After a successful day of presenting the Crystal Lord, Ves patiently slept and waited until the next day to find out the public's response.
As he ate breakfast in his hotel room, Gavin came up to him and provided him with a brief report.
"Almost every publication who attended the press conference wrote glowing praise about the Crystal Lord! We succeeded in wowing them and transfer their enthusiasm in their reporting!"
Ves accepted the data pad and skimmed through the articles they published in the morning. Some delivered unfiltered words of admiration, while others looked more restrained, as if the editors of the publications forcefully leashed their over-enthusiastic reporters.
Nonetheless, getting that much was more than sufficient for the LMC. Interest in the Crystal Lord obviously spiked upwards and millions of people started looking up the mech on the galactic net after just a few hours of exposure.
"What about the negative articles?"
"There are a lot of other publications who are trying to throw shade on the Crystal Lord. Some of them are excessively negative while others express some doubts at its value proposition. I don't believe that all of these news portals are following someone's orders. They just don't buy into the hype."
"Hm, that's to be expected." Ves nodded gravely as he sipped a cup of coffee. "Even though the Crystal Lord looks impressive when you see it in person, it's hard to convey its value onto a spec sheet. It's unusual for an Apprentice Mech Designer like me to publish such an expensive design."
"The main point the skeptics are raising is if it is a product looking for a market. Most rifleman mech models in this price range are designed by Journeyman, and all of their products are a notch above your own in terms of value for money. The only wildcard is the amount of value your gimmick can bring to the table."
Ves smirked. "That's exactly why I kept working on this feature that all of you thought was a big waste of time. I never intended it to be a game-changer in a battle. As long as people think it's useful enough to justify its price, it's accomplishing its mission."
The virtual models of the design appeared onto the different simulation games as well, allowing the public to explore their strengths at their own pace. The first reviews already reached glowing levels as many of them became affected the X-Factor of the virtual mechs they piloted.
As Ves read through the reports, he got a sense that this effect became a lot stronger than compared with the Blackbeak. Anyone who piloted the virtual version of the offensive knight design came away with much less enthusiasm.
Perhaps that was one of the main differences between B and C-grade X-Factors. The responses of the early adopters sounded no different than those who piloted any of his mechs in person.
This happened to have formed a powerful boost for the newly published Crystal Lord. The overwhelmingly positive feedback elevated the virtual models to a whole new level. As they gained in popularity, they also became more prominent in the virtual marketspace, leading to more curious players trying them out.
"It's too bad that it's a fairly demanding mech to pilot." Gavin noted sullenly. "It's classified as a 5-star virtual mech in Iron Spirit, so not a lot of people are qualified to purchase and pilot it in the first place."
Right now, the higher-leagued player base of online games like Iron Spirit had plummeted due to the war. These working men and women needed to focus their full attention on surviving the war. They had no time to waste on games in simulations that didn't cut it as a professional training tool.
Ves still smiled. "The more exposure, the better. Great things start from small steps. Building up some grassroots popularity for our new design is never a bad thing. The more the laymen talk about it, the more the professionals take note. Word will spread, and eventually interest will blow over to the people in charge of procuring mechs."
"Actual sales are still very modest. We may have received a lot of orders for the silver label Crystal Lord, but we aren't getting any further orders except from those who attended the conference."
They both knew that the Crystal Lord might be off to a rough start. Ves already thought about it extensively and believed that the situation might change once people start to convey their experiences with piloting the mechs in circulation. "These things take time. It's normal for potential buyers to hold back on purchasing an expensive mech. They want to avoid being scammed, so they'll only start to move once we receive some positive feedback from the first wave of customers."
"Yeah, about that, we're kind of in a tight spot with regards to production. I don't need to tell you this, but the Mech Nursery is bottlenecked by the fact that it only runs three production lines. That was already insufficient with the silver label Blackbeak and now with the silver label Crystal Lord on top, their waiting lists have reached an insane proportion."
This was one problem that the LMC couldn't easily solve. "We already went into debt in order to finance the acquisition of two additional Benson production lines. Do we have to dig a deeper hole?"
"You can always have the company issue more stock. The LMC is obviously on the rise, so its stock is really hot right now."
"No. Absolutely not." Ves quickly shook his head. "I haven't changed my mind on this stance. The other shareholders don't want to dilute their ownership. Personally, I don't feel desperate enough to sell my own shares either."
The LMC currently faced a paper loss resulting from missed opportunities. That was an entirely different to sustaining real losses by spending much more money than they earned from their revenue streams.
Basically, the company was already in a pretty good spot, but everyone wanted to move over to a better position. They just had to pay a price in order to do so.
Ves already relayed his opinion on the matter to Calsie, and tasked her to coordinate with the board and the Finance Department to find out a solution that made everyone happy. With the LMC's financial growth prospects, taking out another loan shouldn't be difficult, but the sticking point was the amount of investment they wanted to make.
A conservative expansion entailed acquiring two second-hand production lines on the cheap, while more ambitious plans called for diving deep into debt into order to finance a whopping amount of six new production lines.
Though Ves did not look forward to saddling the LMC with debt, in the long run it paid off. The only worry was that something drastic happened in the meantime that might disrupt the company's future profit streams.
In these uncertain times, it became increasingly harder for mech manufacturers to obtain loans at favorable rates. One of the most awful consequences of the earlier mass raids by the Vesians was that banks suddenly hiked all of their interest rates overnight. It was a lot more expensive to owe money to them after that point.
This was why the question of financing a further expansion required a lot of consideration. Even after they made a decision, they might spend a month or two on negotiating the best possible terms with the banks they wanted to go in bed with. Once they finally managed to acquire the production lines and get them up and running with an expanded crew of mech technicians, at least half a year might have gone by.
All the while, demand for the Crystal Lord piled up.
To placate the urgent demand, the LMC pretty much had to resort to relying on third-party manufacturers yet again. This was something else that Ves had delegated to Calsie and the rest.
"What kind of third-party manufacturers are expressing interest in producing the bronze label Crystal Lords?"
"Well, first off, you've got Vaun Industrial." Gavin began. "They are remarkably open in their intentions, despite not earning as much from their Blackbeaks as they hoped. Bronze label Blackbeaks only make up a tiny portion of their total earnings, so it's rather unusual for them to be so forward about licensing the Crystal Lord. I get the idea that if not for the steep 5 billion credit price tag for the standard contract, they might have already signed it instead of coming up to us."
Ves nodded. "Vaun Industrial is a big player, and they excel in volume and precision. I don't really like to go into business with them though, but it's hard to refuse a partner once they have a foot in the door."
Unspoken was the fact that despite the lack of passion in their production methods, they did a really good job in fabricating his mechs. They matched the design schematics to an almost obsessive level of precision, and no one ever reported any major defects from the mechs that rolled off their sophisticated production lines.
"I don't know why you're so hung up about Vaun. They're our best partner by far with regards to the Blackbeaks. They're a lot better than Neverland's EME, which still needs constant monitoring from us in order to avoid any slip-ups."
"It's difficult to explain. It's enough for you to know that I would rather work with companies like EME with all of its troubles than Vaun. The latter see mechs as commodities while the former knows there is more to quality than mechanical perfection."
Someone like Gavin wouldn't understand, so they quickly moved on from this point. They discussed some other matters, such as the company's liquidity and how much they needed to spend on promoting their new design.
"We should keep the hype alive by running occasional ads." Gavin suggested. "Once the hype dies down completely, it's hard to bring it back to life. We should spend at least 100 million credits a month on this, and that's the bare minimum. Once Vaun Industrial and other partners crank up their production lines and produce the Crystal Lord by the hundreds, we can really ramp up our promotion by then."
"Even if we're in the process of acquiring more debt, don't skimp on the promotion. The first month after publishing a new design is the most crucial period of all. We can't afford to neglect the importance of shaping everyone's first impressions of our new mech.
Gavin dutifully noted all of his words and would send them off to Calsie later. In the meantime, Ves finished his breakfast and allowed some attendants to brush up his clothes and appearance. He adopted a couple of smiles until he settled on one that seemed modestly polite.
"How do I look?" Ves asked.
"Confident, but not arrogant. It's the right look for a mech designer who's talented and is aware of it. You don't want to widen that smile, or else you might come across as unhinged."
The reason why they went through the trouble of brushing up his appearance was because they scheduled a whole host of interviews for today. While they hadn't gotten any major publications to come and talk to Ves, they did garner the interest of many smaller local news portals.
Though they didn't reach a very wide audience, they formed an influential voice in certain communities. A mosquito's leg still contained meat, so Ves filled up his plate with as much of them as possible in order to substitute for a single chicken drum.
It was grueling work, though. Ves needed to maintain a constant veneer of poise in front of the recorders.
"Boss, don't think about how much the interviews will tire you out. Instead, think about what you get out of this. You only have to endure a single day of suffering."
"I don't know. I feel kind of desperate accepting all of these interviews from hack publications. For example, I don't even know why you invited The Mech Conspiracy. They're a bunch of crazies!"
Gavin laughed. "Crazy as they are, they are actually some of the most loyal customers you can have as long as you make them like you. Just study their latest conspiracy theories and find a way to portray the LMC in a good light."
"That's impossible. These people believe that half of the MTA has been taken over by bots, and that every mech is secretly brainwashing their mech pilots into worshipping some unknown lizard-like race."
"It's a good thing you don't look like a lizard."