EGD News #59 — You can’t keep game ideas that you don’t use
Sent on December 11th 2020.
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It’s Joakim here. Greetings from Helsinki!
This week I launched Gaming Angel Fellowship! It’s finally live! I can’t believe it 🙂 I spent so much time in the last two months, going back and forth with the content. It feels so great to have it out there and have the first members inside the new angel community.
If you’re interested in learning to become an angel investor in gaming, here’s the link to subscribe to the learning content and to the angel community.
Some comments from folks so far:
“I think this course can truly arm potential angel investors with the tools and confidence they are looking for.” — Martine Spaans
“The course is as valuable to those building businesses as it is to those looking to invest. A shared understanding of the dynamic between young business and angel investor is a great foundation for any partnership.” — David Amor
Sign up here, and you’ll get immediate access to the Slack workspace and everything else.
On to this week’s news
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💡 You can’t keep ideas that you don’t use
Big gaming companies go through lots of games that seemed like a promising ideas in the first place. Some get left on the cutting room floor when new concepts get evaluated for projects — the company strategy has changed, or good-old politics get in the way.
In some cases, concepts get to grow legs. Perhaps people felt the game idea was so strong that they’d want to see the idea made. A prototype was built and it was played by lots of people. But then it didn’t live up to the expectations that were often set up with an ambiguous context.
People leave and join a new company
The game ideas never die. People who strongly believed in the idea will keep them in their minds. Once people leave and join new companies, these ideas get migrated into a new environment with new opportunities for ideas to be planted.
The idea has perhaps received some validation previously as a prototype. The idea has had time to mature the mind of the developer. The one who is bringing it to the new place has had time to poke holes in the concept: what will and won’t work?
People leave and join startups
Why is this valuable for the ecosystem? Ideas that never get realized as actual games in one company, get a second chance at a new company.
I’ve seen this idea migration happen often, where an old idea gets invigorated. Often it starts with the core gameplay, the sec-to-sec, which then is built out and playtested. Since years have passed, game development conventions have evolved, and there might now exist a superior meta to match with the core gameplay.
The game is built, a soft launch happens and the metrics are great.
I’ve previously talked about underdogs.
“The underdogs of the games industry are the people who’ve been in large gaming corporations for close to a decade, or even more, and who knows everything about the industry, but are regarded as not the top talent, not the people who would get the chance to build the next big game project at this big corporation.”
“Finding the underdogs, and getting them into key roles in startups, is the way to expand the industry, to bring up people to new levels.”
These underdogs are often the people who bring with them lots of ideas that are extremely valuable. Perhaps they’ve landed at a fledgling startup that is dying for a great game idea. Perhaps the game couldn’t hit the target of being a $100m game at the previous company, but for the startup, the idea worth far less is already great.
This is one of the unique ways to create more value in the gaming ecosystem. To games companies: you can’t keep ideas you aren’t using.
🏆 20 Lessons from Mark Rosewater
These are my takeaways from this awesome GDC talk from 2016, by Mark Rosewater, Head Designer for Magic: The Gathering.
If you are making games, everything that Mark covers in the presentation is worth knowing. These are all the details of making a great game
These aren’t commonly the things that come up when game devs are thinking about their next game that we are going to make.
But these should be coming to our minds. These should be high-level approaches but also the final touches for any video game developer.
Magic: The Gathering is very personal for me. I started playing MTG in 1995, just as Mark Rosewater came into work at Wizards of the Coast, the company behind Magic. I still own all the rarest cards that I collected back in the day — Library of Alexandria being my rarest card of all.
You can take a look at my analysis on each of the lessons that Mark shared by going here. Here’s a few personal ones out of the twenty:
#9. Allow your players to have a sense of ownership.
Great games allow self-determination theory to thrive. Lots of things to do on their own, i.e. Minecraft, Red Ded Redemption etc.
As with making the game personal (Lesson #7), you give more autonomy: game designers should allow players the ability to build things that are uniquely their own.
The key is something along the lines of modding and customization, because you want your player to be able to do something that nobody else could do, that they did, that is their creation.
MTG is all about this lesson. People can craft their decks from 15,000 unique cards, and they have total ownership of their creation.
#11. If everyone likes your game, but no one loves it, it will fail.
Strong emotions create strong ties with the game. Players don’t need to love everything, but they need to love something about the game.
It’s actually good to polarize your players. Don’t worry that players will hate something. Worry that no one will love anything. Otherwise you might not have true fans and the game will churn players out quite quickly.
One example of polarizing game play is Clash Royale: you get a winning streak going but eventually you loose and you might even come down in trophies. Others can’t stand these crushing moments, whereas other get opposite strong emotions, and they continue pushing on, to ”beat” the opponents.
#14. Don’t be afraid to be blunt.
People can just miss the obvious.
In Walking Dead: Our World, we did early playtests which revealed that people were tapping on the gun, and the gun was firing into the direction where the gun was. Once we added ”Tap Walkers to shoot them” we got players to do the correct and fun thing.
Read the full article by going here.
📹 EGD Webinars in 2020
This year I did 14 webinars on a variety of topics, including fundraising, game design, product, audience development, playtesting, etc. In this article, I reflect on these webinars and which ones were the most popular ones.
From most viewed to least viewed, but not in importance order 😀
- Long-Term Engagement in Hybrid Casual Games
- Deep Dive In Gaming Investments and M&A
- How To Minimize Risks In A Games Business
- Sales Projections For Premium PC Games
- Beginner’s Guide To Investor Money
- Inside the gaming VCs brain
- How to Raise a Seed Round with Julia Palatovska
- How To Finance Your First Game Project
- Audience-first game development
- Work From Home For Game Teams
- Early-Stage Success in Mobile Gaming
- Joakim’s Keynote at IGDA Leadership Day 2020
- How to get investor money for your gaming startup
- Tales from Playtesting webinar
I’m not at all surprised about the top 3 — I think these are the topics that have gained the most interest during the year. Some additional thoughts on these:
- My favorite is definitely the chat with James Cramer in November. That discussion highlighted so many topics that I’ve been talking about this year.
- The most preparation went into making How To Minimize Risks In A Games Business. Started working on the presentation in Dec 2019 and it took a few months to get the material together.
- I’ll definitely make a follow-up to Long-Term Engagement in Hybrid Casual Games in 2021.
🎙Lars Jörnow, EQT Ventures
In this week’s podcast, I’m talking with Lars Jörnow, partner at EQT Ventures. Lars started his career in gaming at King some ten years ago and eventually transitioned into VC in 2015. Since then, he’s invested in companies like Small Giant Games, Popcore, Traplight and Reworks.
“I’ve always been very focused on retention. My fundamental belief is that it’s more difficult to build a game that retains players than a game that monetizes them. If you have a game that retains players in the long-term, let’s say Day-30, Day-180. They usually don’t have much longer than Day-180 when we invest, but if they have that, then it’s a matter of time before you can figure out what those players feel is reasonable to pay for. Whereas you can’t really do it the other way around. In my experience, it’s much more difficult to find a game or develop a game that has long-term engagement.”
Listen to the full episode here.
📃 Articles Worth Reading
+ Voices around the table — ”Most first-time founders learn through experience how to navigate these conflicts of incentives and vectors of investor control. Some luck out by working with a group that is aligned enough on values, and the going is smooth enough that they can manage to resolve most conflicts via trust. However, many founders have at least one or two bad stories of individual investors (and often intertwined with contexts) that led to some form of value destruction.”
+ Is this the end of Location-Based Games? — “COVID-19, social distancing, lockdowns. The pandemic has had an impact on the way we play games. But how has the genre of Location-Based Games been faring? Did the genre survive or is it dead in its tracks?”
+ Why Israel’s Gaming Ecosystem is One the Best in the World — “Israel, and especially Tel Aviv, is known for a massive gaming sector worth tens of billions with companies such as Playtika, Moonactive, Plarium, Crazy Labs, ironSource, AppsFlyer and Fyber driving exponential growth. Who better to deconstruct the evolution of the Israel’s gaming ecosystem that Gigi Levy-Weiss, the Founding Partner of NFX (leading Israeli and Silicon Valley VC fund) and an early investor in Plarium and Playtika – among numerous other startups.”
💬 Quote that I’ve been thinking about
“The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parents.” — Carl Jung
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That’s all for this week. Take care and stay safe!
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