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Rick Dangerous

Manufacturing a New Run of Pro-Controllers

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I was thinking of buying a pro-controller off ebay and sending it to an electronics manufacturer to clone and produce. I have a number of entrepreneur friends who have done similar things and I don't think it would be as impossible as some might think. I would like to do this domestically (US) or perhaps if the situation warrants, China. The build spec would have to be at least to first party, if not better.

 

I don't think the components would be the expensive part, but rather the molds (for plastic parts.) I know generic N64 controllers have been done recently using the old molds. Once I had an estimate for the cost for a low number run (realistically probably about 500 at the very least) I could invest some of my own savings, and perhaps do a kick-starter?

 

It seems like there are about 5-10 games that really benefit from the use of the pro controller, and more that possibly could (homebrews) if they were readily available. It also seems a bit more compact and ergonomically friendly, and I don't know of a collector that wouldn't like to get their hands on one (mostly for its functionality).

 

They are obviously ridiculously rare, since there are top developers for the system that don't even own one.

 

Am I crazy for even looking into this, or what are the communities thoughts?

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My only hang up (if I were considering financing a project like this myself), would be the minimum quantity for a production run. At the very least, you would have to consider the following:

 

1.) Are there actually enough "potential customers" for something like this? Based on your initial guess, 500 seems like a very lofty goal in the way of sales for something like this.

2.) How much would you need to plunk down, out of your own pocket, to get the production run started? Based on this number, are you comfortable with not recouping your money for quite some time (and I am talking about years). I say this because your break-even number might be somewhere above and beyond selling half the units…it could take years to produce and sell 250 pro controllers IMHO.

3.) Do you have room to warehouse/store 500 pro controllers? That would take up a ton of space.

4.) Are you willing to handle all of the invoicing, payment management, boxing, shipping and returns on defects?

5.) Are you up to such a challenge? As I have seen as a spectator (7800 XM comes to mind), and also as a supplier to some projects directly, the challenge of producing hardware is not only daunting, but comes with tons of criticism and backlash when things go south (even momentarily). You need to be fully prepared and enter into something like this with your eyes opened WIDE.

 

I am not trying to discourage you from this project…lord knows, I would buy one if the final product was up to snuff. I just wanted to lay out a few of the many, MANY challenges you will face. Nothing is impossible…I guess the better question is, would it be worth it for you ultimately. It is a ton of risk and has the potential for both reward and failure. Spend some time mulling this one over. Also, you might want to add a poll to this thread, to gauge interest here at AtariAge…that would at least be a start. Best of luck!

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Go Kickstarter. Get Atari involved too [negotiate to pay them something like $1 for royalties per controller].

 

Sell the story to Slashdot and Wired about Jaguar fans redeeming the system 20 years later by its owners demanding a new production run of the controller the Jaguar should've been bundled with standard from the start and the positive impact it'll have on the homebrew market by increasing the availability of the controller and as a means of thwarting eBay sellers trying to charge $600 per NOS controller. Get Atari STE and Falcon owners interested in buying them too. [separately, we need to get an upgrade board made to add Enhanced Joystick Ports to the Mega STE and TT at the very least, if not with the original ST/STf/STfm/Mega models too].

 

 

I forgot another route…lobby Candle to add an Enhanced Joystick Port to the Lynx for his VGA output/LCD Replacement/External Controller mod project for the Lynx:

 

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/202796-lynx-to-vga/

 

And another possible avenue would be to have a converter box made available so that either the standard JagPad or the ProPad could be used on the 5200.

Edited by Lynxpro
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These are some very legit questions and something I'm hoping might flesh itself out a bit over the course of this topic. We will see... How might one add a poll to an existing topic?



1.) Are there actually enough "potential customers" for something like this? Based on your initial guess, 500 seems like a very lofty goal in the way of sales for something like this.



Remains to be seen. I said 500 because if new molds are made the higher the run the cheaper they will be to produce. 500 is actually a pretty low estimate (shot in the dark really) if new molds have to be made. Everyone one this forum seems to want one, but who will actuall pony up for a repro when the time comes remains TBD.



2.) How much would you need to plunk down, out of your own pocket, to get the production run started? Based on this number, are you comfortable with not recouping your money for quite some time (and I am talking about years). I say this because your break-even number might be somewhere above and beyond selling half the units…it could take years to produce and sell 250 pro controllers IMHO.



I would feel comfortable plunking down 5-10k. But the beauty of Kick-Starter is that it makes people put their money where their mouth is. Anyone who invests is an initial customer. I could cut down risk for myself via this avenue, withholding my own funds until enough interested parties commit.



3.) Do you have room to warehouse/store 500 pro controllers? That would take up a ton of space.



I have access to storage space. Believe it or not I believe 500 controllers would fit on one pallet, maybe two at the most.



4.) Are you willing to handle all of the invoicing, payment management, boxing, shipping and returns on defects?



This is TBD. Like most homebrew folks I would likely try to do a mix of offering it on here, creating a simple website to vend the product from, creating an ebay store, and selling some copies to best/b&c/songbird/atariage. But basically yes. If this project is successful, I would like to create other niche hardware products and create a company that caters specifically to the retro gaming community.



5.) Are you up to such a challenge? As I have seen as a spectator (7800 XM comes to mind), and also as a supplier to some projects directly, the challenge of producing hardware is not only daunting, but comes with tons of criticism and backlash when things go south (even momentarily). You need to be fully prepared and enter into something like this with your eyes opened WIDE.



I am just about done my masters in business, and ready for a challenge (if it's a viable idea.) The XM is a complicated and untested piece of machinery. I think the controller would be much simpler as it's an existing piece of hardware. The main question is how much will it cost to re-produce. I also think Kickstarter has a good infrastructure for remunerating investors should the project not come to fruition. The very worst case scenario is that i might be out the $110 for a pro controller should the project prove to be too expensive.



Thanks for these great questions and I look forward to further feedback from the community.



-Rick


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These are some very legit questions and something I'm hoping might flesh itself out a bit over the course of this topic. We will see... How might one add a poll to an existing topic?

1.) Are there actually enough "potential customers" for something like this? Based on your initial guess, 500 seems like a very lofty goal in the way of sales for something like this.

Remains to be seen. I said 500 because if new molds are made the higher the run the cheaper they will be to produce. 500 is actually a pretty low estimate (shot in the dark really) if new molds have to be made. Everyone one this forum seems to want one, but who will actuall pony up for a repro when the time comes remains TBD.

2.) How much would you need to plunk down, out of your own pocket, to get the production run started? Based on this number, are you comfortable with not recouping your money for quite some time (and I am talking about years). I say this because your break-even number might be somewhere above and beyond selling half the units…it could take years to produce and sell 250 pro controllers IMHO.

I would feel comfortable plunking down 5-10k. But the beauty of Kick-Starter is that it makes people put their money where their mouth is. Anyone who invests is an initial customer. I could cut down risk for myself via this avenue, withholding my own funds until enough interested parties commit.

3.) Do you have room to warehouse/store 500 pro controllers? That would take up a ton of space.

I have access to storage space. Believe it or not I believe 500 controllers would fit on one pallet, maybe two at the most.

4.) Are you willing to handle all of the invoicing, payment management, boxing, shipping and returns on defects?

This is TBD. Like most homebrew folks I would likely try to do a mix of offering it on here, creating a simple website to vend the product from, creating an ebay store, and selling some copies to best/b&c/songbird/atariage. But basically yes. If this project is successful, I would like to create other niche hardware products and create a company that caters specifically to the retro gaming community.

5.) Are you up to such a challenge? As I have seen as a spectator (7800 XM comes to mind), and also as a supplier to some projects directly, the challenge of producing hardware is not only daunting, but comes with tons of criticism and backlash when things go south (even momentarily). You need to be fully prepared and enter into something like this with your eyes opened WIDE.

I am just about done my masters in business, and ready for a challenge (if it's a viable idea.) The XM is a complicated and untested piece of machinery. I think the controller would be much simpler as it's an existing piece of hardware. The main question is how much will it cost to re-produce. I also think Kickstarter has a good infrastructure for remunerating investors should the project not come to fruition. The very worst case scenario is that i might be out the $110 for a pro controller should the project prove to be too expensive.

Thanks for these great questions and I look forward to further feedback from the community.

-Rick

 

 

I have been in the printing / production industry now for a long time….that is where my very basic line of questions stems from. I agree…based on making new moulds, production PCB's and connectors, 500 is a fairly low estimated amount to expect to be able to recoup from…I would think the moulds will cost you a pretty penny. With regards to everyone on AA wanting one of these…not exactly. Unfortunately, the Jaguar scene is not excessively large, and not everyone in the scene wants one or could necessarily afford one. Not right away at least. That's why I said it may take years to recover your investment. Also, for this exact reason, I am not sure a Kickstarter campaign would make it to funding…at least not all the way.

 

That said…if you feel like you are up to the challenge, and you think the potential benefits outweigh the risks, I would say that you should go for it! I doubt you will have many people tell you not to…at least not when it comes down to all of our own selfish desires to see these controllers made available. :grin: I would just continue to echo my original sentiment to you…think long and hard about this before even posting the Kickstarter. Once you get that going, it will be game on. ;)

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I have been in the printing / production industry now for a long time….that is where my very basic line of questions stems from. I agree…based on making new moulds, production PCB's and connectors, 500 is a fairly low estimated amount to expect to be able to recoup from…I would think the moulds will cost you a pretty penny. With regards to everyone on AA wanting one of these…not exactly. Unfortunately, the Jaguar scene is not excessively large, and not everyone in the scene wants one or could necessarily afford one. Not right away at least. That's why I said it may take years to recover your investment. Also, for this exact reason, I am not sure a Kickstarter campaign would make it to funding…at least not all the way.

 

That said…if you feel like you are up to the challenge, and you think the potential benefits outweigh the risks, I would say that you should go for it! I doubt you will have many people tell you not to…at least not when it comes down to all of our own selfish desires to see these controllers made available. :grin: I would just continue to echo my original sentiment to you…think long and hard about this before even posting the Kickstarter. Once you get that going, it will be game on. ;)

 

For sure. I think 500 is a reasonable estimate were the moulds to be found. If not it might not be feasible. I have a good deal of research to do and I won't make any promises or sink and money into this, or even fathom starting a kickstarter until I have some solid numbers available.

 

It's strange, the Jaguar community on AA is a pretty tight knit group, and yet there are random jag collectors on ebay snapping things up. I'm going look into this further and keep working on it. In the meantime further thoughts/feedback is always welcome.

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I wonder if Best Electronics has a mould buried somewhere in their stockpiles.

Edited by mickcris
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I have a pro controller and I'm in the market for a second one, so yeah, if there was a new run os the pro controller, it would help jaguar owners using the better controller by actually finding one at a good price.

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Nothing is impossible, but a low run of 500 for a rather complex device is going to cost WAY more than what you currently now pay even on ebay. Just the moulds will cost over $5000, and I'd say more like $10000 +. If 10k, then your cost just for the plastic is $20, assuming definite sales of 500 (plus so much per each when they do a run, say $1-$2). The N64 controllers (which are rubbish by the way) are cheap as because they sell thousands. The trick would be to get your money together to get the work done. Kickstarter would certainly be the way to go since if enough money isn't pledged, you don't go ahead. That is, if you don't get a minimum of 500 people pledging, you know not to bother. In the scheme of things, fairly risk free

Edited by danny_galaga
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The complete set of molds was sold to Imagin Systems, a company that manufactures medical equipment for dentists. They tried (unsuccessfully) to sell them on eBay a few years ago. I don't know what happened next, but they may have been sold for scrap metal.

 

If you want to manufacture new controllers, the two only realistic solutions I can think of for the plastic parts are silicone molds and aluminium molds. Silicone molds are cheaper, but they have a finite lifetime (about a hundred uses). In any case, expect to spend several thousand dollars to get the plastic parts manufactured. At that price, I'm not sure if the finished product would be cheaper than a real Pro controller.

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Hmmm... All very interesting (but not encouraging lol) points. I will have to get started on my research for this and if it's not feasible at least the community can say case closed on the pro controller repro idea. Then they'll start going for 700 cib on eBay ;)

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Go for it and do not make the mistake every Jaguar developer does in underestimating the market. The Jaguar has tons of life left and nearly every Jaguar owner in the world would like to have at least one Pro Controller. People are talking in quantities of 500. That's extremely shortsighted when considering how many Jaguar owners are out there. I think you'd have no trouble unloading that many and several times more.

 

I'd buy a pair at least. Probably two pairs.

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The complete set of molds was sold to Imagin Systems, a company that manufactures medical equipment for dentists. They tried (unsuccessfully) to sell them on eBay a few years ago. I don't know what happened next, but they may have been sold for scrap metal.

 

If you want to manufacture new controllers, the two only realistic solutions I can think of for the plastic parts are silicone molds and aluminium molds. Silicone molds are cheaper, but they have a finite lifetime (about a hundred uses). In any case, expect to spend several thousand dollars to get the plastic parts manufactured. At that price, I'm not sure if the finished product would be cheaper than a real Pro controller.

 

They - or someone affiliated with them - are now selling the white "Jaguar" console case molds on eBay stating the equipment is obsolete so now Jag owners can now purchase them as custom cases.

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Go for it and do not make the mistake every Jaguar developer does in underestimating the market. The Jaguar has tons of life left and nearly every Jaguar owner in the world would like to have at least one Pro Controller. People are talking in quantities of 500. That's extremely shortsighted when considering how many Jaguar owners are out there. I think you'd have no trouble unloading that many and several times more.

 

I'd buy a pair at least. Probably two pairs.

 

It's not just Jaguar owners. It could also be STE/Falcon owners too. As more of the ST/STE game ROMs are updated, more of those games will become compatible with the Jaguar controllers which will drive up demand.

 

Although it's not Atari, it's too bad nobody on the Amiga side hasn't issued an upgrade card which supports the Enhanced Joystick Ports. That group of enthusiasts would have their games library patched quickly and that would drive up demand as well.

 

And then there's the Colecovision fans who have been modding Jaguar controllers into Colecovision controllers…if you search the web, you'll find examples...

 

If a home brewer could convert Tengen's Genesis port of Gauntlet over to the Jag, that would also drive up demand for extra controllers.

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I'd support this! I even came across a metallic blue/silver 6 button pro in one of my purchased lots ( I think it was custom painted by the original owner) so perhaps offering different color variants would be cool similar to the N64 controllers. I know this is a dream, but it would be awesome to have a black, blue, red, white/clear jag controller :) good luck!

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Emailing Imagin Systems today to inquire about the molds...

 

http://www.imaginsystems.com/contactus.html

 

Email sent. We will see what they get back to me with (if at all.) I found it pretty interesting that their new dental camera still retains that "jaguar look" even though it's not longer the Jag case...lol

 

http://www.imaginsystems.com/hr_newlook_2020.html

Edited by travistouchdown
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I'd pay more for one than official pro controllers are going for on ebay right now if the quality will be better. Something with mechanical buttons and an even better d-pad would be awesome!

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Mechanical clicky buttons? Screw that. Besides having a funky feel, they're actually pretty problematic as there is a finite number off times they can be used and then there is the fact that presses don't always register 100%. Don't like them at all for gaming.

 

Re: getting permission to reproduce the molds, could always reverse engineer an original and make a minor cosmetic change somewhere to get around that. Especially easy for the Chinese! :lol:

 

And oh yeah... Falcon and STE's! How could I forget them? :lol:

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You know, if you manage to land the original molds for a deal, I would dive right in, because that's where at least half of the money is going to be tied up in, designing/producing new molds and most likely more in the realm of $20,000 - $25,000 (buttons, d-pad, shoulder buttons, keypad) and that would be a bargain of a deal and doesn't include the actual design work involved. Paying for and having everything else assembled would easily push it into a $35-40k project for 500 units, which at base cost would have to sell for a minimum of $100 (not including assembly costs, professionally created boxes, etc. etc.)

 

Storage and managing to sell them would be least of my worries but I do agree, I've never owned a Pro Controller in my life and I was rather seriously hardcore into Jaguar at one time but mostly because of the limited amount of games that supported it and the rather ridiculous price to obtain one. $100 (or $110 plus shipping) isn't going to change my mind about it either.

 

I would suggest that if you're required to go the route of making new molds, that you just come up with a very similar pro-controller design but build on it a little and modernize it a bit. I would love to finally see a Kickstarter for the Jaguar though and have even considered doing one of my own but not until I know for a fact I'll have the time set aside to tackle such a project. With that said, despite the fact that I wouldn't normally get a Pro Controller, I would definitely support a KS of this nature. Looking forward to hearing back on what Imagin says about the molds. Hopefully they haven't melted them off... though if you're going for the pro-controller molds, why not pick up the entire lot (base, cd unit, etc) for the whole $6k anyway? There's a ton of fun things you could do with those. :)

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You know, if you manage to land the original molds for a deal, I would dive right in, because that's where at least half of the money is going to be tied up in, designing/producing new molds and most likely more in the realm of $20,000 - $25,000 (buttons, d-pad, shoulder buttons, keypad) and that would be a bargain of a deal and doesn't include the actual design work involved. Paying for and having everything else assembled would easily push it into a $35-40k project for 500 units, which at base cost would have to sell for a minimum of $100 (not including assembly costs, professionally created boxes, etc. etc.)

 

Storage and managing to sell them would be least of my worries but I do agree, I've never owned a Pro Controller in my life and I was rather seriously hardcore into Jaguar at one time but mostly because of the limited amount of games that supported it and the rather ridiculous price to obtain one. $100 (or $110 plus shipping) isn't going to change my mind about it either.

 

I would suggest that if you're required to go the route of making new molds, that you just come up with a very similar pro-controller design but build on it a little and modernize it a bit. I would love to finally see a Kickstarter for the Jaguar though and have even considered doing one of my own but not until I know for a fact I'll have the time set aside to tackle such a project. With that said, despite the fact that I wouldn't normally get a Pro Controller, I would definitely support a KS of this nature. Looking forward to hearing back on what Imagin says about the molds. Hopefully they haven't melted them off... though if you're going for the pro-controller molds, why not pick up the entire lot (base, cd unit, etc) for the whole $6k anyway? There's a ton of fun things you could do with those. :)

 

If I can't get a hold of the molds I'm going to more or less write off the project, since it would take more money than I have right now to put towards something like this.

 

I haven't heard back from Imagin yet, no surprise as I only emailed them about 6 hours ago. If they offer the whole lot of molds, and the price is reasonable, I might be tempted. I'd love to do a run of RED jaguar and jag CD cases.. :)

Edited by travistouchdown
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If I can't get a hold of the molds I'm going to more or less write off the project, since it would take more money than I have right now to put towards something like this.

 

I haven't heard back from Imagin yet, no surprise as I only emailed them about 6 hours ago. If they offer the whole lot of molds, and the price is reasonable, I might be tempted. I'd love to do a run of RED jaguar and jag CD cases.. :)

 

Yeah, if you go into a KS saying: Hey, I have the molds in hand and now we just need the funding to have them injected and to pay for the pcbs, you'd be set! I think they were asking $6,000 for the set and I don't know what your idea of reasonable is, but I think that is definitely worth it. Only I don't have money for things like that at a time like this haha... :)

 

Good luck.

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