Both Wilson and Ziff highlight several heated debates about 3D printing in the subculture. “3D printing is a dirty word sometimes,” Ziff said. “There was some objection to the quality of the cast, which might sound foreign to those outside of our niche. You wouldn’t walk into a tabletop game store and ask to know if a piece of equipment was injection molded or cast, then Why does censorship fall on grassroots players like us?”
While MyMiniFactory and its parent company, OnlyGames, are based in the UK, most of their revenue comes from customers in the US. They are very interested in opening an office in North America soon. “We believe in local manufacturing,” insists Ziff.
Teleoperation, automation and virtualization are the backbone of the industry of the future, although Ziff doesn’t want to see them disrupt the real physical experience.
We need a “Meta-Reverse”
With the dawn of a new era of modeling and painting in 3D software and playing games in augmented reality, we must not forget the physical experience of making them known. “We must not lose sight of the ability to reverse digital,” Ziff said, “so we retain the ability to share the digital renaissance with the physical world. We call it “meta-reversal.” Seeing that technology intuitively augments the workforce, rather than a shiny, fragile new paradigm eclipsing a tried-and-true one.”
“We’ve seen a lot of consumers in this space use 3D printers at home,” Wilson agrees, “but we haven’t reached the stage where printing at home will save any cost. That’s likely to happen soon, but for now We’re still on the cusp of that — though I admit the ability to match the quality of what’s sold in-store with 3D printing is coming sooner than I expected.”
In the face of these major changes, Ziff and Wilson agree that more and more virtualization tools are bringing together creative communities with greater design capabilities, but a more impersonal, disembodied world has all sorts of unexpected downsides .
“Contractual agreements take away from artists, painters and writers control over their creations,” Ziv warns. “We hate to see this. We want creators to continue to be known as long as their work is visible, and to keep getting paid on top of that through revenue sharing. It takes a group of talented people to make these games Come to life, we don’t want to demean anyone’s work. These games are whole worlds that are restricted that we don’t want to see.”
Another problem that tabletop collectors have been aware of for some time, although fragmented production makes it more important than ever. “3D printing has made it easier to counterfeit,” Wilson said, “and there’s been a growing trend toward looking alike to avoid legal attention. That’s how lowering barriers to the market can go both ways.”
As intellectual property becomes a hot topic in the field, Ziff offers a more nuanced perspective. “We recognize that IP shouldn’t cross boundaries, but OnlyGames would prefer to give the power to the community and be able to trust them. Let’s let the community democratically judge what’s fair. I don’t want this company to end up with a team of lawyers like As are the big companies in this industry. What we want is better dialogue, not a more punitive legal structure.”
Little people, big business?
These conversations about cost and counterfeiting, pricing and property rights reveal broader dissatisfaction with large, impersonal conglomerates in tabletop gaming in a community-driven market.
“We keep seeing the same thing happen when great creators come along and go it alone to create a fun new board game,” Ziff explained. “Big companies like Hasbro or Ravensburger find these cool new IPs and have a little bit of success, buy them up, and put them into operation, chasing return on investment at any cost. Creating new things on the table creates a more hostile space. It’s by design.”