Gamers and 3D printing. 3D printing and gamers. It’s a tale as old as time, in that very twenty-first century way. We’ve seen gaming and 3D printing come together in a variety of ways, from the creation of board game and tabletop RPG pieces to a myriad of video game-focused projects, including a video game-inspired prosthetic arm as well as a prosthetic hand with its own onboard video game. Whether you want to become part of the action yourself or bring characters from the game from your screen to your living room, or just store and display your games, 3D technologies are there for you. The idea of 3D printing characters, maps, and moments from video games isn’t necessarily a new one, but every enterprise that seeks to enter this area is bringing a new take to the table. A young startup based in Toronto, U-Dimensions introduces itself by saying, “We love video games. That’s why we’re here!”
U-Dimensions is focusing on bringing 3D printed characters to fans of beloved games, offering customization to the customer along with a platform for game companies to bring their characters right into players’ hands.
“U-Dimensions’ goal is to make it easier for game companies to develop and expand their merchandise line, and allow them to gain extra profit from games,” the company says. “The unique, and free platform makes it possible for game companies to reach a larger audience, and allows for a variety of 3D printing merchandise options. Our software allows for company’s 2D or 3D game elements to be automatically converted into 3D-print ready elements. The free model also allows game companies to gain commission while U-Dimensions take care of production and distribution.”
Christina Guo founded U-Dimensions in 2015 and the platform is now nearing a full launch into market with 3D printable offerings. Through close work on the software aspect and developing relationships with game companies, she and the team at U-Dimensions are bringing two-dimensional characters to 3D printed collectible figures, with a unique free marketplace structure, as well as developing software to automatically convert 2D designs into 3D. As Guo told me, “U-Dimensions aim to revolutionize the 3D printing industry by converting everyday products into 3D printed merchandise. At the same time we help game companies survive by adopting the beauty of 3D printing, offer customizable products to customers along with a play based experience.”
The idea is to help game companies and indie game developers to generate revenue via this 3D printed merchandise — and to help players and game fans enjoy another dimension of their favorite games, perhaps even created in chocolate. I recently had the opportunity to ask A Few Questions For Guo to learn more about U-Dimensions as well as her experience in creating the company.
Can you fill us in on the background of U-Dimensions, and when you expect to fully launch?
“U-Dimensions was first started as a school project, where I spent a year and a half working on all the research and product development – my final thesis was on the creation of software that would enable 2D designs to be automatically converted into 3D. In 2015, U-Dimensions was founded, with the intention of creating our own brand of 3D toys. We shortly pivoted to providing this service to game companies; specifically indie game companies based on our research, and found this to be the biggest market niche.
Based on this research, we found that 80% of gaming fans were interested in 3D gaming merchandise, as well as the fact that there were a number of issues with current game product offerings. 51% of fans wanted products with a wider price range, and 56% of fans were looking for more availability and variety in terms of product offerings. We felt that we could adequately facilitate these needs. Thus U-Dimensions was born.
We focus on providing a platform that specializes in 3D printed personalized collectibles based on fan favorite video game characters. The platform that we offer will be free, with the intention of allowing game companies to develop, and expand their merchandise line, while allowing them to gain extra profit from their games.
The software that we are developing will allow companies that partner with us to upload their ready-made game elements online, in which out system will transform the company’s 2D or 3D game illustrations into 3D models. Furthermore, we also takes care of order fulfillment, 3D printing, supply and shipping of each product, as well as maintain the digital storefront. Game Companies have the ability to determine their own commission per product, as well as to what level they offer in terms of customizability of their game designs.
We are currently looking for game companies to test the beta and ready to launch in Early April.”
“Coming from OCAD in Toronto Canada, a school focused on art and design, I had always been interested and surrounded by new, and innovate ways to design, and create – studying 2D, and 3D design. I actually wrote my undergraduate thesis on the functionality and application of converting 2D designs to 3D products in my final year. As a designer, my original concept was to create my own brand and having movies and games to promote my own artistic style. The figures we are using right now for promotion are my original thesis project. The original concept was to create your future identity digitally in 2D, with us then manually converting the 2D design into realistic 3D printed toys. – the concept is revolved around dreams coming true. You can view some of the images on our instagram page.”
“Fans are able to customize the size and material of each product, as well as have the ability to change, colors, add accessories, and decide on which products they want to incorporate their customized game elements with. Our platform is the only one on the market that allows video game companies, and their fans to work together on merchandise options.
We currently offer a bevy of material options including: full color sandstone, multicolor plastic, and nylon. We are also currently experimenting with metal, chocolate and rubber printed merchandise. Fans also have the ability to select from a range of products such as: cups, necklaces, rings, phone cases, wine stoppers, bottle openers, doorstoppers, etc.
However at the end of the day, it is up to the game companies’ and developers’ discretion. They are able to control the degree as to the level of customizability that their designs, and characters can be manipulated in terms of color, material, position, and which products they can be incorporated with.”
How have game companies been responding to the idea of U-Dimensions’ offerings?
“We found that game companies have been very interested, and receptive to the idea, particularly those with games that feature customizability of their characters in their games. To have a platform that seamlessly allows for the same customization for physical products is highly appealing for them. Even more so, the appeal extends to the fact that we don’t just offer figurines, but a bevy of products in which game companies’ characters can be incorporated with.
Additionally, game companies and developers get a chance to feel a part of a community unlike our competitors. We have a chance to create the first communal merchandising platform for the indie gaming community. The more developers agree to partner with us, the more all of the companies will benefit from the platform. As fans of one game will find another game they played or liked the characters of, and in turn go an play that game. We put game companies’ and developers’ interests before our own, and they have responded positively to this.”
What sets the U-Dimensions model apart from similar attempts at 3D printing from video games?
“We found that we had two major competitors who are doing 3D printing service for game companies, which are Toyze and Sandboxr.
All of these companies feature a platform that has some customizability and design of video game characters. However, the difference here is that they focus solely on 3D printed toys, and customers are only able to customize existing characters – our platform is fully customizable, and we offer a wide range of fashion, home, electronic, car and office products. Additionally, instead of doing a 3D model manually, our simple extrusion system saves a lot of time during the production process. Most importantly we are the only 3D printing merchandise marketplace that helps indie developers generate revenue. The rest of our competitors serve as service companies, only helping to produce, and sell 3D printed toys for large and well known games.”
“It is not easy to found a company and as a recent grad coming from a design background is even harder. However, I believe U-Dimensions’ management team is home to the best. We are a group of young adults from different background and all of us are in early 20s, we are all eager to learn and willing to make the world a better place.
Although most game companies are run by male founders, but there are still quit a lot of female developers involved in the community. I have to admit there are more male interested in the game sector, all of our employees are male and our 3D printing suppliers are male as well. I personally don’t find gender in this case matters a lot. Our goal is to help indie developers generate revenue, and to be advocators for the 3D printing industry. They know we are doing the right thing and they are happy to help.”