I'm going to chime in, of course. Might as well make sure our side of the story is counterpoint in this thread.
"CPR PLAYFIELD PREORDERS ARE MEANINGLESS"
In context of the recent Playboy re-run, yes, it may seem this way. But 95% of the time, this is not the case. A complete sellout *within* the preorder list HAS happened before - last year during the shipping of the Xenon re-run. But beyond this case, and that case, our 15 years of using our preorder/list model has worked out fine (for customers). For us, that is another story. Which I will get into below.
First let's get to the crux of the preorder model: From the beginning, it was always a way of collecting counts and statistics. Not only with the goal to set up lists of those raising their hands as potential buyers to make copies for, but also to show actual hard numbers when it came to demand. This allowed for ranking playfield runs to prioritise, and those to back-burner (or avoid completely).
For years, our threshold was 100 people (to consider actual production of a playfield run). Sometimes it took 2-3 years to get 100+ people. Sometimes after 2-3 years, only a dozen people have raised their hand for a certain playfield. It varies - heavily. People always wonder why waits were this long, or some haven't been done at all yet... This is why. Some titles just have little real-life demand. Way less than most think.
Regardless of all this, things changed ~5 years ago with how *customers* treated signing up on the lists:
For our first 10 years, it was simple and ran very slick: Just to use simple numbers, we'll go with 100 people... If we got 100 people, we ran "110" playfields (meaning not just what was wanted, but even slightly more, for spoilage, and a little extra stock at the end). There would be a few no-shows, yes. But not many. "95" on the preorder and standby lists would buy, leaving us with ~15 in stock for afterward. Those ~15 would sell off the web site, over the course of months to a year. It worked like clockwork.
But starting 5 years ago, things changed. Run after run, we were getting burnt. Those 110 playfields for 100 people - only around "60" on the preorder and standby lists would buy. We were looking at 40%+ no-shows. Leaving us with essentially half the run abandoned. Of course, our only recourse was putting the rest on our web site... but a new era of sitting on playfields began. Not just a dozen or so, that sold in months to a year... but where we're still sitting on some runs today. Overstock that is still around 5 years later. Now multiply that 40-50 playfields, times 10-20 runs... and after a couple years we realised we're sitting on 500 unsold playfields. Something had to change. The model had shit the bed.
"CUSTOMER PLAYFIELD PREORDERS ARE MEANINGLESS"
From our end - that became how WE felt. It was great to see 100+ people eventually build up an inbox of allegedly buying customers... but now, run after run, those numbers were now suspect. We couldn't trust them. So we decided to concede to lowering our minimum run numbers. To change with the times. We had to.
That meant taking a risk. Looking at 100 people - and running 60-70 playfields. It was a gamble. Think about that for a second. Pre-reducing the numbers.
It's only going to turn out one of two ways - A) the no-shows trend continues, and you'll end up properly fit (like 10 years prior) to the actual sales, and it works out B) Closer to 100 people *actually* come through - and you end up with not enough playfields for everybody.
Here is how it's worked out, since we started doing the production numbers this way -
On all playfield runs starting about 3 years ago (when we started actively pre-lowering the production count), Outcome A was the norm. It *actually worked* and we stopped getting burnt with significant abandoned overstock. BUT there were two exceptions - Outcome B happened on the Xenon re-run last year, and the Playboy re-run last month.
Moral of the story - sometimes it goes the other way. Rarely, but it does. This was one of those times. And it sucks. And I feel bad for those who missed out. Including the OP, who wrote me yesterday. It really does stink.
The silver lining to this (although maybe not good enough for some) is that unlike before, where once a run is done it's done - Playboy and ALL our legacy playfields will be eventually available under the "one-off made-to-order" model. Then they will sit "In Stock" taking orders, in perpituity, until the day CPR closes.
So some will say - "yeah, but those aren't silkscreened" To which I say - well no... but Mirco's aren't either. Yet I see people very pleased in stating how nice and allegedly flawless those are, in this very thread. So great - think of a CPR playfield made with the same "one quality, flawless print" model. That should be a good thing. It won't even fall under the Gold-Silver-Bronze grading. There will be no grading. Just a flawless digital playfield. That is the destiny of all our playfield titles, under the coming model. We don't see that as a bad thing.
We understand the silkscreen difference - we get it - which is why we persist on this "all-in" model of building a list of people, preparing a count for a run, and putting a large number of playfields together at once. Because you only silkscreen once. It's the bottleneck of a run. With digital, you can make handfuls at a time, at anytime - like Mirco. Like we will be doing on our legacy titles. Like Playboy from this point forward. Because I know I can't build another list of 70-100 people for a justified Playboy silkscreen run. Maybe, but I bet it would take 4-5 years, starting today. Do people want to wait that long? Waiting for production has been our biggest playfield complaint. It's an on-demand economy now. Our hobby is not immune. Which was a large part of the reason we had to consider expanding in the digital direction.
Anyway, this is already TL:DR. But I just wanted to make sure some counterpoint was put into this thread. Don't think for a second it doesn't pain me deeply when a run goes the "other way" (Outcome B). In fact, there were so many people leftover on the Xenon preorder (unserved) that it warranted a RE-re-run, which is coming out shortly. That was a huge preorder to begin with. We make good whenever we can. Unfortunately for Playboy, there were only a couple dozen unserved at the end. Easily handled under the "one-off made for you" model later, if they are still interested at all.
Classic Playfield Reproductions