I apologize for the length of this post. Some good points were raised, and I want to address them with sufficient detail.
Reminder: submit your no-risk pre-order by 1/1/2015 to take advantage of the current incentives and to lock in participation of all future incentives up until production is announced. Link to form: http://www.multimorphic.com/index.php/p3-pinball-platform/pre-orders#
Quoted from MikeHogue:
But without a printer or scanner, I don't have a document to send you.
This preorder was too difficult! : )
This isn't just about building a list. We have an enormous "interested" email list, but potential investors don't care much about email lists. Printing and signing a document isn't much more difficult than just sending an email, but it clearly makes people think a little more about their level of interest.
Taking/sending a pic of the signed document is fine. There are actually some good phone apps made just for that purpose (but a simple camera pic is fine too).
Quoted from Atomicboy:
Despite the no obligation NOW idea, this is a little misleading unless I'm missing something. This is so you can obtain a pre-order'ish base to show investors, but despite the marketing of no risk, there is really [risk], as you are starting to require payment prior to the game being complete, which really is the same as every other manufacturer out there now, you've just deferred the date for payment (which has been done with some of them as well previously).
I don't understand your conclusion. We're giving you the option not just to defer payment, but also to defer the decision about paying. This is truly no risk. If the time comes to pay and you don't want to pay, don't pay. It's clearly stated in the terms that your order will automatically cancel if payment isn't received within 15 days of the production payment request.
As mentioned in a previous response, a number of folks are asking for payment plans; so we're considering payment plan possibilities.
Most of them that are in hot water have a machine, that has long had parts and is ready for production, just as you would be when asking for money, but that is when the issues of it all coming together falls apart. THAT is where the risky part is, and your plan has the same inherent possible problems.
I disagree, but you probably don't have the whole story. In the terms, it says "Production won't begin until after the manufacturing process is used for a pre-production build of 10-12 machines, and the pre-production machines
and manufacturing processes have been tested and certified to be production-ready."
I don't know what the other MFG's you're referencing consider "pre-production", but our "pre-production" process is based on a combined 40+ years of experience taking bleeding-edge electromechanical devices through *modern* production processes with contract manufacturers. The pre-production process isn't to build machines that resemble production machines or to test new design ideas (that's done in the MFG prototypes we're building now), it's to have the contract manufacturers build machines exactly like they will with higher quantity production orders. It's for them to fine-tune their processes (with our BOMs, vendors, build instructions, and guidance) and to ensure the results (ready-to-ship machines) meet all of our quality metrics. When we ask for customer payments, manufacturing will capable and ready to build machines, and the machines will have been certified (UL, CE, etc). In other words, payment will be necessary solely for the purpose of building customer machines, and the kinks in the manufacturing process will already be worked out. The only risk at this point is meeting our estimated production timeframe (and of course finding investors). There is no risk that we'll ask for customer money before production is ready.
For those of you who are worried about us not partnering with an existing pinball manufacturing company, don't be. Among many of things, the P3 is designed to simplify the manufacturing process (and also serviceability). Companies with pinball manufacturing experience won't be able to build the P3 more efficiently than any of the dozens of contract manufacturers in and around our headquarters in Austin (or anywhere else). In fact, I'd argue that putting together P3's in a traditional pinball manufacturing environment would actually be less efficient. I'll repeat, the P3 is designed to simplify the manufacturing process. When we start showing off the guts of the machine, you'll understand how and why.
But this is getting perceived as a "fresh" look to the current troubling other boutique things going on, and really, I see it as the same thing in the end, and with all the history lessons now learned, that makes anything new wanting money before the game is ready very questionable and risky in my books.
I certainly hope it's being perceived as a '"fresh" look', as we feel like we're operating on very high ethical and business grounds. We're attempting to build a respected and successful company, delivering a progressive pinball machine that solves a lot of the problems traditional games present to consumers while delivering both traditional and progressive gameplay features. We're open and honest with our customers, suppliers, partners, and of course potential investors. We've been as transparent as possible throughout the life of our business, and we've built a supportive group of customers (first with our P-ROC and related products, and now with the P3). I'm very proud of the support we provide to P-ROC customers, and I'm equally proud of the support we've provided to early P3 customers and of the support we're planning moving forward. I'm also proud of our acceptance of constructive criticism and how we use that criticism to tweak our plans.
We (the Multimorphic team + early investors) have taken all of the risk. We haven't and won't put our customers' money at risk, as further evidenced by this change to the pre-order terms. I've poured my heart, soul, and my savings into this company, and we have a group of employees and angel investors who have also risked their time and/or money. We're innovating like nobody else in the industry and therefore assuming even more risk than anybody else. Suggesting we're just like the other "boutique" companies is extremely disappointing to me. We believe we're building a fantastic, innovative product, and we know we're building an honest and professional company. Obviously we've made and will continue to make mistakes along the way, but we learn from them and improve as a result.
Furthermore, are the investors being made aware of the fact that your pre-order model is being set up like this? Are they aware of this thread? If not, that makes that aspect seem pretty suspect as well, from their perspective, and it should be from anyone else's. I would not feel comfortable with signing up to a company that has just publicly "fooled" their investors to get past a hurdle.
I actually find this somewhat insulting, both to us and to our investors, though I know that wasn't your intention. We're trying to build good, long-term relationship with customers, vendors, and our investors. I personally will let the company fail and die before I purposefully "fool" anybody, especially those people who are helping us build the company. So far potential investors have been super excited about the product, but they've asked us to prove there's a customer base by taking pre-orders (and doing other things like putting games out on location, which we're planning to do when the MFG protos are ready). We told these potential investors that we would never put customer money at risk and, in light of the current pinball pre-order landscape, that we would change our terms to not ask for any payments until production.
So... yes, the potential investors are aware of this pre-order model. They're also aware that many people will likely drop out. They're also aware that we believe many more will want to buy the machine after seeing the production version and certainly after we (and others) start shipping additional game kits. We've not just designed in new/fun gameplay features, we've also engineered a pinball platform and a business model that completely change the economics of owning pinball games. Clearly we've got a chicken-and-egg problem with a new pinball platform without a large library of game kits or a high profile theme for game 1, but our potential investors know about that too, and it'll work itself out as we finish the platform development, get 3rd parties making game kits, and develop more and more content ourselves.
I will say this, if you can assure me the investors are privy to what you are doing here with this pre-order, to support this great idea and pinball, I will in fact sign up, if that still helps with everything being on the table for them, but I will also most certainly drop out prior to the game being completed, if it is not at some very high level of completion, and I for sure know what I'm getting prior to payment being requested.
We won't ask for your money until it's completed (software, hardware, production process, certifications, etc), and we hope to have our pre-production machines in various locations around the country (and hopefully world) for folks to play. We'll certainly continue having monthly play-testing parties and making sure the community is up-to-date on development progress. If we did ask for payment early (we won't), then I'd fully expect you (and everybody else) to drop out. I agree with every single one of your concerns as they relate to the current pinball landscape. I just don't think any of them apply to Multimorphic or our no-risk pre-order program. Treating people fairly and with respect is of utmost importance to me; I couldn't run a company any other way.
As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. If nothing else, I can hopefully at least alleviate any fears about a lack of transparency.