Stone Age Gamer Drops USB-GDROM Controller

Online retailer Stone Age Gamer has announced that it will no longer be distributing the USB-GDROM Controller made by hardware modder MNEMO. The custom made device hit the headlines a few years ago as a viable alternative to the GDEMU because it allows you to run Dreamcast games from a USB stick and completely do away with the GD-Rom drive.

Personally, I've never actually used the device as contrary to popular belief, writing this guff isn't my full-time job (it's just a hobby) and I can't afford to blow hundreds of pounds on a PCB. Paying the rent, running a shitty diesel car and buying the odd pair of jeans are far higher on my agenda than emulating a GD-Rom drive. That said, from what I can gather it is a cool device and the reliance on USB sticks rather than SD cards makes it the superior option if you're looking to negate the need to own physical disc versions of games.

Until recently the only place you could buy a USB-GDROM Controller was Stone Age Gamer, but it appears they've had enough of the unpredictable behaviour of the device's creator MNEMO and released the following statement (be warned - it's quite lengthy):

"Dear Stone Age Gamer Customers,

Unfortunately, we must announce that we will no longer be carrying any product created by the developer known as Mnemo.

After over a year of dealing with Mnemo we have found him to be impossible to do business with. We normally would not attempt to cause any drama, but in this case we feel without explaining our reasons because it may be hard for our customers to understand why we would stop selling a product that seemed to be in such high demand.

We originally reached out to Mnemo to sell his 3DO USB-CDROM Adapter mods. Although we did sell some units, his production was completely erratic so for a while we stopped selling the 3DO adapter.

Eventually we found out Mnemo had finished development on a similar modification for the Dreamcast. We were very excited at this prospect because the Dreamcast is a vastly more popular system. So, we reached out to Mnemo again in late 2014 and made a much harder push for this product.

We were shocked by his wholesale price; it was basically what we thought the MSRP price should be. We suggested that by lowering the price it would allow both of us to sell way more units. He refused. Although we did not agree with his decision, we weren’t going to beat him up on the price.
Using our normal retail mark-up, we began selling the Dreamcast adapter at $219.99. However, it quickly became apparent that his issues with 3DO adapter production carried over to the Dreamcast adapter as well. Production was sporadic and unpredictable.

Over the year of 2015 it was hard for us to get any sustained production from Mnemo. Late Summer 2015 he alerted me that he would be significantly raising the price of each unit by almost $50/ea. because he only had a few hundred Molex connectors left and he could not find any more so this will probably be the last few hundred he sells.

I told him to hold off on the price increase and I would see if I could find some of the connectors. After much searching, I found most places would only sell me them in batches of 17K at about $4/ea. So basically $68K, which was out of the question. Eventually I found a company that brokered an agreement between another company and I. This company had tens of thousands of these connectors for their own production. That company agreed to sell me 1,008 connectors for $4.57 ea. I asked Mnemo if he was still committed and if I should purchase these connectors. He told me to purchase them. So with shipping I paid about $4,700 out of my pocket for the connectors.

After receiving the connectors, he asked me to ship him about 300. So I shipped him 324 (they came in tubes of 18 units/ea.). He said he would just credit me more for them once he received.
With our new found connectors and an agreement to increase production I told him we were going to start taking back orders on the Dreamcast adapter. Eventually we got to 50 back orders and yet units we still very slow to ship. So we halted all back orders to not further dig anymore of a hole.

After his initial shipment of 20 units for the back orders he tells us from this point on he will now be increasing the wholesale price of each unit by $30/ea. Even though he knew we still had another 30 back orders to fill, back orders that were already paid for. There is no way we are going to go back to customers and ask for more money, but this price raise essentially destroyed our profit margin. So, we begged him to at least fill the remaining 30 orders under his original price and we would talk about new price after the rest of the back orders had shipped. He did eventually agree.

We received another 15 units at the original price. However, before sending the last 15 units he e-mailed us saying that he has the 15 units ready. However, he is raising the price, even though he agreed not to until all 50 had shipped. He said if we want them he will give us our credit for the 324 connectors and we would just pay the difference. Yes, you heard me right, he told us he would credit us for the connectors, but then raised the price by $30 per unit and here’s the kicker: he said if we would not buy at that price he would just sell them himself or to someone else. So he essentially exploited our position and forced us to pay more per unit and effectively making our credit for the connectors worthless, not to mention destroying our profit on the 15 reminaing units we already took money for.

Really, hindsight being 20-20 we should have cut off all business relations with him at this point. He obviously had no respect for us or his customers. After the dust settled I said if the new price means we will get much more consistent production then, we would accept it. So we had to raise retail price significantly.

Finally! We started to receive somewhat consistent shipments. From December 2015 to mid-March 2016. We were receiving about 34 units a month.

On March 25th he then dropped another bomb. The next two batches he was going to charge us $12 more per unit and also I would need to pay for his PayPal withdrawal fees. Now I send money to him as a Friend/Family so I pay his PayPal fees. So I am not sure why he is also getting charged to withdraw money, but as far as I am concerned that was not my problem. So no warning, nothing, just raises the price for no apparent reason.

So now I am very unhappy. I explain all the stuff I have done to help him, much of which I never even mention in this letter so far, and I tell him I want a good explanation for why he is charging me more for the next two batches. He replies back ending each one of his responses with “LOL.” So he is essentially laughing in my face and basically down-playing anything I did for him. He explains that a full explanation would take too long, but he basically said he was not going to produce any more units until June 2016, so these are his last 34 units until then. So basically, again he was attempting to exploit more money from me, however this time by apparently creating a false demand by halting production for a few months.

At this point we cut all ties with Mnemo. There were a lot of details which I left out of this letter, but here is some of them:

He had the audacity to insult my employees in one conversation, telling me to hire better people.
Never once during our whole correspondence did he ever thank me for anything I did for him. He was arrogant and rude, treated me like I was an idiot.
He thought our mark-up should only be 10% to 15%, anyone who knows retail know this is ludicrously low margin.
I offered to help him with branding and logo design and offered to make a logo for free. He thought that was a stupid idea.

Since he did not seem interested in increasing production I actually talked to KRIKzz to see if he would be interested in manufacturing the Dreamcast adapter and just pay Mnemo royalties. Similar to his agreement with Ikari_01 and the SD2SNES. KRIKzz agreed, but Mnemo absolutely refused. I took a big risk by doing this because if Mnemo agreed I would essentially lose my exclusivity over the product, but personally I just wanted the product to exist and for us to be able to sell it, so I was willing to forfeit that for increased production.

Mnemo was having trouble getting PCBs made, so I actually asked dbElectronics where he got his PCBs made to help Mnemo. He told me, which I passed on to Mnemo and I believe he ended up using this company to produce his PCBs. No gratitude ever given.
And the list goes on...

His business plan (or lack thereof) appeared to be not using the money he made to buy equipment and/or hire employees to increase production, but was to continue to create a demand with low production and just raise the price to milk the market for as much money as he could with this false demand. We sent him well over $30K by the way, would have been way more if he actually produced more.

I have experience with this kind of business arrangement. KRIKzz and dbElectronics for example. Both of these guys have been nothing but excellent to deal with. I would even consider KRIKzz a friend at this point and I hope to soon be meeting him in person. Even dbElectronics had to raise his price at one time, but he wrote me an e-mail explaining why, it was completely understandable and we offered no objection to it.

I understand that to some people this all may seem like petty drama. However, we tried and tried to work with Mnemo and we could have continued to just go with the flow and keep raising our prices to compensate for his price increases, but we felt we had to draw the line. We personally feel the guy was exploiting us and essentially using us like his personal bank account and we had enough. We will never do business with Mnemo again.

We are still sitting on over 600 Molex connectors for the Dreamcast. So if some other developer out there is working on a Dreamcast adapter we would love to do business with you, please contact us.
We will continue to look for new products to offer the community and we would like to thank our customers for all their support.
Sincerely,

Ryan Cross
President
Stone Age Gamer LLC"

If anyone is reading this and feels they have the skills required to create an alternative device, get in touch with the folks at Stone Age Gamer. There are literally thousands of Dreamcast owners who who would love to own a GD-Rom replacement but simply could not afford the high price of the USB-GDROM (including me). With any luck, this announcement will open the door for us down here in reality to prolong the lives of our ailing consoles.

Thanks to William M Nash or sharing this story on our Facebook group.

3 comments:

Mario Mora said...

Seriously, $%#@ that Mnemo guy. I cannot stand people like him even being remotely involved in the aftermarket/hobbyist scene of games, and it seems like every hobby from Nascar fan to Lego collectors has at least one sub-human degenerate like this that relishes what little capacity they have to have a relevant skill set that could benefit a collector community, to the point of being intolerable pricks.

Unfortunately, that's how things work, and you always hope that there aren't slacker type jackasses like this that take advantage of people or are just in it for the money. I get charging for one's work, I'm an illustrator, and I do art shows for a living. But I wager you could ask any one of my clients, customers, or colleagues, I am more in this to bring happiness to people through my art and assorted skillsets. Money is nice, but knowing I created something that people could enjoy without ripping through their wallet, is more important to me.

Sorry this all went down for you guys. I know you're all better off without having to deal with that guy. - Mario, the Artisan Rogue

BlueSwirl said...

I was lucky enough to get one of these devices when he first sold them, I think I paid around £120 at the time and I remember thinking it was a bit of a gamble as he would only accept payment through Western Union (something which I had never used before and only heard bad things about), its a shame it turned out the way it did as its a fantastic device, I have a 2TB USB HDD connected and have every PAL release, USA exclusives and all the Japan exclusives that I want on it

Robbie Wickham said...

I agree with BlueSwirl, he/she summed it up in entirety.
Robbie
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