7 min read

EGD News #75 — Niche games

EGD News #75 — Niche games
duckling on black soil during daytime
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Sent on April 2nd 2021.

If you aren’t a subscriber to EGD News, you can subscribe here.

Hi there,

It’s Joakim here. Greetings from Helsinki! I spend last weekend at our cottage in Iittala, where the weather was great. +10C and sunshine, couldn’t have been any better!

Here’s a quick reminder before we go to the news. I’m hosting a webinar on April 15th with Collin Foss, Co-founder, and CPO of Skunkworks, the makers of MergeFriends. The topic for this session is “Building a Successful Merge Game in 8 Weeks.”

If you recall my talk with their CEO James Cramer from late last year, the team had a shoestring budget to make it or break it. You can listen to that conversation with James by watching the webinar or listening to the talk’s podcast version.

In this webinar with Collin, we will talk about game design and product decisions and how their rapid development process worked out so well that they are now off to the races.

Register to this free webinar with Collin by going here.

📱 Scenarios for Soft launch

I’m often seeing developers soft-launching games and knowing that they need to hit Day-1 numbers above 40% to feel that they can proceed with a game. Often I’ve seen developers lack preparation for all sorts of scenarios that can come up during the soft launch.

I wanted to create a visualization tool for all the scenarios that developers can encounter in the soft launch. Of course, no soft launch is the same, but there are advantages for having more preparedness for the different stages of validating a game as you are moving towards a ROAS positive game.

Here’s an example for preparation. The team is soft launching their game, and they’ve gotten Day-1 numbers. The numbers look OK. But then what?

Read the full article by going here.

💰 Niche games and venture backing

I recently talked to one founder who is building traditional tabletop role-playing games to be played over mobile phones. Both the founder and I understood that it’s hard to read the potential of tabletop RPGs on mobile, which is still in development.

Once the game soft launches, the team will have numbers to back their claims. Then they can target tabletop RPG with Facebook ads. There are millions of people in the world who love tabletop role-playing games, right?

But how many of them are accustomed to playing tabletop RPG on mobile? And how many are willing to ditch their current mobile game to try out something new? These tabletop RPG lovers also love word puzzle games, Match3 games, shooters on PC, etc.

The tabletop RPG genre could be the sleeper hit. But what if it isn’t a hit? What if a handful of people try it out, and a fraction of them stay playing?

Niche audience

Any game developer, who wants to build something new and different, should try to build an audience from day one. I did a webinar about this topic in September of 2020, but I’m going to revisit this topic now, as I get so many developers approaching me with niche ideas.

Niche means “a specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service.” That’s what the tabletop RPG is. A product for a very specialized segment. People who want to play tabletop RPGs over mobile phones.

The developer starts from their “why,”which is their purpose to exists: we will bring tabletop RPGs to people who want to experience D&D and other games without being physically in the same room.

The developer starts building their niche audience by building their product publicly. They write a blog where they talk about the benefits and experiences tabletop RPGs provided, but those experiences are less available for one reason or another. Then they write about how their company’s purpose is to bring those experiences back with modern technology.

Post your content on social media, and people will start gravitating towards your content.

The developer starts collecting a mailing list. They build their audience, one email address at a time. The list grows and grows. It will take time, but you will inevitably, over time, have an audience.

Venture backable?

Someone might ask: but won’t investors say that this will take too long? Yes, but this niche audience approach will need investors who understand your plans.

If you want to raise from investors, you’d need to find investors who have alignment with your approach to building the business.

You could have a story of building a big game, but you’ll also have the community growth plan by talking to the niche audience.

So the plan is to build the game and build an audience at the same time.

This is how I built Elite Game Developers. I started the EGD podcast in June 2019 with a hundred and fifty listeners who had read my Medium post in March 2019 when I left Next Games and subscribed to my newsletter. The growth has been gradual. This picture shows the path to 3,000 email subscribers.

I’ll cover my audience growth activities in a later post. But to summarize the idea:

If you are building something that isn’t obviously going to have a big audience waiting, you should look into building an audience for your purpose from day-one and not wait to launch your game and then start building “installs.”

🎙 EGD 083: Sebastiaan Heijne and Elmer Bulthuis, Gameye

In this week’s podcast episode, I’m talking with Sebastiaan Heijne and Elmer Bulthuis, from game scaling solution company Gameye. Both Seb and Elmer are long time entrepreneurs and in this episode, we chat about their experiences on learning so many things the hard way, building Gameye now together and what the future could look like for their game server startup.

Listen to the full episode and read the transcript by going here.

📃 Articles worth reading

Building the Definitive Free-to-Play Games Company — “We’re an LTV-driven business. From a business perspective, if you build really high LTV, then many things take care of themselves. Sometimes IP is really powerful and enables you to build really high LTV games. As an example, MARVEL Strike Force is an IP that’s, in some ways, the perfect IP for an RPG. You have characters that people love, a deep roster that seems to never expire, it keeps growing, and Disney’s ongoing support of the Marvel Universe keeps feeding interest and content. That’s an IP that naturally helps build good LTV.”

Royal Match – The New King from Turkey? — “Games that fail to create piece distinction make levels difficult: it is harder and slower to find moves and see shapes that create power-ups. Piece size is also a factor – Royal Match uses bigger pieces than most other switcher games. Friction may seem innocuous, but friction increases over time. Similarly, the contrast of the background, board, and pieces is important; a minor change in grey can make a big difference for the “pop” of the pieces.”

What I wish I knew when building a new games studio — “We originally aimed for a 20/80 innovation ratio in our game, but in reality it was more a 50/50 with all the parts we changed in our game, from the original references. As we realised the amount of unproven mixed features we had in our game, we had to recalibrate the amount of known features and remind each other each time we added a new feature: “Is it worth investing our time on improving this feature? What will be the ROI of this effort?”. This thinking process helped us focus our efforts on the big areas of impact for the game.”

💬 Quote I’ve Been Thinking About

”Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” — Simon Sinek

Sponsored by ironSource’s LevelUp Academy

Whether you’re looking to grow your first game or already experienced in the field, you’ll find the insights you need to turn your creations into a successful business.

Click here to start your first class.

Sponsored by Pollen VC

Pollen VC is the leading provider of capital-efficient funding for mobile app and game publishers. With their flexible and low-cost credit lines, Pollen VC helps to unlock unpaid revenues from app stores and ad networks by eliminating payout delays of up to 60+ days – enabling you to reinvest rapidly into user acquisition without relying on dilutive equity funding.

They also provide free online tools to visualize your ROAS, LTV and cash flow – try their Financial Forecaster to get started using your own metrics.

Sponsored by Gameye

Developers that are looking for an easy game server auto-scaling solution should definitely check out Gameye.

Gameye is a platform independent solution. Game sessions are spread out over multiple providers to achieve the best possible coverage in every region of the world.

Gameye is your one-stop-shop for all your server orchestration needs. They create and provide their own API for this.

Take advantage of automated capacity management and always have resources to run game sessions. Scale when you need it, in locations close to your players.

Check out www.gameye.com


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.

Note! You get a free video with the purchase of 4 or more videos. Remember to say that Elite Game Developers sent you!

Go to www.getigc.com to see some examples and get more information.​​

That’s all for this week! I hope you have a sunny and warm weekend!