When Ves called Marcella and told her of his plan, she responded with a thoughtful look.
“Ordinarily, I’d advise apprentices to stay away from this crowd. The people who purchase mechs at the Vintage Festivals have their heads stuck in the past. What they consider to be a good mech can be very different from what you and I think are good.”
Basically, his mech broker called them fanboys and fangirls who exhibited irrational love for lastgen mechs. Even if they saw the latest cutting edge mech designed by a renowned master, they’d scoff at their fancy modern features.
“I can’t say I understand them, but my unique specialties should appeal to their tastes. I’m confident I can make an impact at the festival.”
“You do have that quality.” Marcella admitted with a thoughtful expression. “Yes, if you tailor your mechs in a way that amplifies the ‘good old days’ feel of the last generation, you’ll be able to tug at the heartstrings of your customers.”
She offered to facilitate his application to participate at the festival. In addition, she promised to staff his booth with some savvy employees who could do the heavy lifting in terms of persuading visitors to purchase his mechs.
Naturally, she also received a cut out of these sales.
Marcella also warned him about a troublesome phenomenon. “One thing you should know is that the customers who attend these festivals will often decide with their guts instead of their brains. Around a third of these people will come to regret their impulse purchase when they sober up. Expect them to call us up to cancel their orders.”
Ves frowned at that. “Is there any way to stop this? Why not rule out cancellations in the sales contract?”
“That’s bad form and prohibited by the MTA. It protects your customers from being bamboozled into signing awful contracts. Your best bet is to have an ample stock of finished mechs that you can ship out immediately. Once your customers get their hands on your mechs, they’ll find it a lot harder to demand a refund.”
The battle over consumer and producer rights tilted back and forth over the centuries. Currently, the ascendancy of the MTA granted mech manufacturers more protection than before, though their protection only applied if the mechs went through certification.
Uncertified mechs like those that had been assembled on the cheap by taking advantage of the repair scam or pirated licenses enjoyed no such protection. Both the seller and buyer risked getting screwed by each other as no one guaranteed their transaction.
In general, any mech that passed certification carried a guarantee by the MTA that the machine had no defects and hadn’t been sabotaged in any way. Once a customer gained possession of such a mech and didn’t issue any complaints, he’d be stuck with it from that point onwards.
This meant that he couldn’t accidentally crash the mech and demand a refund from the manufacturer afterwards. The mech was sound and didn’t carry any defects in terms of navigation or locomotion. The fault lay solely in the mech pilot who trashed the new machine.
“So what you’re saying is the only way to prevent more refunds is if I can deliver my mechs as fast as possible?” Ves frowned at the implications.
“The best solution is to fabricate an ample stock of mechs in advance and ship them over to Bentheim. When the festival starts, you can transfer the mechs into the hands of your customers at the very same day. Don’t give them time to reconsider time to reconsider their purchase if you want to maximize your earnings.”
What his mech broker said made sense, but it represented a very large bet to Ves. If he attended the festival with dozens of models stashed in a warehouse but failed to sell the majority of his stock, he’d be stuck with an awful lot of wasted mechs. Outside of the Vintage Festival, these nostalgia-ridden mechs carried no appeal to regular consumers.
“I won’t fabricate more than a single copy of each mech I plan to sell.” Ves eventually decided. “Your idea has merit, but my liquid funds can only stretch so far. I’d be using up my entire drawer of cash if I fabricate more copies of the Caesar Augustus or any other comechs.”
Comechs stood short for compressed armor mechs. In first and second-rate states, such a terms would be redundant, because pretty much every battle mech incorporated some form of compressed armor.
Only in resource-starved third-rate states did people find it necessary to distinguish comechs from unmechs, the unflattering term for cheap mechs built with uncompressed armor.
“That’s your decision to make.” Marcella responded with a touch of understanding. “Do make sure to prepare for an intense period of fabrication. The longer you take to deliver your product, the higher the chance your orders get cancelled. If you let your customers wait for months, you will stand to lose a lot of potential earnings.”
With the Dortmund printer and his new set of equipment shipped from Leemar, Ves didn’t worry too much about this possibility. His workshop would soon be capable of fabricating mechs at a rate of one per day once he mastered the equipment and beefed up the staffing.
After finishing his talk with Marcella, he consulted Gavin to hear from another perspective. His publicist’s face turned into an eager expression when he heard how Ves described the clientele.
“I know the type. They’re suckers. They’re the sort of people who will throw away their entire life savings on a toy that is shiny enough in their eyes. The key is to make your product shine bright enough that they can’t see the flaws through all of the glare.”
“What do you suggest?”
Gavin had some useful advice to accomplish this feat. “Impose artificial scarcity on the products that you’re offering at the festival. Give them enough unique traits and add an exclusive-sounding label like Legacy Edition or Limited Edition and promise not to produce more than ten or so copies of each model. This way, you’ll limit the amount of work you have in store and maximize the profits of each individual sale.”
His suggestion sounded similar to what Marcella once said. Ves declined to complicate his product offering back then because he didn’t want to end up with a messy catalog.
Now that he was awfully short on money, Ves reconsidered his decision. It sounded like an easy way to distinguish his products and the changes he planned to make with the X-Factor. These wouldn’t be regular mechs intended for the open market.
Pulling this off required a careful judgement on the amount of copies he intended to sell for each model. Fabricating too many copies diminished the exclusive nature of each design.
However, if he went too far in the other direction, he’d earn a paltry sum even if he managed to boost his profit margin on the few models he sold.
Fortunately, Ves didn’t have to figure this out on his own. “Can you analyze the market and determine the optimal amount of mechs to sell? The key is to maximize out earnings, not our profit margin. I need lots of cold hard cash to fund the development of a new design.”
“I can do that, but I can only get you the most accurate results if I know how good your designs catch on to your target audience.”
“You can develop three scenarios then.” Ves suggested. “One where my sales fall flat, one where there is modest interest and one where my models catch fire. We can leave the actual figures ambiguous until we’re able to gauge the actual response to my works.”
Gavin immediately went to work after receiving his assignment.
As for Ves, before he turned his attention to his new projects, he wanted to catch up to how Jarle Brenthill had been taking his new virtual mech. He opened up his terminal and visited the mech athlete’s livestream.
“The Rushing Storm does it again! Another mech down for the count!”
A bombastic battlefield came into view as Jarle’s custom mech had just emerged from stealth and rushed to the rear of an enemy squad. Unlike his previous duels, this time Jarle opted to play in one of the larger game modes.
Even if he rushed out alone, the enemy mechs became disarrayed. Ves had tweaked the Festive Cloud Generator to pump up even more vapor, this time dyed in Mosville Blue. The dark blue coloration added an electrifying component to the assassin’s mech rush. The rifleman mechs panicked and fired blindly in the direction of the approaching cloud.
The custom mech deftly dodged the direction of their aim. Jarle utilized a complicated spinning pattern to approach the enemy formation from a more vulnerable direction. The instant he approached a rifleman mech, his assassin mech struck with a flurry of deadly stabs, instantly striking all of its weak points.
The moment the rifleman mech got downed, Jarle turned to the next rifleman mech and struck its weapon aside before tearing it apart in a rapid example of battlefield deconstruction. Most of its companions hesitated on shooting back for fear of causing friendly fire. The two melee mechs of the squads tried to race to the rescue but Jarle’s machine always seemed to dance away from their reach.
“Is this still an assassin mech?” Ves wondered with puzzlement.
Jarle’s performance astounded him. While the custom mech lost its ability to cripple a mech with a single charge, its added agility allowed it to destroy several vulnerable mechs in quick succession before the enemy squad could form a proper response.
Once his momentum started to fade, the custom mech quickly turned around and sped away. The remnants of the enemy squad were in no shape to pursue, allowing Jarle to get away scott-free.
The amazing burst of explosiveness riled up the viewers of the stream. Jarle’s viewership enjoyed a remarkable growth since the last time Ves visited the channel. Right now, he drew over two million viewers.
A quick check on his virtual sales dimmed his enthusiasm a bit. The DarkSpear only sold around four-thousand extra virtual copies, far below the growth in viewership. It showed that while the viewers admired Jarle’s display of murderous efficiency, they didn’t attribute his success to his mech.
Despite this small disappointment, Ves was well on track on reaching his sales target of ten-thousand units sold. “I’ll probably reach the maximum in one or two weeks.”
Designing a custom mech for Jarle had been worth the effort. For a small bit of work, he accelerated his accumulation of DP by a fair pace.
His online account even received a lot of requests for him to design a custom virtual mech. Ves had no time to engage in this business, but it signalled that Ves had finally gained some renown.
With several projects in store and a lot of potential sales needing to be fulfilled, Ves finally got around to consider expanding his work force.
“It’s time to get more manpower by my side.”
Ves held several ambitions for his workshop personnel. They didn’t need to be too capable, but they must be loyal and and able to solve problems on their own. He greatly admired how House Kaine cultivated a capable group of mech technicians to staff their maintenance department. He planned to emulate their model for his own workshop.
“Let’s start with hiring ten or so mech technicians. Any more and my workshop will become crowded.”
With only two production lines, Ves expected to face relatively few issues at the beginning. Carlos and Ves had already made do with bots so far. In that regard, hiring mech technicians seem redundant, but once the LMC started to expand, the extra hands should prove useful.
To keep the mech technicians in line, Ves wanted to put a senior mech technician in charge. The chief technician should have ample experience and ideally plenty of leadership experience.
“It’s going to get hard getting my hands on such a gem.”
Mech manufacturers treasured these kinds of chief technicians. They possessed both rich experience and sound judgement and could solve a variety of difficult conundrums without asking for help from someone more knowledgeable.
Fortunately, Ves didn’t have to take the trouble of seeking one out himself. The Larkinsons nurtured its own army of mech technicians. Perhaps he could snag one from his family’s estate.
Ves prepared to call his grandfather.