Military Miniaturepress

Made in America: Bringing Miniature Production Home

(This is a sponsored post)

In the first issue of Military Miniature Magazine, Michael Murphy contributed a piece discussing the logistics and shipping issues that have been plaguing the miniatures industry. Trying to secure a shipment overseas, especially in the height and wake of COVID, often seems impossible. And for the American market, it tends to feel worse as many home-based publishers outsource their manufacturing and shipping to China and Europe. But, as many would confirm, the whole situation is a double-edged sword. If you do manufacture in the United States, you incur greater costs that require higher-priced miniatures that may alienate your audience. However, companies like Echelon Software (_Echelon) have found value in being able to say its products are made in America..

The Cost of Keeping It in America

To _Echelon’s president, Jon Chang, where to produce was an issue that only ever had one correct answer. Since developing its first 28mm for Black Powder: Red Earth, _Echelon has entrusted its manufacturing to local, American suppliers. There’s a sense of hometown pride in the decision, as products like Black Powder are in a perpetual cycle of providing for the United States. Whether it’s helping a small business or supplying gamers with unbeatable materials, staying on American soil allows _Echelon to best serve its customers. Unfortunately, that choice drives the price up. But there’s more to this than money.

It’s About Control

Companies that work with overseas publishers likely understand how their chosen partner manufactures their product, at least as far as the materials being used. However, that’s where their involvement stops. And by not being an active component in the production process, they relinquish some control over their product. It becomes more difficult to pivot and change what’s being used should a more durable material or efficient method become available. 

By remaining in the United States, a company can play an active role in every step of manufacturing its miniatures. Cutting out larger manufacturers and working with small businesses simplifies the process of making changes, such as finding better materials. For Black Powder: Red Earth, _Echelon was able to switch to Sintra polymer, which enhanced its game components’ quality. 

Much of the advanced features of _Echelon’s tabletop game can be attributed to being produced on American soil. Through stricter quality control, made possible by accessible production, Black Powder can feature tear and water-resistant laminated cards and miniatures that are highly detailed, easy to paint, and of a much higher quality than players tend to receive. And what does all of these equate to? A more recognizable product, a trusted brand, and figures with a unique and memorable silhouette.

Producing miniatures in the United States is an ongoing game of weighing costs vs. benefits, but not just on the publisher’s side. Players, too, need to decide if they want to pay more for more efficient shipping and higher quality miniatures. Though the price may scare off some, others will welcome the perks that come with shelling out a bit more money.

A developer can have a magnitude of reasons for wanting to pay for American-based production, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be about what’s best for players. And sometimes, that’s not about finding the most cost-efficient way of creating a product.

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