London-based MyMiniFactory opened their online 3D model store last month.
The now-five year old company became one of the premier sites for obtaining free 3D models, competing against other contenders such as Thingiverse and YouMagine.
But MyMiniFactory had a big difference: while most of their competitors had few, if any restrictions on contributed uploads, MyMiniFactory insisted on testing each and every 3D model beforehand to ensure it could be successfully 3D printed. Meanwhile, most other 3D model repositories were (and still are) littered with non-printable items that the user must certify themselves.
Up until just recently all of the downloads from MyMiniFactory were entirely free of charge, making it an extremely popular site. Today they boast more than 50,000 3D objects online, a number far lower than the !M+ at other sites - but again, these are certified to be successfully 3D printable.
While I’ve admired their work for some time (and even visited them in person a few years ago), I’ve always wondered about their monetization scheme. It’s hard to make money if your product is completely free of charge.
That has finally changed with the introduction of their new online store.
Their store works a bit differently from other 3D model stores. The typical approach is to simply allow designers to list and price objects, with the host taking a cut of any sales that are made.
The cut part is the same with MyMiniFactory’s store, as they slice off 10% of any sale. MyMiniFactory representatives tell us it is a slim amount that doesn’t provide them with substantial income.
The different part is that in order to be a designer submitting 3D models to the store, you must subscribe to the MyMiniFactory store. This costs USD$25 per month.
That seems like a steep fee, especially if you’d be charging USD$0.99 for a model download. But that’s not the game MyMiniFactory hopes to be in.
They’re seeking a higher level online store with premium 3D models. The subscription fee is designed to filter out casual designers, leaving on the serious ones that truly want to make money on their products.
I think this approach could work, although it certainly would result in a store with fewer items for sale than some other online stores. MyMiniFactory is already familiar with that concept, as their “test before posting” philosophy on free 3D models also resulted in a repository with fewer items. But it was successful nevertheless.
At this point their store holds something close to 200 paid objects, which isn’t a lot, but I suspect it could grow strongly as more people gain familiarity with their approach. We’ve also heard that although their model count is small, they’ve obtained higher sales rates than expected, which suggests that their premium 3D model strategy may be working.
A look through their paid items today shows a number of items priced between USD$3 to USD$45, although the higher priced items appear to be larger collections of complex objects. Many appear to be targeted at the tabletop gaming world, which requires many types of small figurines.
All objects seem to be of good quality and required significant design efforts to create them. I found one object priced at USD$0.99, but as above, that might not be the right price for this store.
One thing I'd like to see is a "sort by cost", as it could be a feature some buyers look for.
Will MyMiniFactory’s store succeed? It’s hard to say, as pricing is a key factor in purchase decisions. But then, quality can be as well.