A lot of publicity accompanied the release of every new original mech design. Throughout the galaxy, millions of different mech models appeared on the market each day. How would consumers be able to make sense of the deluge in new designs?
In practice, due to resource limits, license limits, and regulatory restrictions, most mech models competed solely in the state it originated from. While this cut away most of the competition, it still left Ves with thousands of competing designs that fought over the limited attention span of their potential buyers.
This time, Ves wouldn't be able to enjoy the advantage of making his debut. Fortunately, the LMC of today was a lot bigger than when he published the Blackbeak design. Back then, he still based his company back at his old, cramped workshop.
Right now, the LMC not only owned three production system, it also expanded its payroll by several times. Many problems that seemed difficult to Ves to solve by himself could easily be handed off to the right departments in the company.
Gavin was his contact person in the Marketing Department, which had been tasked with the challenge of making the Crystal Lord a success. Even before Ves completed his design, the Marketing Department already laid out the groundwork for the upcoming release.
"The MTA will be done with the validation of the Crystal Lord in two weeks or so. How soon can you arrange a press conference to introduce our latest product line to the Republic?"
Gavin quickly referenced a data pad. "We are working with all hands on deck right now. In principle, we can hold the press conference at any time, but we're still having trouble with inviting a sufficient amount of publications. Some of these news and media empires are really tough customers."
People interested in buying mechs rarely browsed the public catalog and sorted through the huge number of available models. They researched what they wanted on the galactic net and listened to advice from sources of authority.
News portals and mech portals formed a particularly powerful influences that could collectively make or break a new mech model. The key to making the market aware of his new product was to push it to the public consciousness through a combination of promotion and news coverage.
"Now that I've published my design, your progress in this area should go much faster, am I right?"
"That's right! It always helps to have a concrete example to show off!" Gavin eagerly nodded. "I do have to say it's a really smart idea for you to add such an attention-grabbing gimmick to your latest product. That already makes the Crystal Lord ten times better in terms of marketability."
"Added to that, its premium price point and its similarities to the Blackbeak line should also help with giving the Crystal Lord a boost."
Gavin looked a bit more hesitant at that. "The close relations between the Blackbeak and the Crystal Lord will definitely be an asset, considering that your first design is already so prominent. In the right circumstances, we can definitely enable the Crystal Lord to piggyback off the reputation of the Blackbeak. It's only..."
"Yes. The price. Even for your vaunted gold label masterpieces, charging 90 million credits is price gouging even to me. Everyone in the Marketing Department is sceptical whether you can get the Crystal Lord to take off with such a greedy price point."
Ves shook his head. "I don't agree. You have to be aware that the Mech Corps will call up the second wave of mech designers very soon. The number of gold label Crystal Lords on the market will definitely be a fraction of the gold label Blackbeaks currently in existence, and those already have a very magnanimous resale value."
"That resale value trended upwards over time. It's something that happened organically. You can't prematurely declare that your next product will instantly be worth the same."
"It's a high price, but I think it's more than fair considering what it brings to the table. The Crystal Lord is packed with value. In my opinion, the high price also serves as a symbol of its worth. If I charge any less, then the market won't take my product as seriously."
"They might not think so highly of the Crystal Lord, but at least they can afford a copy." Gavin retorted.
"If they want a more affordable copy, they can set their sights to the silver and bronze label Crystal Lords. Sure, their chest crystals will only be half the size, but it still retains much of the capabilities of the gold label version."
"Even if they're a little cheaper, it still won't be easy to push them into the hands of our customers. Only you would think that there are buyers ready to snap up rifleman mechs valued at 65 and 75 million credits."
"Leaving the gimmicks aside, charging such a price is still reasonable if you think about how I've integrated a substantial amount of compressed armor into its design. Most other armored rifleman mechs are only partially clad with the same kind of armor!"
"Alright, enough!" Gavin sighed and rubbed his eyes. "You don't need to convince me of the appeal of your new design. I just wanted to make you aware that most of the market will react the same as me when they first get to know our new product."
"I'm sure that you already have a plan to address those issues." Ves pointedly stated. He already let the Marketing Department know of the overall specs of his design as soon as he completed his draft design. If they hadn't figured out how to overcome these issues, then what was Ves paying them for? "All I need to know is is your overall strategy. Do you have anything solid?"
"Well, the Crystal Lord is actually a great product for the spoiled brats segment. Think about it. The models are all expensive high-spec machines with cook gimmicks that make it a natural hit among the rich kids that wants to pilot something distinct."
Ves curled down his mouth. "You mean people like Vincent Ricklin?"
"Exactly so. Laser rifleman mechs are universally popular in the mech market. A lot of potentates default to piloting these kinds of mechs because that's all they've trained for. We found out there's a decently strong demand for premium rifleman mech models that's expensive, easy to show off and easy to pilot."
That caused Ves to nod and frown at the same time. "The Crystal Lord definitely fits the first two criteria. As for being easy to pilot, well, according to the test pilots that put the prototype to the test, my design is definitely one of the more difficult rifleman mechs to pilot. I've always designed the Crystal Lord to meet the needs of professionals, not the so-called spoiled brats who shy away at the first sight of blood."
He made many design choices that increased the performance of his mech at the cost of adding to the burden of the person in the cockpit.
Mechs designed to be easy to pilot often took a lot of decisions out of the hands of their mech pilots, thereby simplifying the control interface to a manageable level.
This might be acceptable to the casual potentate that never piloted a mech out of simulations, but a skilled mech pilot that relied on his machine to stay alive demanded more control. Through his recent Mastery experience with Alven, Ves learned how important it was for him to be able to fine-tune every possible action made by his mech.
Alven might be a religious nut, but his skill in piloting mechs was very real.
The explanation came as unwelcome news to Gavin. As a norm and someone who never really bought into the mystique of mechs, he wasn't aware of subtle but impactful details like this. "Oh. That is going to be a problem then. While I'm sure there are a couple of rich kids out there who know what they're doing, I guess we can't go through with our original plans."
They continued their discussion for a bit. Ves emphasized that the Crystal Lord fared best when piloted by someone skilled. Just like with the Blackbeak, the Crystal Lord was not a toy to be shown off to friends. Ves designed it to endure the rigors of war, and he was determined to see it thrive in the coming battles.
"Well, there's one more group who this mech should appeal to." Gavin suddenly remembered something. "All of those gangs and mercenary corps that returned from the Glowing Planet and received their rewards are still flush with money. Although many of them have already placed new orders, it's impossible for them to run out of money soon. I bet there are a couple of mercenary commanders and gang leaders who are willing to spend a little extra to obtain a prestigious mech."
That sounded like a much better target audience. Ves quickly nodded. "That's the right approach. You can even approach the Whalers and sound them out if they are interested as well."
After Ves became reassured that the Marketing Department was on the right track, he left them to complete their preparations while Ves returned underground. He couldn't afford to slack off in what might be his last month with the LMC.
First, he began designing the bronze and silver label variants of the Crystal Lords.
With the Blackbeak line, the different labels mainly resulted in cosmetic differences. Principally, their performance should be equal, though in practice differences in familiarity, skill and equipment resulted in substantial differences in performance.
Ves couldn't do the same for the Crystal Lord, mainly due to the difficulty of synthesizing and activating the huge chest crystal. Fortunately, Ves already took into account that he might have to downscale the chest crystal, so he easy modified the original design to accommodate much smaller crystals without overhauling the entire schematic. It only took a couple more days for him to verify the soundness of his changes in the simulations.
"I don't have the time to fabricate a physical copy and test the bronze and silver label variants for real."
He decided to dump the problem on the lap of the Production Department and let them fabricate the variants and bring them to the testing grounds on their own. If nothing surprising happened, both of his variants should be able to pass muster. In that case, the LMC could submit the designs to the MTA for certification before putting them into production.
Due to his impending absence, Ves helplessly delegated a lot of the responsibility of bringing all three labels to the market to his subordinates. Inevitably, the board of directors would have a say in the decision making as well, though Ves planned to ram through a couple of new regulations that curbed their power even further.
Lawyers in the service of the Larkinson Estate drew up much of the LMC's articles of incorporation. In hindsight, Ves made a mistake by relying on these people to draw up the governance structure for his company. The lawyers made sure that minority shareholders such as the Larkinsons retained a measure of power without being too obvious.
"As much as they're family, I can't let them run the LMC in a way that runs counter to its mission."
Ves did not rely on the the Administrative or Legal Department to come up with the amendments. Pretty much everyone who worked there reported to Jake, who in turn was a Larkinson loyalist through and through. Putting them in charge of this matter would be like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.
Instead, he consulted an external corporate lawyer based out of Bentheim behind the backs of his entire company. With the help of the corporate lawyer's advice, they managed to formulate some changes that patched the most egregious loopholes in the corporate charter.
In this way, even if Ves wouldn't be able to attend the board meetings, the rest of the board still wouldn't be able to decide on things willy nilly.