their Aliens vs Predators game, you may well have strong opinions about them. Now I’ve had a few conversations with them behind the scenes, and am inclined to think that while they’ve made some mistakes, they aren’t quite the monsters some would have them be.
Either way, what I’m interested in here is the other string they have to their bows: as a miniature production facility for hire.
I’ve talked with several companies that have had their miniatures manufactured by Prodos, and they seem to do a pretty good job. Among others, the Age of Tyrants team are using them to do their big little tanks, and the beautiful White Dragon 15mm SF stuff (above) was all cast by Prodos. And that’s gorgeous.
As this helpful graphic explains, miniature production is not an inexpensive undertaking. Prices do vary between companies, but the following gives a reasonable overview of non-metal options. Click the pic for a bigger version.
It’s part of an announcement of a new process that Prodos are calling UniCast, and which is quite exciting – assuming, of course, that it lives up to the hype.
I thought that the Gears miniature on the left of the following pic was nice and crisp in the detail when I saw it in person, and this photo makes him look a bit ropey compared to the UniCast one. So that’s interesting.
One saving that isn’t explicit from the table is the cost of assembly. Many modern board games use miniatures that are made in more than one part, and which must be assembled before use. Some sell these figures to the customer like this, but if you don’t want to do that you’ve got a choice: compromise the model or pay someone to pre-assemble them. Apparently UniCast is a more flexible process that will allow you to cut the master into fewer parts: allowing nicer single-piece models and reducing assembly costs. For a customer the lower costs mean more toys in the box, or lower cost to start with. For the manufacturer it means more production options and the chance to sell cooler models, thus attracting more sales. For the aspiring game designer/producer, it means that the entry cost is lower and your dream that much easier to attain. For someone that just wants a few models of their own design, this makes plastic a viable option to metal. The minimum order (and reorder) quantities are particularly interesting to aspiring designers.
Of course, the proof of the pudding remains to be seen. But it’s a very interesting development for everyone in the gaming business, whether you make the things or simply play with them 🙂