EGD News #79 — Antifragile game team
Sent on April 30th 2021.
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It’s Joakim here. Greetings from Helsinki!
I’ve created so much content on the Elite Game Developers website that it often becomes hard to directly go to a particular piece of content on my site. What I’ve discovered works well is to use Google for finding content.
If someone asks me, “Hey, do you have a contract template for advisors,” I’d say yes, just go to Google and type in “egd advisors,” and it brings up my article on advisors for gaming startups.
If I want to find content that I’ve written about Supercell, I google for “egd supercell.” Or I’d like to see the cap table template. Then I google for “egd cap table.”
You can find lots of things with “egd X,” where X is what you are looking for 🙂
Now, on to the news.
🎙 Anat Shperling, Toya
This week on the podcast I’m talking with Anat Shperling, the co-founder and CEO of Toya, a Roblox game studio based out of Israel. Anat and her team started building games for UGC platforms in 2016, first on Minecraft, before moving fully over to Roblox. Anat’s company Toya is a female-led studio developing digital games and media to empower a growing female user base.
Here are the main takeaways from the discussion with Anat.
Can you talk about your motivation to get into gaming, as seeing it as a medium of change?
My background is film and television. As a filmmaker, I established Israel Women’s Film Festival and the Women In The Picture Association. I thought that by creating a platform, women can present their perspective through films to make a change, and not just in representation, but also affecting social patterns. After doing that for more than a decade, it changed the representation of women filmmakers in my country from 3% to almost 30% nowadays.
But to me, it was okay. If we really want to change social patterns, we have to go back to childhood. And I had to question myself: was firm was the best practice to do so? I started to look at video games as a storyteller. It became apparent that if I want to be a part of the movement that is aspiring to change of representation and strive for equality, then video games would be the best place to tell a story. And that’s how Toya came about.
How did you start working on Roblox? Like, did you build your own games? Did you outsource them what what was the sort of the approach there?
We started on Minecraft in 2016 but moved to Roblox in 2019. It was free-to-play and we had to build a new team to address that. For the team, we would have professional gaming executives and veterans like myself. And these Roblox hackers, the Roblox developers that grew as gamers and became developers like artists.
The team of Toya is like 20 to 50 year-old people, women, men from Israel, across Europe and from the State. There’s a lot of discussion that is always so intriguing. You cannot foresee what is going to be said in a brainstorm meeting because the perspectives are so different. So everyone brings something from their own world to the table when talking about the experience we want to create on the platform.
How would you compare user acquisition with Roblox to mobile games? What are the biggest opportunities for developers on Roblox?
A developer would never buy their way up [to the charts]. But you can measure your game with UA. Once you have your game connected to Game Analytics or another provider, you can measure your KPIs. Then you go and do UA with a relatively small budget in order to test the KPIs and get 1000s or 10,000s of players into your game in a very cost-effective budget, test it to see if it’s working.
Then what happens is the Roblox algorithm would pick you up. Then you will be promoted to the upper row. The system serves you, and you’re not serving the system. Spending $10,000 a day to push your game to the upper row will not work. If the KPIs are not in place, the algorithm will not pick you up. The key is to improve your game, use the user ads for testing. [The platform is] supporting you to that extent, and then you can leverage your game.
Listen to the full episode by going here.
🎯 Antifragile game teams
The leader’s role in a game studio:
Your primary responsibility is not to create amazing games but to build the environment for amazing teams to create amazing games.
This week I posted my review on Sophie Vo’s latest Masterclass, titled Building teams for the long term: Antifragile teams.
Here are the four key steps to start to build your team as an Antifragile team:
1. Start with the Why
2. Build Trust
3. Nurture the Growth mindset
4. Get a Hyper clarity on your goals
I wanted to share the links to the main templates that Sophie mentions in the Masterclass.
You can read my review on the Masterclass by going here.
🎮 What instant games should look like
The a16z folks were talking to Justin Waldron, original co-founder at Zynga and now co-founder of Playco on their Clubhouse hour last Friday. In December 2020, Playco announced their Series A of $100m. It’s definitely the gaming startup to look out for.
To me, here are some of the key insights that Justin Waldron shared in the conversion:
How has your game development approach changed for instant games?
One of our key bets with PlayCo is to get back to this mode of distribution, where people are mainly playing with their friends, and that’s how they discover other games. Then you’d get back to a game company that could have a larger outcome and much more scalable distribution.
With the escalating battle of performance marketing, we’ve seen across all these companies, not only does it mean that companies are focused more and more on games with a lot of depth like mid-core games. It also means that they’ve pivoted away from pure social.
From a performance marketing standpoint, any user that you buy, that doesn’t spend money, lowers your blended LTV, and means that you’re less likely to be able to grow profitably. If you go and build a social game in the App Store, you won’t get the distribution benefits from [social]. And you won’t be able to grow on the performance marketing side.
Most of your friends that you’d want to play the game with are not spenders. Spenders are still a minority of players. And so the performance marketer’s job is to buy players who will spend, but in a social game, you want to play with all your friends, whether they spend or not.
Do you feel like the hyper-casual design concept of putting together the first minute of fun, and throwing it in and seeing if that works, would be applicable here? Even though there might be more complex downstream mechanics?
The hyper-casual industry has made a tonne of progress on figuring out how to validate ideas more cheaply and to reduce design risk.
I think the games that you can play with your friends are probably less twitchy than what we see in hyper-casual. If I want to be able to play a game with my mom, and my grandmother, that’s a game like Words with Friends. It’s a game where everyone can feel like they can be skilled and play at their own pace.
Ultimately, it’s something where our goal is to make something that you can enjoy with anyone that you want to play with.
Do you have any words of wisdom or advice that you have for company builders?
One of the challenges I have now is how do I unlearn a lot of what I learned at Zynga. What we’re doing now… There’s so much that’s different. The world has changed in so many ways.
When you don’t have the advantages of the resources and the capital [of a larger company], the question is how do you go and find something that they just don’t see?
It’s always good to have a healthy mix of being an expert on something but having an intellectual curiosity and working from first principles. So don’t be afraid to jump into areas that you don’t feel like you’re an expert in. And I think that’s where some of the best ideas come from.
Listen to the full interview by going here.
📃 Articles worth reading
+The FTUE as the Hero’s Journey — “Video games are interactive by nature, implying a great degree of Autonomy in player’s actions. When a player faces a new game his motivation is to get to satisfy his need for Autonomy as soon as possible. Everything standing in his way will be seen as a nuisance.”
+ The Productivity Funnel — “In the most general sense, productivity is about navigating from a large constellation of possible things you could be doing to the actual execution of a much smaller number of things each day.”
+ The Gervais Principle, Or The Office According to “The Office” — “Now, after four years, I’ve finally figured the show out. The Office is not a random series of cynical gags aimed at momentarily alleviating the existential despair of low-level grunts. It is a fully realized theory of management that falsifies 83.8% of the business section of the bookstore.”
💬 Quote that I’ve been thinking about
“Work is never finished, only abandoned.” — Paul Valéry
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That’s all for this week! I hope to see you next week! 🙂