Why are game elements so expensive?

My school might have to stop doing VEX because the game elements are costing too much each year, and we can’t get enough funding. Why do the elements cost $500, even though they cost about $250-$275 to make? Even $425 would be possible to keep going with VEX.

It’s not just game elements, pretty much everything with vex seems a bit on the more expensive side because they get to set their prices and dictate which parts are legal or not.

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That’s true. Everyone wishes that the prices weren’t so high though.

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We had thousands of dollars for our first year team. We have 14 left.

This was their guidelines for pricing two years ago, until the vexrobotics website was updated

Source

V5 cost? - #3 by B-Kinney

Now…
Motors cost $45 per
Vision sensor costs $80
Brain costs $350
Controller costs $125
Battery costs $70

Assuming you buy 2 batteries, 8 motors, a vision sensor, a brain, and a controller to build a vex robot, an additional $195 has been added to your budget from 2018.

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14 dollars left?! That is kinda insane! These prices are killing everyone.

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Probably has to do with the supply chain issues around the world.

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Supply chain is one thing affecting it.

Especially as demand for special supplies goes up, the cost of manufacturing goes up, and the need to increase price goes up as well to maintain a profit as well. No prices remain static in any market, that’s just economics.

One of the things @Grant_Cox has said before on Town Halls and other things regarding the game design process is, their challenge every year is to make a game that costs no more than $500. This actually limits you a decent bit material wise, and construction wise.

Other ways of easing that cost are to work with your club sponsor or adult team representative to host competitions as an Event Partner, where you receive a $250 discount on game elements.

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The game element cap is also a problem. Roboteers are asking for more challenging games to play. VRC spans Middle through University, VIQ is Elementary through Middle. What may be a huge challenge to a middle school team may be boring to a HS team (and the same for VIQ).

Which means more elements, more complicated elements.

The FIRST FTC game Freight Frenzy has the same issues, and it is $450.

A 16 team event can be done on a single field in a cafeteria. It’s not hard to setup or run. Or pair up with a school to help, one field to them, one field to you. Hold the event for 24 teams. (There is also a break on Award Costs) RECF wants events, teams want events, here is a way to do events!

Can you talk more about how much you started with and how it was spent? If you are really a brand new team then I can see with floor tiles (250), perimeter (800), game elements (500), competition robot kit (1300), registration (150)and two events (300) (With Shipping about $3,000 total)

As a second year team, the floor tiles, perimeter and most of the robot is still good. So you should be down to adding some parts (400), new field elements(500), registration(200) and two events(300) (Total about $1,400).

For lots of seasons you could buy 1/2 of the field. For this year you could have shared the expense with another team and split the game and field elements. You only need 1/2 to practice with.

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It’s not just the game elements that are expensive, everything is significantly overpriced. I want to start a team at the high school I’m transferring to for 10th grade, but I have to fundraise all the money. How am I going to fundraise 10k dollars?! That’s like, 200 bake sales. I’ve done a lot with Arduino, and I could easily build a far more capable robot for 1/3 of the price. Even the software is awful. It hogs all my CPU power, and my computer is a relatively new MacBook.

I think the parts are so expensive because Vex knows that it’s impossible to get parts that work together from the same place, and only allowing THEIR parts in the competition ensures that they will be able to sell equipment for 3-5 times what it’s actually worth. It’s pretty evil.

For comparison, my $40 android phone is significantly more powerful than Vex’s $350 robot brains. The phone is also higher quality, has a better screen, and it’s more compact. The only thing it’s missing is the OS and the ports, but those don’t justify the $300+ price difference.

Vex’s competitions should be about building the best thing possible with a set amount of money. After all, it’s about EDUCATIONAL robotics, not draining school budgets.

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I’m normally pretty (overly?) critical of VEX, but a lot of this is wrong.

This seems high. $5k to start a team seems closer to being reasonable. Which, to be fair, is still a lot of money.

In order to use an Arduino to power motors at the same strength as the V5 motors you’re going to need some pretty beefy motor control boards, and you’re also going to need to figure out how to power all of that, and also you need to figure out radio communication. So yes, you could, but the barrier to entry is much higer. Also, the motors you get aren’t going to be compatible with a nice building system like VEX, so I hope you have the machining capability to actually manufacture a robot.

So yes, you could build it yourself with Arduino, and honestly probably learn a lot more. But that is not a good low barrier to entry robotics competition platform out of the box.

Only allowing their parts ensures this doesn’t become FTC where there’s a huge gap between teams who have access to advanced machining capabilities and those who don’t. If you don’t limit the parts teams can use, suddenly I can build my robot out of like… carbon fiber or something. And then VEX as it exists now looks a whole lot more relatively affordable.

Ah, yes, all that’s missing are a bunch of ports able to drive motors on the order of 2.5A, an operating system that enforces the competition rules, the IO required to interact with sensors, and generally all the things that are required for a robotics platform.

Of course the Android phone is cheaper, firstly because it lacks the capability to be the basis of a robotics platform, and secondly it’s made of mass market components driven cheaper by economies of scale. Like 3/4 of the planet has a phone, much fewer have a competition robot, of course we know how to make phones way cheaper than robots.

The reason I continue to volunteer in this program, despite my numerous and frequent complaints, is that it remains the most affordable high school robotics competition with any real market share. If something just as good comes along that’s cheaper, I will be the first one to jump ship.

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I second that.

~ someone that can be at times critical of VEX and RECF

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How do you know what they’re “actually worth”? The only way I can think of is to put them on the market for a set price and see if/how many people buy them, and fortunately for us, VEX has done that. We observe that the same people who incessantly complain about overpriced, under-ESD-protected, breakable VEX continue to buy those same products.

I think you are underestimating the value of competitive robotics. People calculate the cost of running/joining a team and are willing to pay it. Maybe if people thought of the overpriced-ness as a registration fee instead of a materials charge, there would be less complaint. After all, VEX/RECF are free to set whatever price they want on joining their competition, and everyone else is free to join or not join. I think the number of VEX competitors is a testament to the value of competitive robotics.

If people are willing to pay “3-5 times what it's actually worth” in exchange for parts that work together, apparently those parts are worth 3-5 time what [they're] actually worth. How do you know what they’re “actually” worth? Everyone sets a different value on just about everything. If it’s not worth the price to you, why are you paying it? Just quit.

Yes, we all complain about the prices, but to many of us, in the end, it’s worth it.

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As someone who runs both a VRC and FRC team, let me just tell you that VRC is still waaaay more affordable than either FTC or FRC even despite the rise in costs.

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My FTC team in HS was still way more expensive in 2010-2012 than it is one VEX team for me right now.

I graduated HS over 10 years ago

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I did FRC back in 2008-2010 and our budget was like $35k-40k per year. That did include travel to competitions but still. VEX was always a bit pricey, even back in the days of radio crystals and PIC brains, but with 3-4 robots and ~25 students I don’t think we spent more than $8k-10k a year including reimbursements for parents who helped drive to events. Additonally, for FRC we only did 2 competitions, VRC we always did 6-8 depending on what was scheduled.

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Our budget this year is ~$10k as essentially a first-year team. This includes storage, tools, and parts for 2 robots. I didn’t include a field, since I already own one. Budget going into following years looks to be $3-4k? Not sure yet.

Keep in mind that both budgets do not include registration or travel fees.

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Just because Vex can overcharge for their products doesn’t mean they should. They’re not overcharging because of a “registration fee”, they’re overcharging because they know that there aren’t any other big robotics competitions that they don’t supply. They’re the only one on the market, so that apparently justifies raising the price as high as they want. Also, if you actually knew anything about what’s inside those Vex brains, you might realize that they can be replicated with other parts for a fraction of the cost. Sure, I don’t really know how a company determines the price of their software, but I’m fairly certain that doesn’t account for the outrageous price.

Right, because FRC and FTC don’t exist and don’t have non-Vex suppliers.

Please do, tell us how things work.

Finally, a statement we agree on.

VRC, FTC, and FRC are all expensive. Having had some experience with all 3, I would say that VRC is the most affordable, which echoes what many others say. That said, “bake sales” aren’t the only way to fundraise; many posts here talk about how best to pitch local companies to sponsor teams and organizations.

I don’t have experience with “combat robotics”, but perhaps that would scratch your robotics itch and allow you to use Arduino’s etc. and (possibly) come in at a lower price point.

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I think it is time for us to list “What have the RECF/VEX ever done for us?”

Monty Python’s Life of Brian tirade about the Romans is pretty close:

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