Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Monday, January 25, 2016

Working With Game Startups

Dawn in Kuala Lumpur, from my hotel room
I'm back from a week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where I had the honor and privilege of working with a number of game startup companies under the auspices of GameFounders (check 'em out, particularly if you're interested in starting a game company). I came in to offer advice on marketing for game companies as well as game design principles, and some thoughts on starting and running small game companies. It was a tremendously fun experience for me, and as always I learned a great deal by working with these enthusiastic game creators.

I delivered two lectures, one on the state of the game market and game marketing, and one on game design, both around and hour or so  plus another half hour of questions. I then spent two long afternoons in one-on-one sessions with the startups, addressing their particular questions and concerns -- and delivering specific advice for their games and their studios.

Those sessions were intense, because in a twenty-minute session I had to absorb and understand their game(s) and their intent, and come up with specific, creative advice. I felt a great responsibility to make this advice as specific and actionable as I could, knowing that in their position that's exactly what I'd want -- and need. By the end of those days I felt like my brain had gotten a thorough workout, but that's good -- stretching those mental muscles will build them up, right? At least, I hope so.

It's a big challenge these days for game startups. While the tools to create games are better than ever, and more accessible than ever (many of them being free for small companies), the competitive picture is far more difficult. In decades past, the challenge was building a game: Tools were expensive, and distribution required a huge amount of capital or (almost always) getting a deal with a big publisher who had access to distribution. Now the distribution part is easy and almost free -- upload a completed game to an app store or Steam and poof!, your game is available to millions. The challenge is that none of these millions of people know or care about your game, and you have to figure out how to create, maintain, and grow an audience. Those are skills most new game developers don't have, or even know how to acquire.

It was highly educational for me to work with these teams and see their enthusiasm and skills. I hope I was able to help them in some small way, at least. The game industry needs continued innovation and new blood, and I hope all of these teams find success in the future.

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