Sent on November 12th 2021.
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💪 Inquire for intelligence
I recently wrote on LinkedIn about the advantages of not working in secrecy. See above photo.
Unfortunately, too many developers act like big companies, being secretive about what they are creating until they have something ready. It’s part of their identity.
There’s so much to gain from asking questions from others. Showing builds, getting people to try out their games, and asking for feedback has never been easier. But it’s hard for many to open up.
People are stuck. I often bump into developers who are complaining that they can’t afford App Annie or Sensor Tower, so they are stuck with the intelligence they have in their heads.
As an investor, when I’m looking at pitch decks from game studios, those decks often lack benchmark data on the market they are going after. Then I ask, “What is the CPI range for idle games? Can you give me an estimated guess?” And it’s hard for them to answer.
I want the founders to succeed, but they are often operating in a self-constructed bubble. The pitch decks don’t explain the competitive landscape well enough. They might have a matrix that shows the games in the category, with “shallow meta” to “deep meta” on the X-axis and unapproachable to approachable on the Y-axis.
But that doesn’t help much. Is deep meta and approachability what the competition is lacking?
When I see someone pitching me a Battle Royale game for mobile, I ask, “Why did Wildlife’s Zooba lose to Brawl Stars?” An answer to that kind of question will tell a lot about their ways and how smart the founders are regarding the competitive landscape.
Ask others for advice
Developers should go out and ask questions. They should approach other developers without hesitation.
As Kristian Segerstråle said on my podcast: “The game industry is incredibly collegial. Nobody stays in the game industry for a very long time without loving games and loving the complexity. And the creative process is fundamentally non-competitive. People respect the creative endeavor of games. And a lot of the enablers, whether it’s tech or marketing or distribution strategies, are things that we believe we can learn from each other.”
What I often do is ask groups of people or individuals questions. And I get lots of interesting input; Then I share my process with founders that I meet.
To fill out Paul’s form, go here.
And Paul’s not alone. Mariina Hallikainen, CEO of Colossal Order also spent a lot of time, taking to gaming CEOs, when she was starting her first gig as a CEO. On my podcast, she said:
“I took the opportunity which we have here in Finland. The Finnish game industry so open. I went to IGDA events and talked to anybody I could find. I talked to game designers, programmers, producer, CEOs, just trying to find all bits of information I could. I then took the things I found suitable for Colossal Order on for our situation and then built it from there.”
Business magnate and investor Warren Buffett is known for his quotes on reading 500 pages every day. Buffett said that “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”
I was recently reading on him actually spending lots of time in his career, inquiring for intelligence from others. He even had a group that would often meet up for dinner, labeled the “Buffett Group,” to discuss and learn from each other.
Bill Gates joined the group in 1991, and he brought new insight to what the group was used to. Quoting from The Snowball, a book on Buffett:“What about Kodak? asked Bill Ruane [investor and a member of the Buffett Group]. He looked back at Gates to see what he would say.“Kodak is toast,” said Gates.Nobody else in the Buffett Group knew that the Internet and digital technology would make film cameras toast. In 1991, even Kodak didn’t know that it was toast.“Bill probably thinks all the television networks are going to get killed,” said Larry Tisch, whose company, Loews Corp., owned a stake in the CBS network.“No, it’s not that simple,” said Gates. “The way networks create and expose shows is different than camera film, and nothing is going to come in and fundamentally change that. You’ll see some falloff as people move toward variety, but the networks own the content and they can repurpose it. The networks face an interesting challenge as we move the transport of TV onto the Internet. But it’s not like photography, where you get rid of film so knowing how to make film becomes absolutely irrelevant.”The Snowball, by Alice Schroeder
Gates had insight that immensely benefited the group of investors, not as knowledgeable on what the emerging internet would bring.
Hundreds of opinions
When you ask your questions from enough people, you’ll have sourced hundreds of different opinions. The cool thing about games is that they are so magical and elusive that you can’t gain a clear answer.
“Kabam created Marvel: Contest of Champions, which became a hit game. Why did the Transformers version with a similar core and metagame fail?”
People might say that “Transformers IP isn’t as strong as Marvel,” or they might say that “Transformer’s core and meta were too similar to what Marvel offered,” or that “The Transformer characters don’t provide similar Street Fighter dexterity as Marvel does.”
The opinions go on and on. You have to make your own assumptions.
You can think about Stanford University professor Paul Saffo’s process for “Strong Opinions, Weakly Held.”
“Allow your intuition to guide you to a conclusion, no matter how imperfect — this is the ‘strong opinion’ part. Then –and this is the ‘weakly held’ part– prove yourself wrong. Engage in creative doubt. Look for information that doesn’t fit or indicators that point in an entirely different direction.
Eventually, your intuition will kick in, and a new hypothesis will emerge out of the rubble, ready to be ruthlessly torn apart once again. You will be surprised by how quickly the sequence of inaccurate forecasts will deliver you to a useful result.”
It allows you to unlearn and learn again.
All those five-star reviews can’t be wrong 🙂 Get my book, “Long Term Game: How to build a video games company” from Amazon. Available on Kindle, audiobook, and paperback. Check it out
🎮 Matej Lancaric — User acquisition for mobile games
In this discussion, we talk about Matej’s perspective on user acquisition for mobile games, how developers are becoming better at building games for UA in mind, and what the future holds for game studios embracing user acquisition.
Listen to the full episode by going here.
📝 Useful tools and templates
If you know of a founder or a group of people who are planning to start a game studio, let them know of these templates.
- Advisor agreement template
- Investor update template
- Cap table template
- Convertible note
- Shareholders’ Agreement
- Non-disclosure Agreement
- Co-founder equity split calculator
- and more
📃 Articles worth reading
+ People are spending millions on NFTs. What? Why? — “Who paid $20,000 for a video clip of Logan Paul?! A fool and their money are soon parted, I guess? It would be hilarious if Logan Paul decided to sell 50 more NFTs of the exact same video. Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda (who also sold some NFTs that included a song) actually talked about that. It’s totally a thing someone could do if they were, in his words, “an opportunist crooked jerk.” I’m not saying that Logan Paul is that, just that you should be careful who you buy from.”
+ How to be an Effective Executive — “You need to think of yourself as a producer and a leader driving value, not as a manager. Calling yourself a manager implies some level of reactivity. You manage unexpected situations. You lead to ideal outcomes. You want to be active versus reactive. Driving the vehicle versus a passenger observing. You are judged as a leader by your ability to drive output.”
+ Slicing up the Hyper Casual Pie — “Publishing of hyper casual games has become hugely competitive with everyone competing for the best games, and studios looking for the best publishers to help them achieve success. And it all happens very fast. But in reality, many perfectly good games get abandoned which have decent revenue potential, but fall victim to how the entire hyper casual market works, and end up on the scrap heap.”
💬 Quote that I’ve been thinking about
One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.
— Leonardo Da Vinci
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I hope you have a great weekend!