Introduction: The Rise of the Mini-Arcade Retro Market
There are currently two trends in the console market that are readily evident when one examines what is currently popular: A rebirth of nostalgia and an increase in miniaturization. When Nintendo’s NES Mini and SNES Mini came out, they were two small retro-themed consoles that were extremely popular in the marketplace. This not only illustrated to console manufacturers how loyal fans of these classic retro games were passionate about wanting to purchase these devices, it also kicked-off a general retro trend all throughout the World. The Japanese gaming company SNK has capitalized on this trend with their own miniaturized version of the NEOGEO arcade, fittingly called the NEOGEO Mini. New Way Toy and Dreamgear are two companies in the US that have followed suit with their own mini-arcade retro series. Also, a variety of mini-arcade retro mini models have appeared on major supermarket shelves around the World. South Korea is clearly not an exception to being impacted by this retro trend! To further show the appeal of nostalgia and everything retro within South Korea, one can look at all the retro movies with high ratings such as, “Reply 1988,” which has boosted the trend. This increase of interest in everything nostalgic and retro has resulted in a number of Korean customers partnering with us to develop retro consoles. Today we shall examine our retro mini-arcade machine we made which was customized by e-mart, the largest Korean supermarket chain.
1. Source of Customers
In our first meeting with the customer at the Hong Kong electronics show in October of 2018, two customers purchased on behalf of their interested in our mini-arcade machine (the CT-881X). Our colleague Sunny offered a professional explanation about our product’s operation. After his presentation, it was decided by our customer they were more interested in the classic mini bartop arcade. The customers also bought several samples of units so that they could be taken to their own companies’ product development and marketing departments to discuss and choose their preferred items. After the show, Sunny continued to contact and follow-up with our customers, who stated at the time they were still considering products. Sunny was made aware that the customer looking for a 16-bit wireless mini-arcade maker had been commissioned by the super e-mart, which is South Korea’s largest grocery chain. This customer also revealed to Sunny that this supermarket was the biggest customer of their company. They said how this client purchased a large number of goods every year, and these purchases can at times be very frequent! With this information acquired Sunny thought this was a potential high-quality customer and kept in touch with them often. It was on August of 2019 that the customer recontacted us and then decided to develop our 16-bit wireless mini-arcade machine, the CT-881X.
2. Customer’s Order Requirements
Our mini-arcade known as the CT-881X has 72 games built-in which can be expanded on a TF card. The client submitted requirements for the console to have built-in 300 legal games and that the functions of a TF card should not be used. In addition, the mini-arcade of stickers, colorful boxes, and the instructions were requested to be customized. So, this was an ODM project that needed to have the game software redeveloped.
Once we knew all of the specific requirements of our customer’s order, Sunny held a meeting and discussed with the R&D department, production department, and other relevant departments of the company what was needed. It was determined according to our experience and conditions that we could meet the customer’s demand, so our customer submitted the order and we made a CT-881X with 300 legal games. The 300 built-in games had to be tested to check if they would be compatible with our existing platform’s memory, which was a time-consuming project. In addition, according to our company’s regulations, we needed to charge the product development fee in the early stage to re-develop the product software. Should the total quantity purchased within one year reach 10,000 then the development fee would be fully refunded to the customer, it was discussed. After the negotiation process, our client quickly agreed to pay the software development fee and the CT-881X retro mini-arcade ODM project was launched!
3. Preliminary Development and Certification Testing
(1) Software Development
Step 1: Choose the Game
On the basis of limited memory, it was determined that it was necessary for our software engineers to find 300 games in our existing library of more than 10,000 legal games, and these 300 games needed to be compatible with our CT-881X software platform–with the total memory not exceeding the limited memory.
Step 2: Burn the Games
The software engineers burned 300 of the selected games into flash via OTP Writer.
Step 3: Game Testing
The software engineers then tested the 300 legal games. During testing, if any incompatible games were identified then the software engineer would need to find other suitable games in the game library to replace the incompatible ones. Should there be an issue the game screen may appear as a blur, have a flashing screen, and other problems that would need to be figured out and modified so that if a particular game were causing the issue it could be replaced.
During the process of software development, we actually did encounter a problem when we found that the picture-quality of 10 games was fuzzy, but we were able to resolve the issue thanks to our skilled team and their hard work. After performing several tests, a software engineer found that the relevant code and the IC circuit diagram of the game console were out of order. The engineer then spent a good deal of time revising the relevant code of the game as well as the IC circuit diagram connecting the screen. Then, after several more tests, it was determined that the issue of the 10 games appearing fuzzy had been resolved.
Step 4: Set-up the Boot Screen and Background Image as Designed by the Customer
To keep everything in accordance with our requirements for the image format and size, the customer provided us with the photos they needed as the boot screen and background. Once this was provided, our engineers then set the boot screen and background per the customer’s designs and then tested them with the relevant testing procedures.
(2)The Development of the Hardware as Expected to Prepare the KC Certification Template
Step 1: Material Purchasing
According to the requirements of the software adjustment, the engineer submitted the material application form to the purchasing department and then the purchasing department purchased the relevant electronic materials according to the bill of materials given to the engineer. This completed that step.
Step 2: Material Testing
After the hardware engineer received the materials he/she tests them all according to the material parameter table.
Step 3: Draw the Circuit Board
Once the electronic material test had been passed, the engineer then drew the circuit board based on the electronic parameters and other relevant information, with the needed software drawings for the circuit board referenced when it was necessary.
Step 4: PCB Proofing
After drawing the circuit board drawings, the hardware engineer then was ready to send the circuit board drawings to the sample department to make several PCB samples.
Step 5: Make PCBA
Because we make only a few PCBA (due to cost) we do not arrange the machine to patch them, our engineers finished the sample PCBA manually.
Step 6: Assembly
The engineer made the PCBA board and proceeded to test it, with the then-assembled PCBA board examined with its screen, speaker, shell, and other products for testing after it was then determined to be satisfactory.
Step 7: Lab Tests and Corrections
Further lab tests and corrections were then performed to ensure the sample which will be given to the customer would be sure to pass the test certification of the Korean laboratory. After all, the product can only be put on the shelves of e-mart chain stores in Korea after passing the KC certification! That makes this incredibly important to make sure everything is correct and properly prepared.
After our engineers made the samples, the needed to be sent to the laboratory for testing. The test results showed that both the anti-static test and the 2.4g radio frequency test had failed. Our engineers have many years of experience in toy development, so they formulated an anti-static test rectification plan which involved our engineers adjusting part of the circuit and putting an anti-static protective film on the screen. As for the rectification plan of 2.4g wireless frequency test, we changed the variable frequency IC into the fixed frequency IC and after that asked the software engineer to set the low, medium, and high-frequency IC. Then we made all three sets of samples again. Through the efforts and cooperation of all departments, we were able to complete the new product development in mid-October and sent the sample to the customer for testing.
A few days later, the customer received the sample and sent it to their KC lab for testing. The test results came-out a bit afterward and two main problems were determined with the sample. The first problem was the battery slot being incorrect. The second problem was that our 2.4g wireless handle could not be fixed at a specific frequency, so the laboratory couldn’t do fixed-frequency testing.
Sunny provided feedback from the customer about the problems to the engineering department. Then, the engineering department immediately held a meeting to discuss these concerns. First, the problem of the battery slot was addressed. We tried 5 major brands of batteries such as Duracell, Conifers, Toshiba batteries, and more to test. We found that because of our CT-881X battery slot, the positive position of the corresponding hardware soldering point was not high enough and that made the positive poor contact not have electricity. The battery engineer then through the solder paste heightening hardware adjusted the soldering point after that tested the 5 battery brands and they all passed the final test result. The engineer informed the purchasing department of the height requirement of the positive battery hardware, and the purchasing department was then more accurate with the material list parameters in the system. So, we had solved the problem of the battery tank having bad contact.
Then there was the question of frequency testing. Because the wireless handle we were using was the IC main control chip with 2.4G frequency conversion, if we wanted to fix the frequency we needed to replace it with the IC of fixed frequency. So, the purchasing department re-purchased the fixed-frequency IC according to the requirements. The engineering department quickly adjusted the PCBA board according to the parameter table of the new fixed-frequency IC and then made a new sample.
Sunny then sent the new sample to the customer once more. After the customer received the sample, the customer sent this new sample to the KC lab.
Approximately five working days later, the lab test results came-in and the latest samples had passed.
Through cooperation from the early development to the test results of the samples, the customer became more and more confident in our company and felt they could trust us with the order. They were then willing to establish a long-term friendly cooperative relationship with us.
4. The Order Confirmation
(1) The Detailed Requirements of the Orders Were as Follows
The customized color box, body sticker, lens, logo, and manual
Packing Specifications: 6 sets per box, the outer box is then printed according to the box label provided by the customer.
The First Batch: Delivered to the customer’s designated warehouse for air transportation on December 6th.
The Second Batch: Delivered to the customer’s designated warehouse for land transportation on December 12th.
(2) Confirmation of Quotation
After the cost was calculated by the purchasing department and the production department, Sunny sent a quotation to the customer. Thanks to the sample development in the early stages being well coordinated, the price of our game console was very advantageous, and the product functions were also very good. This resulted in the customer being eager to place their first order to purchase 2000 sets. They immediately paid 30% of the total amount of the order as a deposit.
(3) Prenatal Sample Arrangement and Confirmation
After receiving the deposit from the customer, Sunny sent the knife mold drawing of the design materials (such as the color boxes, fuselage stickers, and instructions), to the customer, so that the customer could send the design to use to arrange the prenatal samples.
The client quickly sent Sunny the color boxes, stickers, and instructions they had designed to their liking. Sunny then asked the sample department to arrange to make samples according to the design data and then finished the pre-production samples after five (working) days. The samples were then sent to the customer via FedEx International express. After the sample was received, the customer inspected everything and found there was a mistake in the information of the sticker they designed, so they quickly sent us the new sticker knife mold drawing. We rearranged the printing, took photos we sent to the customer to confirm that there was no further problem, and then sent the new sample to the customer once more. The customer reaffirmed that there was no longer a problem and signed the sample, which was then sent back to us.
5. Mass Production and Shipment
The product from this order was used by the supermarket for a Christmas promotion. Since it took a long time to develop the software and hardware, and then to rectify problems and test the KC sample, the delivery date that was required by the customer was very immediate. The customer needed the goods shipped in two batches, and the first batch was sent to the warehouse designated by the customer before December 6th for air transportation. The second batch was then delivered to the other warehouse designated by the customer for land transportation before December 12th.
In order to try our best to be cooperative and meet the customer’s delivery time, the Marketing Department and the Production Department held an emergency meeting. We were able to prioritize the project and due to our inventory having most of the needed materials, the purchasing department moved quickly to within 15 days prepare all of the materials, including the chip electronic materials, such as PCB, conductive adhesive, etc. On November 28th two production lines were opened and ran smoothly at the same time. At last, on December 5th, we completed the first delivery and the second batch was delivered on December 10th. During this whole process of production, each of our departments worked closely with one another and the inspection department also tracked the whole process to ensure the quality of products, so as to not ignore or miss any quality concerns with the products due to the imminent delivery date.
6. After Sales Feedback and Harvest
The customer received all of their goods before Christmas, and our retro mini-arcade machine (the CT-881X) was successfully put on sale in the supermarket owned by the end customer. Because our retro mini-arcade machine—the CT-881X–integrated the retro elements of, “Reply 1988,” for design and packaging, that coupled with the excellent quality and performance of the product itself resulted in the machine being very popular with local consumers and selling well. In fact, the customer recently contacted Sunny again and has already been negotiating a new order plan.
In doing this ODM order, we were able to establish a good cooperative relationship with the customer thanks to our consistent communication (“Checking-in,”), and gaining recognition and trust from the customer. Although the initial samples did not pass the KC certification at the beginning, and there was the urgent delivery time, and other thorny problems, these were solved in the end–the goods successfully were finished in time to be ready for the Christmas promotion activities, after all! We were able to solve these problems so smoothly not only depend on the close cooperation of our customers, but also due to how we have ten years of experience in OEM&ODM toy development and production. Also, with our professional R&D team and skilled workers (who have been through professional pre-production training), the production efficiency of our company is higher than others that need to improve to equal our skills and abilities. For these reasons, we can guarantee the quality of our products and can work hard to meet our customer’s delivery time-frame needs and requirements. We also always are hoping to bring better service to our customers from all over the world through our professional expertise. We work hard so as to be sure our products can be happiness to clients all around the Earth and bring them joy!