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Last year for Origins and Gen Con Catalyst experimented with some BattleTech dice. Just basic colors for the five Houses and ComStar, with the BattleMaster bust as the “6” face.

They did well enough that we wanted to up the ante and try for the first unique faction dice in ages and ages. So we produced 10 different factions, in a variety of high quality colors. Based upon the sales we had last year we doubled the number of dice we produced this year and thought we’d be just fine.

At Origins we sold more than we had at both conventions last year. At that point we knew the dice would never last through Gen Con. While we tried to get more dice out of our manufacturer, they were simply maxed already; i.e. we started the batch we had for this season in February to get the size and batch quality we did.

That meant going into Gen Con we were going to sell out. There was a discussion before hand whether we should limit dice purchasing. I’d seen discussions on twitter and forums of people pooling resources to be able to buy a dozen sets or more to ensure a gaming group could all get their dice. I had absolutely no problems with that and hence said we shouldn’t limit sales.

I admit my naivete got the better of me and many of you paid with that by not being able to get your dice. It never occurred to me we might run into scalpers that’d purchase 50 or 100 dice and then try and sell them online for ludicrously over-inflated prices. For that mis-step I sincerely apologize.

Let me lay out the issues of why, to date, they’ve only been convention dice and so limited in numbers.

1. We don’t have or own the molds for these type of dice. As such, to produce these dice we go to a manufacturer that purchases “blanks” (i.e. the “6” face doesn’t have anything on it), and they engrave what ever we give them.

This is an expensive and time consuming process. Hence why we started in February, doubled our order from laster year and we still ran out on day one of Gen Con, while the dice can cost Catalyst anywhere from $0.30 to $0.50 to purchase, depending upon quantities ordered, the type of dice, and so on. So let’s average that to $0.40

2. Talking in VERY general terms, a game company will generally only receive 35% of the MSRP. And again, talking in general terms, most game companies will try and create a 6 times mark-up of the cost to the MSRP to create enough of a margin of profit to cover all costs of production, overhead and a slim profit on the back side.

So, normally you’d take that $0.40 cost, bump it to say $0.50 to cover all non printing costs (i.e. generation of the art, layout time and so on; we had to spend time taking the logos and creating versions the dice manufacturer could use), and then multiply by 6 which creates a $3 MSRP. That would create a payment back to us of $1.05

3. Now I know you’re asking…wait, that’s a 100% profit! That’s insane! Yes, yes it is…except the $0.50 cost of the dice doesn’t take into account the cost of the packaging material it would need to have to go in a store, shipping from the manufacturer and so on…that $0.55 ‘profit’ shrinks down to the $0.10 or less range very, very quickly.

4. The vast majority of retailers would never buy into a set of dice selling for $3 a die, hence why it’s been impossible, to date, to put these through retailers.

Even selling them directly at conventions we’re taking less of a mark-up than we’d normally like, but because it’s sans packaging and selling direct, we can get away with a slim profit margin that leaves the fans walking away with crazy cool dice.

5. Why don’t we sell these online when we’re selling direct and no package? Pick fees. Our warehouse fullfillment service charges us for every order we fulfill. With the margins so slim, those extra pick fees simply make it untenable.

6. Why don’t we just create our own molds? Because molds are expensive…any where from 6k up to 10k. That’s effectively two or even three full print runs of B&W books. So not only is it a cash flow issue, but it’s also about proving that there’s a market for these in the stores so we can sell enough that the mold cost is ameliorated across enough dice to ensure the whole line is ultimately profitable.

Coming out of this year’s convention we have done exactly that…proven with out a doubt there is a strong enough desire for such dice that we can now start going down the road of creating our own molds…which while a heavy up front cost will drop the individual dice cost down to pennies, meaning all the packaging, mark-ups, shipping and so on can still be covered more in a $1 to $1.5 range, not the $3 that’d been killing the project.

What does all of this mean to the community that didn’t get any dice? It means that the demand is proven and that Catalyst is committed to getting faction dice into stores. However, we still need to work on getting the mold costs down into the lower range; working with multiple companies to see who we’ll ultimately use. And since it’s all overseas, it’s simply a matter of months.

So there won’t be a quick and easy answer. But next year we should finally see faction dice actually appearing on retail store shelves…and of course the flood in that market will hopefully kill off those scalper prices.

Hope that answers all of your questions surrounding this topic.

Randall