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BlizzCon 2009: Ed Fries of Figureprints

FigurePrints was at BlizzCon again this year, and we stopped by their booth to say hi to our friend Ed Fries -- his company has been making virtual World of Warcraft characters into real-life 3D figurines for a couple of years now. Since the last time we'd spoken, FigurePrints had not only raised their prices, but we'd unveiled their new FigurePets series right here on WoW.com.

Fries gave us a few more things to unveil in this exclusive interview, including the fact that FigurePets will have another series get released next month, and that they're planning to offer some new options to players who want to print characters out but don't have the time to go find their favorite armor. Additionally, we asked him about the price raise, and what the company planned to do about people who really wanted to immortalize their figures but didn't really want to spend all that money.

Additionally, we've got a short video after the break showing one of their employees manually removing some of the powder from a newly printed figurine in the booth at BlizzCon. It doesn't have much explanation of what he's doing (for more on the process, you can see last year's BlizzCon interview), but you can see inside the printer and what it's like to create these figures.

Since the last time I've talked to you, you started doing the pets.

Right. We launched FigurePets. We launched with a series of three pets over there -- we've got Stinker, the Clockwork Rocket Bot, and Speedy. And they all sold well, but Speedy was the one that everyone loved.

Speedy's the little turtle.

The turtle, yeah. People love the Speedy. Those did well enough that it encouraged us to go on and do a second series that we'll be launching next month. I can't say what it's going to be yet, but it's going to be three of the five that are on that shelf up there (points), so...

Can you tell us which five are on the shelf?

Let me see, there's a Worg Pup, Egbert, Sleepy Willy, Muckbreath, and Grunty.

I hope it's Egbert. The pets was a big deal, and I know another request that you have from a lot of players is mounts.

Yeah, we get a lot of requests for mounts. Even more we get requests for Hunter pets and Warlock pets. So that we've been working hard at. We're getting a lot closer. We've got a prototype up there of a Hunter and a Tiger pet, and that's getting close to being a finished product. We have a couple months more of development work to do, but that'll be the next kind of big thing that we launch.

You have that one out, you also have a big Traveler's Tundra Mammoth that looks amazing here. What's the tough thing about this when you're trying to do these pets?

It's actually really easy to put big things together -- I can say that because I'm not the artist who has to do the work, but. For us to do something one off, is not very hard. For us to create a system where anyone can go and get their pets and their character is much, much more work. So it's easy for us to show off and print this Tundra mount with three different characters on it, never mind that just the cost to print that is about $1500.

It's, what, 11 inches tall or so? $1500?

It's as big as fits in our print bay which is 10" x 14" x 8". So we do stuff like that just for fun. Maybe someday we'll be able to offer a product like that, so really our focus right now is get the Warlock and pet or Hunter and pet working, and then we'll move on to mounts.

The other thing we've heard from readers is that the price has actually changed once since you guys came out, and it's actually gone up. You've raised the price on it.

That's true.

So a lot of people are really interested and they think it's really cool, but the price is still a limiter. And what is the price for the pets?

The pets are $29.95 for one, or $24.95 each for three.

So obviously that's an option, but as you get better and better at making these things, I have to assume the process gets easier and a little cheaper. So what do you foresee in terms of a cheaper price in the future? Or a) why did you raise the price, and b) if people are waiting on a price cut, how long are they going to be waiting?

Can I grab one? I'm going to grab one? [Gets up and picks up a Tauren figure, brings it back. Passes it over, and points out how heavy it is and how solid and sturdy it is, with the glass dome around it.] They're a bargain for a hundred and twenty-nine bucks. It's big and heavy, it's beautiful, we've really done a lot of work to improve the quality from when we first started, we have really good color control now, really good quality control in general. Basically, our costs were higher than we expected. We launched, and we need the business to make sense, too, right? Or we would go out of business and people wouldn't have this service. Definitely, with the volume of work we have right now, we need to be at the $129 price. We've been doing some more kind of opportunistic discounting -- if you look around, there's codes you can enter in now to save 5%, we're handing out a 10% code here at the show. We just came off a sale where we were 10% discounted. So there are ways to save. Also, if you buy a FigurePet you get 10% off a FigurePrint. So we're doing more discounting, but really, the thing I can do to bring up the price now is to get volume. And the best thing I can do to get volume now is to go to Asia. Being as we're only in the US and Europe, and I really need to get us into Korea, Taiwan, and ultimately China. If we can start increasing the number of prints that we can do, we can get down to $99, $95 price range, which is where I'd like to have the product be.

All right, so tell your friends in China that they want to buy FigurePrints if you want the price to drop. That's all I really had. It's interesting that we started following this when you guys were first messing around, and it's still going. The other thing we talked about way back when was other games. Obviously you've got a good licensing deal with Blizzard here. Have you done any more R&D or are you interested in doing anything else like that?

We've talked to a lot of other game companies, I've been approached by several here at the show. There's nothing really out there like World of Warcraft though, and so I continue to have those discussions, and explore them. But right now, the best way to grow the company is to do more for World of Warcraft. Add the Hunter and pet that people want, expand more globally, to reach more of the World of Warcraft audience. We probably only reach about half the Warcraft players right now, and so we'd like to reach more people.

I'll give you the scoop on another thing that we're going to introduce real quick, that we're kind of showing in a subtle way here at the show. We're planning to introduce the option to dress yourself in some of the classic armor tiers, even without having them.

So Tier armor as an option. Instead of gearing up my character in Tier 1, I can just say put me in Tier 1.

Yeah, so you don't have to run back and go run Molten Core or something.

And go find all that actual gear.

So we're going to have, we're going to offer Tier 1, 2, and 3, and dungeon set 1 and 2. And for a lot of people, those were really cool sets that they have a lot of fun memories around. So we're going to introduce that very very soon, and that's just another option for people who come to the site.

Cool. And you know, way back when you first started, we said why can't you just choose your armor, and you said, well you have to earn the armor that you pick to be in, but does that mean that Tier 1, 2, and 3 are not worth earning any more, that you can say you earned them and no one cares?

I think it's kind of a compromise, I don't think it's really viable to make someone go back and run Molten Core raids for an armor set that, if they're only going to do it for that, I don't think that's very reasonable.

It is only 1, 2, and 3, we're up to 9 now with the current state.

Exactly. Maybe this is sort of a compromise, but we're going to try this out, and see what the response is, and see if people want to dress themselves in that sort of gear, and then who knows we might expand that program a little more, we'll see.

Great, thanks very much.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Interviews, BlizzCon, Fan art, Hardware

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