During the Smart Money in Gaming event, Dave Biscelgia (b shell ia) provided some great, and very specific advice for social, mobile start ups. The first piece of advice, test internationally. This strategy is called a soft launch. The goal of which is not to generate tons of revenue, but rather to gather user data. This data helps tune retention, figure out where problems exist in the app/game, and add polish to the product before the real launch in the U.S. market.
Also during the event Tier 5 was mentioned as a specific example of a location where cost to acquire users is extremely low, however conversion is really bad. There are some terms in that sentence which are new to the blog. We’ll go into them a little more specifically in the near future.
‘The state of play‘ was a New England Game SiG event held at the Microfsoft NERD Center on Oct 2nd 2012. It was well attended by all kinds of developers, designers, and even the CEO of Kickin Kitchen, an educational website looking to open up a game platform to their existing audience. The presentation and talks evolved from a panel discussion into more of a ‘town hall meeting’. There was some good back and forth between the panel and the audience, and even some great interaction between audience members.
The big issue, raised by the brilliant Caroline Murphy, is the lack of funding to game development companies in the Boston Area. Boston has incubators, game developers, great students, and great start-ups. It’s almost a perfect atmosphere to build game companies. Except Boston Angel and VC execs rarely come from a game design background, therefore are hesitant to fund game companies. The Boston Indies scene was created by and supports tons of great bootstrap start-ups that develop games. But save a very few examples, there has not been much VC support.
There was one problem with the night, microphones always seem to be in short supply in the NERD Center. But ultimately not a big deal. Mike, look into that for next time.
The topic of business models happened to come up at the GAMBIT event at MIT titled “Indies will shoot you in the Kneecaps”. Eitan of Firehose Games, Ichiro of Dejobaan Games, and Scott of MacGuffin Games and now of Viximo, talked about working for Indie Start ups in all stages of operation. The moderator was Alex of Owlchemy Labs who stepped out from behind the lap top to answer a question himself. For PC games check out a business plan for a computer game… But let’s shift focus to mobile games for a moment and take a look.
Some of the MIT students had questions relating to the business model for releasing games as apps. They were concerned about spreading the game while also recovering some money. The price point of most games needs to be low in order to attract an audience. Competition is fierce to drop the price and get more players. But development costs need to be recouped. How do you make sure to have some kind of return on investment while still attracting an audience? From that discussion came these suggestions about business models for your apps.
The Long Game: Give away your app for free to build a fan base. Worry about recouping development costs later. This method works if you are in college and have the time to really focus on community development. In college you have time and a roof over your head to make games which build a name. This is not a great option for those who do not have resources to cover their expenses up front.
The Guilt Game: Give away low cost of free app, have in app purchases. This requires using a system that allows for in app purchases. Which apparently completely excludes Microsoft products. Some players may have negative attitudes towards in-app or in-game purchases, and this may drive some audiences away. Many times gamers feel that a free game should be completely free. They erroneously believe that games appear as if by magic, and there is no cost associated with the production of said games. Free to play games are slowly eroding that stance.
The Twin Game: Release a free version of an app that contains ads along side a paid version of that app which contains no ads. This requires more work, and more development time. Not only do you have to code a version of the game which contains some kind of ad support, but you also have to code one without. While this may not exactly double the amount of work you have to do before launching a title, it will require more resources. However, it will allow players to self select into the kind of game experience they prefer.
Have you launched any games under these models? Mobile or otherwise? Any horror stories about a method that you will never use again? If you know someone that can use this information don’t forget to +1 the post! Or share with them directly through twitter.