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Robotech® RPG Tactics™ Announcement from Kevin Siembieda, President of Palladium Books®

When the Robotech® RPG Tactics (RRT) Kickstarter funded in May 2013, we cheered, hugged and actually danced down the halls at the Palladium office. Not just because of the amount of money raised thanks to your pledges, but because it meant the realization of our dreams for Robotech®. For Palladium Books, it signified bringing Robotech fans – ourselves among them – something new and exciting to the beloved Robotech® universe.

So it is with sadness and tremendous heartbreak that I announce that, despite our best efforts, we are unable to produce the Robotech® RPG Tactics Wave Two rewards. Moreover, after proudly carrying the legacy of Robotech® in the role-playing games medium for 30 years, our license has expired and is not being renewed.

Palladium’s Business Manager, Scott Gibbons, intended to write this post, but I thought it should come from me. I have spent the better part of a week trying to find the words to explain what happened and express to you how sorry we are that it has come to this. In the end, we decided it best to keep it simple and share with you the broad strokes of how things unfolded without getting too deep into the weeds or violating any Non-Disclosure Agreements.

When Palladium saw the opportunity to do Robotech® miniatures as game pieces, we knew the fans would love it. Even cooler, we wanted to create a whole new RPG with an emphasis on the miniatures, combat and tactics. Something different and exciting.

So, we decided to contract with another company with a good reputation and experience in all the areas where we lacked direct experience ourselves. We considered a few companies, and decided upon Ninja Division/Soda Pop Miniatures. We liked what they had to say, they were knowledgeable, enthusiastic and confident, had been working with Cool Mini or Not, Games Workshop and other top-flight companies, and had been involved in 8 or 9 successful Kickstarters. Plus, they had a hit game of their own, Super Dungeon Explore, as well as having been involved with the creation of other games. When we inquired about the company, industry people spoke very highly of them and the products they had worked on.

Ninja Division was brought on to do the heavy lifting: Build and run the Kickstarter, select the manufacturer/broker in China, choose the manufacturing process, choose the type of plastic, provide Palladium with the cost estimates, handle logistics and deal with all the ins and outs and many, many nuisances of manufacturing in China. Ninja Division was also to create the game and hire talented sculptors and artists to create the 3D sculpts, cards, design elements, packaging, and essentially create the game and the Kickstarter from the ground up, or as they liked to say in those early days, “handle 90% of everything.”

At Palladium Books, our primary role was using our extensive knowledge of the Robotech® I.P. to ensure the accuracy of the 3D sculpts, artwork, design elements, and overall look and feel of the game. Palladium provided Ninja Division’s sculptors and artists with all kinds of reference materials, artwork, model sheets, screen shots, and copious notes and communications to get it all just right. This was no small task, as there were many game pieces and most required a vast amount of our time and input to capture all the proper details we knew fans expected. We also handled the approval process with Harmony Gold.

Palladium eventually became more directly involved in the creative process in terms of developing the game rules. We brought in a long-time Palladium freelance writer, Robotech® uber-fan and game designer to assist. We approached it as if we were looking at Robotech® with fresh eyes, re-watched all of Robotech®: Macross, and set out to simulate the action, speed and power of the mecha as seen in the TV show. We used some of Ninja Division’s material as a starting point and built on it from there. Then we worked with them to help with the fine-tuning and number crunching. Ninja Division managed and oversaw the widespread play-testing, and the response from our scores of play-testers was overwhelmingly positive.

The Kickstarter was raw excitement. You know, you were part of it.

After the Kickstarter successfully funded, Palladium announced a Fall 2013 release and said that the game was 98% done, because in the minds of all of us here, it was 98% done. The rest was easy ... or so we thought. You take the 3D sculpts, do physical 3D prints, make the molds, run the plastic figures, dice and tokens, print the rule book, cards, and cartons, box it all up, shrinkwrap it, ship it to the USA, and we ship it to you and the stores. Easy, right? Wrong. But, because this is what we thought and because we were so anxious to bring the game to you and the gaming community, we advertised in print and online that the game would be a Fall 2013 release. In retrospect, we probably should have waited until RRT was on the boat heading to America; but we were excited, so we moved ahead.

Plastics and manufacturing
After delay after delay that we, like you, did not understand, we learned the problem stemmed from the fact that STL files, the 3D sculpts from the sculptors, were not compatible with the tooling process the manufacturer would be using.

The 3D sculpts we had all worked so hard on, and that Palladium had paid $35,000 for, and looked gorgeous, had to be completely recreated – from scratch – by the manufacturer. And Palladium and Ninja Division had to go through the creation, correction and approval process a second time for ALL of the Wave One and most of the Wave Two game pieces. A process that took MONTHS. Each delay compounding your frustration, and ours, as we would announce one revised release date – and miss it – after another.

Tooling is the engineering and making of the molds. The hard plastic used in Wave One was chosen to preserve the detail and crispness of the game pieces. Using that material requires expensive metal molds. Moreover, the plastic and the molds do not allow for undercuts, requiring the manufacturer to break the miniatures down into many, many pieces in order to manufacture them. Hence, the many parts required to build the miniatures.

The high cost of tooling/molds – $75,000 for what would become just the Wave One rewards – was unexpected. And that was in addition to the nearly $21,000 for the 3D file corrections and prototypes by the manufacturer.

Shipping. The next big cost increase came with the announcement that all freight carriers from UPS and FedEx to the United States Postal Service were implementing Dimensional Weight. In the recent past, a shipper paid by the pound to send a package. Then someone in the shipping industry came up with the idea that shippers of large but lightweight packages should pay by the size of the package, not just the weight. A formula based upon size (volume), not weight, was made standard so now you have to pay by “Dimensional Weight” after a certain point. And that point is not a very large package. Thus, you now pay by the actual weight or by “dimensional weight,” whichever is greater.

Dimensional Weight dramatically increased the anticipated shipping cost to backers. $131,843.74 for just Wave One. Another $9,016.80 for the boxes alone to ship your rewards in. And $76,401.20 to import Wave One from China into the USA.

Costs were soaring beyond the original cost projections. Ninja Division suggested splitting the Kickstarter rewards into two waves. We were reluctant at first, but ultimately came around to the idea.

The effort to make Wave Two
In theory, by making and releasing the Wave One products to the retail market, we could sell enough of them to produce Wave Two rewards. Even if Palladium saw little or no initial profit from it, we figured we would make up for it with later sales as the game line grew and found its place in the market. Not ideal, but it seemed like our best choice at the time.

But after the initial release of Wave One products, for a variety of reasons, including the high piece count to make each miniature and the delay of Wave Two which would have improved the gaming experience, sales stalled. And with sales stagnating, our ability to produce Wave Two stalled with it.

The Kickstarter money was gone with Wave One, but Palladium never gave up on Robotech® RPG Tactics. We explored every available option in order to secure more funding or bring in business partners and investors. We solicited multiple quotes and explored different manufacturing options and new production technologies for these potential partners. As you know, there was a period when we felt very confident Wave Two would see production and release. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we came up short. But we were so committed, even that did not stop us. We reached out to others. Even Harmony Gold and Palladium’s licensing agent tried to help us put deals together with third parties. We made a Herculean effort and did everything we could, right through this past Christmas and into the New Year, but without success.

The cost to produce Wave Two, estimated at $300,000-$400,000 for tooling and manufacturing, plus $65,000 to import to the USA, plus $120,000-$160,000 to ship rewards to the backers, was more than any potential investor was willing to risk.

Whenever anyone pledges support to a Kickstarter project, you never know if it will be successful or not. It is a gamble. This is true of any business venture. We are sincerely sorry this one fell short. We gave it our all, but that’s the rub about life and business, sometimes your all is not good enough. Sometimes you miss the mark despite your best efforts, good intentions, and the money you pour into it. I’m sorry that was the case with RRT.

What we can offer – Wave One Rewards for Wave Two
We know it is not what you expected, but we would like to offer you Wave One rewards in exchange for the unrealized Wave Two rewards – but you will have to pay for shipping. We estimate shipping to all 5,000+ backers around the world will cost $120,000-$160,000; and, at this point, Palladium Books just does not have the resources to cover that expense.

We will do our best to ship as inexpensively as possible, and we will only pass along our actual costs – with Palladium covering the cost of labor.

We will post the details about the reward exchange in the following update.

I would like to state that the people at Harmony Gold USA, Inc., have been wonderful partners to work with these many years. They went above and beyond the call of duty when it came to their assistance with trying to keep RRT alive. Our thanks to everyone involved.

My thanks and humble appreciation to everyone who supported Robotech® RPG Tactics. First and foremost, that includes you, our Kickstarter backers, followed by others who bought and loved RRT, everyone who had a direct hand in its creation, to play-testers, freelancers, Game Masters, and many, many others — far too many people to try to list. Literally, thousands of you. Thank you for sharing our dream. We tried our very best.

With Sincere Appreciation,
Kevin SiembiedaPresident, Palladium Books, Inc.

Games Gazette Online Comment  These are my personal thoughts
First off, I like everyone else, is sad that what sounded like it was going to be the best ever version of Robotech has had to be folded. Hopefully whoever steps in totake the license will have enough sense to contact Palladium and pick up the pieces, after all it does seem that the majority of the work is already completed.

Secondly, if everything was in place for production to begin and it was then found that the production company in China hadn't the right equipment, why make new tooling and moulds ? Surely if Ninja Division had already made miniatures games they must have known another company who would have been able to make the correct equipment.

Also about the tooling and moulds; why didn't Ninja Division/Palladium double-check the required measurements before anything was tooled/moulded ? In layman's terms, if I own a car I'm not going to buy "universal" parts for it unless I know they will fit the make and model (okay I accept that's a poor analogy).

I cannot understand why people are getting pissed at Palladium for losing the license as pledges are just that, no cash should have been paid into the Kickstarter campaign and so apart from disappointment no one should have lost any money.

If anyone should be pissed it is Palladium who have spent a lot of time and are out around $100.000 +  and have nothing to show for it, though some of the problem has to be laid at their door for trusting in another company, not checking themselves that the dimensions and specifications were the same at source and at production. Also for allowing the License to expire without fore-warning the pledgers.

I may be being naieve here, but is it possible for Palladium to change the name from Robotech to something like RIFTS MECHANOIDS and rewrite the rules removing all mention of anything Robotech. They already have the sculptings, the moulds and the tools for the miniatures plus the majority of the rules. So much time and money has been spent on this project it would be criminal not to see it through. RIFTS MECHANOIDS could be Kickstarted the same as Robotech was supposed to be, but as the majority of the work is already complete don't put it on Kickstarter until the product is ready to roll off the presses then everyone will be winners. Every pledger may not come back but if it is openly clear that the product is ready to roll as soon as the necessary amount of $dollars has been raised I am sure the majority of them will - they want the game, that's obvious, and the name of the game shouldn't be an issue if the game remains (as near to) the same.

Palladium's Kevin Siembieda replied:

We understand completely why people are upset, as we count ourselves among them. This was truly heartbreaking for all of us at Palladium. We love Robotech®, the RRT game and the fans. This sucks on so many levels.
The reason we let the License expire without fore-warning the pledgers is because we were in active negotiations with potential partners to  produce RRT till the bitter end. We worked through the holidays and well into the New Year trying to find a way to save RRT and continue both Robotech® game lines. We made this sacrifice at our own detriment as our liquidation period had begun, but we hoped that we could pull out a Hail Mary deal in the nth hour. We certainly could not make this announcement and start liquidating while we were negotiating to try to make Wave Two happen and keep the RRT game line alive. Despite our best efforts, we were not able make that happen. So sad for everyone.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015