Home ->The Mech Touch ->403 Price of Performance

 The System provided a very flattering evaluation of the Crystal Lord compared to its usual conduct. It always graded his designs in comparison with similar models which competed in the same market segment, so Ves always got a good picture on how his designs would fare in the market.

The most important take from the evaluation was that the X-Factor finally broke through the ceiling! This immediately prompted Ves to whoop in excitement.

"I did it! Hahaha! Finally!"

The moment he Superpublished the design, the spirit of the crystal golem finally left his mind and began to inhabit the abruptly improved design. This lifted a huge weight off his chest, allowing Ves to breathe easy for the first time in months. He hadn't realized how much of a burden the crystal golem represented.

Its mental strength had actually grown by a fair margin! Ves just never realized the change because it happened gradually.

"I hope you enjoy your new home!"

While Ves had no idea what kind of difference it made, it was still a cause for celebration. He looked forward to seeing footage of the mech in battle and see whether its mech pilots drew strength from the X-Factor.

After he got over his jubilation, Ves sobered up and started to study his design from a more sober perspective. What had the Superpublish function accomplished? The System promised that the function would comprehensively improve his design by ten percent.

"What does ten percent actually mean?"

It was like claiming to improve a piece of art by ten percent. How could you quantify the improvement in an objective manner? Was it a straightforward boost in specs, or would the System work in a more indirect manner? Ves was very curious about its methods, so he quickly dove into the results.

He turned his attention back to the evaluation.

"Hm. It's kind of a muddle, now that I see it. That's not very great."

While a lot of criteria scored rather high, some of them fell short of his expectations. Even with the power of the Superpublish effect, the System could only do so much to boost the inadequacies that he left in his design.

His design received a lot of scores in the B range, which meant the Crystal Lord performed better than average in those criteria, but not to the extent of becoming a compelling selling point.

His design also came with two very impactful weaknesses that Ves hadn't fully taken into account before he published his design.

First, the carrying capacity of his mech was rather dismal for its mission profile. Mechs expected to be deployed for many days or weeks needed to carry its own supplies. As big, independent war machines famous for their ability to operate under difficult conditions without excessive requirements, having a rifleman mech that could hardly carry its own supplies was a big demerit.

"It's like a ship geared to traverse long distances but only having the fuel capacity to complete half of it. There's a mismatch between possibility and reality."

Still, his customers should be able to get around this problem by passing the burden on mechs with greater carrying capacities. While that sounded like a excuse, it happened all the time with regards to light mechs.

Larger outfits even relied on dedicated transport shuttles or cargo mechs to carry their supplies during deployments.

So while the Crystal Lord's carrying capacity looked disappointing, it wasn't anything fatal.

"The cost is another matter."

Despite using up much less expensive compressed armor plating than the Blackbeak, the cost of the Crystal Lord actually surpassed the knight mech. The difficulty in reproducing the crystals embedded in the chest jacked up the price by quite a lot. Once he improved the crystal synthesizer, Ves expected to bring down the cost by a decent amount.

Still, even if he solved this issue, that didn't mean he wouldn't be able to charge an affordable price for his rifleman mechs. Even with a hundred percent success rate in producing the crystals, the fact that it gobbled up a lot of pricy exotics added up a hefty amount to the total price tag.

"It's not cheap to implement these gimmicks." He frowned as he looked at the breakdown of the production cost of a single copy of the Crystal Lord.

The gold label mech with a full-sized chest crystal cost 10 million credits more than a mech that left out this boondoggle.

The cost became much more generous if Ves shrank its size as he planned to do with the bronze and silver label versions of the same model. The extra costs would only amount to 4 to 5 million credits.

The total estimated production cost was hard to determine due to the constant fluctuation in the price of raw materials. For the gold label Crystal Lord, Ves carefully estimated that it cost around 45 to 50 million credits to reproduce a single copy.

Ves couldn't help but wince when he finished his calculations. "This is already more than the Blackbeak."

Many people would scratch their heads if they saw the difference in costs. Rifleman mechs always cost less than knight mechs. Only rarely would the reverse be true, especially with models that shared so many commonalities with each other.

"Well, the Blackbeak is a basic mech that looks beautiful on its own while the Crystal Lord needs a big fat jewel in order to feel appreciated."

The Blackbeak product line competed in a fairly niche market segment. The competition wasn't as intense, allowing Ves to focus on its fundamental attributes and rely on them to drive its sales.

The Crystal Lord faced a much more brutal environment. It was not enough to compete on an even playing field. It needed a step up in order to stand out from the dominant models in the market.

Ves relied on several unique advantages to increase the appeal of his Crystal Lords. "The specs, the gimmicks, the X-Factor and my Mastery should all be powerful draws in unison."

He didn't let his design's shiny toys distract him from his core goal to deliver a well-performing design.

As the System's evaluation attested, the performance of his rifleman mech by and large surpassed its equivalents by a modest margin. As Ves called up the Superpublished design and compared it to the pre-published version, he spotted various subtle but ingenious improvements.

"It's truly worth it to Superpublish this design!"

If he hadn't gone for this extra step, then he wouldn't be able to justify the prices he planned to charge for his mech. His own thoughts combined with the consultations he held with the Marketing Department allowed him to come up with a tentative pricing scheme that would slightly put the Blackbeak to shame.

"The bronze label variant should cost 65 million credits while the silver label will still look appealing if I charge 75 million credits for it. As for the gold label Crystal Lord, only a price of 90 million credits will do it justice."

The premium he charged for the bronze label version that the LMC would rely on third-party manufacturers to produce looked very reasonable. It cost a bit more than a Blackbeak, but its performance combined with the value that the gimmicks brought to the table should lead to a brisk amount of sales.

The LMC mass produced the silver label version in-house, therefore they cost a fair bit more. In exchange, buyers would receive a Crystal Lord with the same crystals as the bronze label versions, but activated with the help of the crystal cube.

"Anyone else can reproduce these crystals given time and effort."

When the LMC would inevitably bestow some licensing contracts to a couple of third-party manufacturers, they would receive detailed design schematics that lined out how to create the crystals.

Ves never expected to keep its secrets to himself. Due to the MTA's enforcement of licensing structures, Ves would still be able to benefit in case some other company pirated his innovations, but that still allowed his competitors to flood the market with imitation models.

Being an innovator meant you had to spend a lot of money and resources to invent something new. While this allowed you to release a product on the market that enabled you to recoup your costs, it also enabled rivals to copy your finished product and release their own versions without those burdens.

"This is why the licensing scheme exists."

The MTA knew that designs could never stay confidential and that competitors constantly stole from each other. The licensing scheme existed to moderate these tendencies and to encourage innovators to keep on inventing new stuff.

To Ves, it didn't always work, but at least it tried. "It's better than nothing."

The activated crystals which enjoyed a significant boost in power compared to unactivated crystals allowed the LMC to protect itself against the inevitable outbreak of imitation models.

When those competitors tried to copy what Ves had achieved, they would quickly find out that they lacked an essential ingredient. Without it, their imitations would have no appeal compared to the original models.

Still, despite his many justifications for putting those high price tags on his products, it remained to be seen whether the market could stomach them. In a mech market where most premium rifleman mechs sold for around 40 to 45 million credits, asking buyers to cough up at least fifty percent more money to buy a slightly higher-performing model wasn't easy.

"It's up to the Marketing Department from now on."

Unless they convinced consumers that the Crystal Lord of the merits of its features, the LMC wouldn't be able to charge a fair price. This would definitely be a herculean challenge for his up-and-coming mech company.

"We had a lot of help with the introduction of the Blackbeak. This time, we're on our own."

The LMC released the Blackbeak with a lot of fanfare because it was his first original design. That was something special and a milestone to any mech designer.

In comparison with the abundant amount of publicity attracted to any debut designs, a second original design from the same mech designer hardly roused any interest. Buyers and publications both considered those kinds of product releases routine.

"It's going to be hard to attract the attention of a lot of publications and build up hype for the Crystal Lord."

The problem was exacerbated by the fact that Ves might very well be absent at the upcoming press conference that would introduce the model to the galaxy. Right now, Ves had a lot on his plate, and very little time clear it up.

"I best finish the rest of my to-do list."

Ves proceeded to move quickly. In order to pass the MTA's validation process for each new original mech design, he needed to deliver a physical copy for them. He therefore went up to the fabrication floor and reserved the Dortmund production line for himself.

In the next three days, Ves carefully reproduced a flawless copy of the gold label Crystal Lord. Though he wanted to rush its fabrication, Ves forcefully pushed down his impatience and adhered to a slower pace that minimized the risk of slipping up.

He paid the most attention to synthesizing and activating the two crystals that would accompany the mech. He also capped off the finished product by personally affixing the label and one of Lucky's best gems in the cockpit of the mech.

When Ves stepped back, he joined the mech technicians standing to the side. They all practically worshipped the first production mech as if it was a god come to life.

What struck Ves the most at this point was that he could feel the impact of its powerful X-Factor in his heart. The mech radiated a sense of pride and threat in equal measure.

Ves could not forget about the alien race's lamentation for being so small. By fulfilling the dreams of the crystal golem of being put into a massive war machine that towered over most people it would come into touch, it carried a sense of completion that Ves had never encountered before in his other mechs.

The Crystal Lord hadn't just come to life. It also enjoyed its return to the living.