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“There’s never been more startup activity in games,” says Dean Takahashi, lead writer at GamesBeat. “InvestGame reported that more than 100 transactions involving game developers and publishers happened in the past nine months, with $2.7 billion going into companies.”
That was part of a larger ecosystem of acquisitions and other deals and investments that totalled more than $20 billion, with 100 new studios in the past those nine months alone. Despite the pandemic — or perhaps because of the growth of players in the wake of the pandemic — it’s a great time to launch a new studio. And while there are a number of key decisions to make before starting out, developers will discover their own priorities as they begin the process.
When Emily Greer, co-founder and CEO at Double Loop Games, decided to leave Kongregate and start her own studio, she focused on three fundamental issues: finding the right co-founder; deciding the direction of their first game; and determining who they were going to raise money from.
“I had a very clear idea of what I thought the market opportunity was, and the type of experience needed, but the exact game, no,” Greer says. “As I was talking to potential co-founders, figuring out the game idea to pursue was a big part of that conversation. The co-founder I was looking for was going to be the game director.”
Glen Schofield, chief executive officer at Striking Distance Studios, had a game in mind from the start, from genre, to type of game, story beginning and ending, and background, all of which went into a PowerPoint presentation. After writing a business plan and starting talks with publishers, his major goal was establishing his C-team: COO, CTO, CFO, and a chief development officer, because hiring the right people and getting them established is crucial.
“The CTO was my fifth hire,” Schofield says. “It was important on many levels that we bring on our chief technical officer as soon as possible. We also like to have that synergy between tech and creative. Our CTO is also a very creative person, who brings another type of thought process to the creative part.”
“Our focus has been in three areas,” says James Dobrowski, managing director at Sharkmob London. “One is a very high-level vision for the studio and the kinds of projects we want to make. That’s important when you’re about to go on the onboarding spree and start recruiting lots of people. You need that vision to talk to people about and get them interested in the journey that you’re hoping to bring them in on.”
The next area, like Schofield, was recruitment — to find the right leadership team to go on the journey and build the studio’s vision.And the third was, and continues to be, planning over the long term for the impact of COVID-19. The challenge is finding office space to ultimately house all the people they’re recruiting, and balancing that against the growing working-from-home culture, and how that will look on the other side of the pandemic.
Jonathan Singer, senior manager, global games industry at Akamai, agrees that having a team in place at the start is vital, particularly the right technical leader.
“When you found a studio, you’re probably coming from the creative side, though you may have some technical background,” he says. “But at the founder level, you need someone technical to help you make your infrastructure decisions right from the start.”
Dobrowski agrees, pointing out that having conversations around tech is a big part of the high-level vision, particularly the decision around using an-off-the-shelf engine or building one from scratch.
“For us, we want to get to making games as quickly as possible, and we want to focus as much of our staff on making games as possible, so we were keen to use an off-the-shelf engine,” Dobrowski says. “That in many ways has helped us go out and find the right technical leader. Even in those very early stages, when talking about the high-level ambitions for your studio, the creative vision, you inevitably start talking about tech infrastructure for the studio as well.”
“A big part of the vision is understanding where you’re innovating,” Greer adds. “You have success in the market based on some level of innovation. I knew very quickly that our innovation was going to be around design, not technology. We knew that we would be making very tried and true tech decisions.”
The conversation about the engine is the first big technical decision you make, Singer says, and one of the next big inflection points is when you decide how you’re going to monetize your game. As soon as you settle on a monetization strategy, that’s where you need to think about how you’re selling, what kind of storefront you have, what micro-services will surround your core game infrastructure.
“In today’s games, everything you do is a connected service, and that’s where you start getting all sorts of complications around the player experience that is not revolving around your game,” he says. “Your game isn’t the only piece of the player experience. It all needs to be optimized, because there are things that have nothing to do with your gameplay that will cause players to drop.”
Don’t miss the rest of the conversation — for great insights into starting a studio in a pandemic, choosing the right CDN, pitching a publisher the right way, and more, access this free webinar now.
Access free on demand here!
You will learn about:
- Tips for starting your own game studio
- The landmines you should watch out for
- The best way to approach technical decisions as you grow
- Glen Schofield, Chief Executive Officer, Striking Distance Studios
- Emily Greer, Co-founder & CEO, Double Loop Games
- James Dobrowski, Managing Director, Sharkmob London
- Jonathan Singer, Senior Manager – Global Games Industry, Akamai
- Dean Takahashi, Lead Writer, GamesBeat (moderator)
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