EGD News #47 — You're never too old to start a games company
It’s Joakim here. Greetings from Helsinki!
This week I released the Gaming Angel Fellowship website, where you can sign up to hear more about the angel program and how to get involved.
GAF is both an online course for people who want to start angel investing in gaming, and it’s also a community where people can discuss, share deals, and get involved in the gaming startup community.
The first cohort is targeted towards founders of games companies, as a way to not just invest but to build a way for founders to be helping new founders in their journey. Find out more by going to the website.
On to this week’s news.
There was an impressive amount of investment and M&A announcements on Thursday:
Bunch raising $20m, Everywear Games rebranding to Metacore and raising $17.7m, and Stillfront acquires Nanobit in a deal worth up to $148 million.
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❤️ You’re never too old to start a games company
The biggest takeaway from my work in two gaming startups (2005 to 2011 and 2013 to 2019) is that it’s not a quick outcome you should go after, but rather have the mindset of building companies for the rest of your life. Startups are hard, and they require a lot of work to succeed. Then, if an exit happens, it just a happy moment in life, not something that you’d work towards.
Of course, now I’m not a founder of my third games company, but I’m still building games companies by helping, advising, and investing in new games companies. The work continues.
Here are some of my takeaways as a 42-year old on maybe not “being too old” and why more age is beneficial when starting a games company.
1. Make work feel like play.
You don’t always need to be doing the right things at the right time. The great thing about gaming is that you can explore, be curious, and discover new things. I’m continually trying to do my work with EGD be less about any goals or competition on who gets the most exciting article out and winning anything.
2. It’s okay that you don’t have a map.
Start experimenting, make the most out of the experience. You’ll never know if a game works or not before you get to test it with real players. Try to learn as much as you can from each step of the way, and eventually, you’ll find something that works.
3. Utilizing abilities that make us adults.
As we get older, we develop new abilities: controlling our emotions and impulses, planning processes, and anticipating problems.
In an EGD podcast episode from June, Kristian Segerstråle talked about being more paranoid with making games. I think that self-doubt gives game developers more abilities to pay attention to their routines and to invest more in the cognitive effort.
4. Take a break.
You start to realize that it’s okay not to work on the weekends and take some time off if needed. The startup will be there, and the experiments aren’t going anywhere. A well-charged individual is much more useful than a drained workhorse.
🐯 Takeaways from DoF with Traplight
Last year I recorded a podcast with Riku Rakkola, the CEO of Traplight. At the time, they were soft launching their game Battle Legion with excellent metrics. A year later, Riku joined Miska on the DoF podcast to talk about their launch and the $9m funding round from EQT.
It’s an interesting discussion on how gaming startups should approach launching rough prototypes to see the metrics.
Here are some of my takeaways from the discussion.
Soft launch community. You start developing a community of early adopters who are continually playing the game, even though it’s still early:
“[It becomes a] problem changing things and people have an expectation and if the core community gets too big in early stage, then you’re gonna be spending a lot of time trying to manage those expectations.”
Game dev success: Ship small game, realize excellent metrics in soft launch, decide to focus, and make it a big game instead.
“We were gonna do this quick thing, it’s gonna be much smaller [game]. But then we saw a lot of potential with the numbers and kind of how people took the game. So we kind of like we have to think bigger with the game.”
Fundraising instead of selling the company. What lead to EQT funding Traplight, versus not selling to Zynga:
“With the great metrics, we got a lot of attention and we had to make the call and it was a decision on, do we trust this game, can it be big? And when we understood that this is something really cool that we’re working on, we decided to continue with investors try to see how far we can push it. Then EQT made a really good offer. They had success with Small Giant and felt like a good partner for us.”
☎️ Founder hotline
As an advisor and investor in several gaming startups, it’s often hard to articulate the most simple elevator pitch on how I can provide value to the founders.
Recently I heard several game founders seeking advisors who’d act as a hotline — no necessary hour allocation per month, but to be ready to pick up the phone when ever there’s a call from the founder.
That’s the perfect elevator pitch: I’m waiting for your call, any time. I’ll pick up the phone and help.
The advisor/investor would always be ready to chat. Calls wouldn’t happen every day, and the expectation is not about having a specified hour amount for every month. Instead, be there when those calls are needed.
If the founder has several advisors, the model scales nicely: The founder has several hotlines, depending on the advisors’ specialization.
📄 Games Company Culture Pyramid
This week I published an article, where I talk about the pillars of a great games company culture. People, learning, execution, and great games.
I’ve often thought about how to visualize an ideal game company culture. The pyramid felt like an excellent way to think about it: you have a foundation, then things come on top, finally reaching a peak, which is successful games.
🎙 Thor Gunnarsson, Mainframe Industries
I had Thor Gunnarsson, the Co-Founder and CEO of Mainframe Industries, on the podcast. Thor is a gaming legend from Iceland and he’s been an entrepreneur all the way from the 90s. He’s now started Mainframe, which a games company, making a cloud-based MMO game.
I ask Thor about why they went after cloud gaming, what product-market fit and player life-time values look like for a cloud-based game, and how they convinced Andreessen Horowitz in their startups.
Episode, takeaways and transcript available here.
🗓 Last week
If you missed out on the EGD news last week, I talked about elevating game developers in your teams, how to interpret retention metrics, and how pitching to an investor should be a sales process.
— EGD News #46 — Elevating game developers
📃 Articles worth reading
+ How to identify million dollar ideas for your games studio — Simon Davis from Mighty Bear Games talks about evaluating game concepts in this awesome article. Games are so complex and so many things play into the success of a game. That’s why I believe this kind of evaluation makes a lot of sense. Simon was a guest on the EGD podcast last year, you can listen to that episode by going here.
+ UX Review: Marvel Contest Of Champions — “Many games which involve an assortment of powerful heroes usually introduce trading card mechanics which makes it easier to manage them on mobile. But Kabam went ahead with the genre of character brawler similar to Streetfighter but with controls that are so simplified that even a two-year-old can figure them out.”
+ App Annie’s Game IQ taxonomy — “Biologists created a taxonomy of animals to help us understand the natural world better. Mobile insights and analytics firm App Annie is doing the same for games with the launch of Game IQ, a new taxonomy service that uses data science to categorize thousands of apps in a way that helps publishers better understand audiences.”
💬 Quote that I’m thinking about
”Often, the journey to greatness begins the moment our preferences for comfort and certainty are overruled by a greater purpose that requires challenge and contribution.” — Brendon Burchard
Sponsored by ironSource
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Sponsored by Opera Event
Looking for some great new authentic video creative? Try something totally new with Influencer Generated Content (IGC) by Opera Event. Influencers or actors will make specific creative content for your games and Opera Event will deliver you high-quality video ads that highlight the best parts of your game.
Go to www.getigc.com to see some examples and get more information.
Until next week!