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The STL dilemma

Today's post is a bit different from usual, and I believe it won't please many of you. If it can console you, however, the decision I've made deeply saddens me as well, and I consider it a small personal failure, so let's say we're all a bit bitter. What am I referring to? I've decided to withdraw the digital files of my miniatures from sale.

As I mentioned, it was a painful decision because, like many of you, I also believe that 3D printing can be a very useful tool for our hobby, and I was well aware of the risks associated with selling digital files. However, I must say that I did not expect certain "disturbing" developments and underestimated their extent.

As I've written in some past posts, I've always tried to contextualize the phenomenon of piracy in a rational way, and I've always tried to invest my energies in customers who actively choose to support my projects rather than those who decide to reward those who profit unduly from my efforts.

The idea that there are recasters of my products, of course, I experience as a deep injustice, but I believe it's part of the game and must be accepted, albeit reluctantly.

When I decided to sell the digital files of my kits, I thought it could benefit recasters, but I also thought that, thanks to the digital files, I could introduce my products to more hobbyists. Let's say that deep down, I thought the game was worth the candle.

What I had underestimated, however, was not the approach of those who make piracy a profession, but rather that of the public in general, which caught me guiltily unprepared. Perhaps I trusted too much in the correctness of the individual, or perhaps I was too naive or not foresighted enough, but I noticed right away that the use of the files of my products, by the majority of normal customers, was at least unorthodox. I was prepared, in short, for the traditional pirate site, but I was not prepared, for example, for social media groups where normal customers exchange dozens of .stl files of my products.

From one perspective, it's also appreciable, a decidedly inclusive socialist spirit, but you'll understand that, in the long run, this has caused a lot of discomforts and a noticeable contraction of my not-exactly lavish income.

In simple terms, if a customer pays me 4 euros for a file and then distributes it for free to another 100 customers, it becomes a vicious circle for me that is unsustainable. If I had the sales numbers of a distribution giant (for example, if I had 100,000 paying customers a year), I could certainly absorb the damages of piracy, but if paying customers are 100, and non-paying customers are infinitely more, you'll understand that unfortunately, it becomes a problem for me.

The contraction of sales, since I started selling .stl files, has been evident, and two years into this commercial experiment, I must admit that, unfortunately, I made the wrong decision.

In my heart, the digital file was supposed to be an accessory product to widen the user base and make my products more accessible, but unfortunately, in practice, it has turned out to be a product that cannibalized my normal business. As always, when the chickens come home to roost, I'm the one paying the price for my mistakes, and in this case, it was a hefty price.

This post has not been made, of course, as a sort of moral reprimand towards those who, in these years, have made sure that my products could be distributed freely around the world. I know that certain dynamics, unfortunately, are a human fact that must be considered and accepted as it is. Simply, I deemed it appropriate to communicate to you the reasons why, from now on, I will only sell the physical kits of my products: I tried, but unfortunately, I don't have the economic strength and a sufficiently solid commercial structure to ignore/absorb the negative effects of "private" piracy of my products.

I apologize, of course, to all the customers who bought digital files and scrupulously respected their terms of use: I'm sorry to take away an opportunity from you without you having any direct responsibility.

I'm bitter precisely because I believed (and still believe!) strongly in the usefulness of 3D printing, but at this moment, I have no way to curb certain dishonest practices. I hope you can understand my reasons and not hold too much resentment against me.

So, is this the end of digital files? Not exactly.

I've decided that, from now on, I will focus only on the production of physical kits, but I have no intention of abandoning the digital world: I will simply reconfigure its distribution methods and purposes.

As I said, I still strongly believe in the potential of digital files, and I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as we say here.

Digital files will become products designed from the outset to be free products: alternative and/or accessory products to the main ranges, intended to be distributed freely.

I think, for example, of the use of digital files, available for free download, to support painting contests and events designed to involve the community, or celebratory/promotional kits that will be free.

Many of you downloaded Alberto's .stl file to participate in the contest, for example.

I think of accessory products for my board game coming out in 2025, such as scenic elements and markers.

Digital files will not disappear: they will simply be different products that will not directly compete with kits intended for actual sale.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, I have not been able to manage the coexistence of digital and physical kits profitably and sustainably, and for this, I can only apologize to all of you.

However, as mentioned in yesterday's post, it's time to take stock; the challenges that await me in the immediate future will test everything I have learned in these first 10 years of experience, and I want the future of DPF to be solid.

I still have many projects to realize; you could say that what you have seen so far has been a long testing phase of many trials and clumsy errors, but now it's time to arrive at a first screening of what has been done.

I hope you can understand and continue to support me!

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