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Hi there,

It’s Joakim here. Greetings from Helsinki!

This week I’ve been reading this book called The Psychology of Money. More on that soon. I’ve also started conducting angel investor interviews for the Gaming Angel Fellowship.

Before we get into the news, here’s a few quick updates.

  • Enrollment to my Fundraising Masterclass is open and you can find more details on the masterclass by going here.
  • I’m doing an “Early-Stage Success in Mobile Gaming” webinar with James Cramer from Skunkworks Games on November 25th, where we talk about fundraising from angel investors and how James and his team found success in the Merge genre. You can register for the webinar by going here.

On to this week’s news.

If you are enjoying this newsletter, feel free to spread it around. If you’re reading this and you aren’t a subscriber, you can sign up here.

🤑 No One’s Crazy

This week I read the new book from Morgan Housel called Psychology of Money which contains some 18 chapters on the way people think and behave when it comes to their finances.

The first chapter is called “No One’s Crazy” and it talks about people’s individual behaviors around making investment decisions.

“The stockbroker who lost everything during the Great Depression experienced something the tech worker basking in the glory of the late 1990s can’t imagine. The Australian who hasn’t seen a recession in 30 years has experienced something no American ever has.”

Same goes for game development. We condition ourselves to what is happening around ourselves and build models in our minds for what makes for a worthwhile investment.

There’s countless examples but here’s a few:

  • In Northern Finland, in the city of Oulu, we have Fingersoft, the developers of the wildly successful Hill Climb Racing franchise. For the past decade, the majority of the mobile game startups in Oulu have imitated Hill Climb Racing. They’ve developed all sorts of side-scrolling mobile games, with cars, mopeds, birds, foxes, etc. games.
  • Supercell hit it big with Clash of Clans in 2012. Ever since, their success has come from PVP games where competitive gameplay is king and queen.
  • In the UK, the tradition of racing games is strong, which started from Codemasters back in the day, and has spawned dozens of studios that have worked and are still working on racing titles for PC, console, and mobile.

Why does this matter? We learn something but then it becomes hard for us to undo these learnings. We can’t break out of the mold of what is familiar to us and what is really happening in the world.

As Charlie Munger said, “It isn’t the learning that’s so hard, but the unlearning.” As game developers, we know so much about what works, but if we could start each year by questioning at least 50% of our knowledge, we’d possibly reinvent ourselves for new opportunities for success.

📈 Q1-Q3 reflections

I was going through the InvestGame report on gaming financing activities from Q3 of 2020. After the COVID outbreak, things have come back and in a big way.

What happened at the early stage?

“During Q1-Q3 2020 game developers and publishers have brought around $2.7B capital into the gaming market with 100 transactions closed. Out of those, 69 were pre-seed, seed, and Series A rounds. And the later stage shaw 9 at Series B+ rounds and 22 corporate investments.”

“While American companies take a dominant position in the investment activity (90%+ of value) at the later stage VC and corporate rounds, only 30% of early-stage VC funds have been raised by U.S. startups”

At the early stage, mobile startups are raising less than PC per dollar, but there are significantly more numbers of mobile deals. Deals accounted for $103m, which is 31% of the total VC activity of $354m, but 34 out of 69, 50% of early-stage deals were for mobile.

“In terms of the deal activity, the most active players on the market are currently PlayVentures, Galaxy EOS VC, BITKRAFT Ventures, Sisu Game Ventures, and Makers Fund all together accounting for 54 deals.”

Check out the full report here.

🤝 Matching Co-Founders

For me, it’s always felt great to help founders hire more co-founders.

I usually notice that a team of two to three people is missing someone. Either it’s on the product side, or on tech, or when it comes to having experience in shipping a certain kind of game.

What can I bring to the table? I have a massive network of people in gaming, and I can be quite convincing that entrepreneurship is worth experiencing.

I don’t always want to be straightforward with marrying co-founders. In one case, I talked about a try-out to both parties. Since the candidate was out of a job and was looking for something new, I told him, “Hey, why don’t you just go there, see how things jell. Don’t commit to anything, just hang out with them and build some games together. You can figure out the commitment details later.”

This “hanging out” period works because both the team and the new co-founder candidate can work on a project together and see how things go. They don’t need to deal with compensation details and shareholders’ agreements before they even know if the chemistry is there if they’ll get along.

What I’m trying to learn now? How to preempt the co-founder conflicts that could arise down the line, and how to measure their attitude, not only their skills. One way to deal with this is to conduct reference checks around honesty, integrity, and how they deal with stressful situations. These checks can pay off down the line.

Last summer I wrote about the underdogs in gaming, who make great co-founders. For further reading on matching co-founders together, here’s that article.

📋 Reference Checks for Gaming Startups

This week I published an article that had been requested by several EGD readers. I wanted to write about Reference Checks, share the questions to ask and how to ask them. With startups, there’s a variety of roles to hire for. And investors will do their own checks on the founders.

“Once you’ve created an image for the interviewee, based on your conversations, the reference checks are a great way to dig deeper and to understand if what they are telling you is the truth. Also, it’s good behavior on your end to not disturb people until you know for sure you are moving forward.”

Read the full article here.

🎙 Podcast: Keynote on Leadership

In September of 2020, I presented the keynote at the IGDA Leadership Day. I talked about what is leadership, and how game entrepreneurs and founders could take notice from examples, from history, on what it takes to be a leader.

“[During their arctic expedition,] Shackleton’s biggest concern was this demoralization of the crew. He was intentional in keeping the men’s spirit high incurrence all sorts of activities like singing games. He held evening events, listened to his men, and had an open-door policy long before modern companies practiced.”

Listen to the full episode here.

📃 Articles worth reading

A Study on Modern Mobile Design — “A good mobile game must be set up to keep the player invested in all stages of progression; failing at any one stage will often lead to a ruined game. Player investment is hard no matter what platform we’re talking about, and if someone is not invested while playing a mobile game, most likely they’re not going to be spending money. That also means avoiding pain points and making your game as comfortable to play as possible.”

M&A Is Shaking Up Category Leaders in Mobile Games — ”The right acquisition of an established developer can propel publishers into the position of market leaders, as seen with the case of Scopely in the RPG and strategy genres and Zynga in the puzzle space.”

How to release mobile F2P hits over and over again — “The recurrent usage of IP optimizes the value of their licensing department and generates brand reputation, gathering more trust from IP holders and fostering better future deals. After all, if you were the holder of a powerful IP, who would you want to develop your mobile game: Scopely or a company with a mediocre history?”

👀 Something cool

The home office reveal — “Conventional wisdom says we spend a third of our lives in bed, so we should invest in a good mattress. By that measure, we also spend a comparably large chunk of time working. And with many workers recently shifting to work-from-home arrangements, the rationale to invest in a good at-home setup has never been greater.”

💬 Quote I’ve Been Thinking About

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” — Bill Gates


Sponsored by ironSource

We all know that developing a great game is one thing, but developing a great game business can be something else entirely. That’s why some of the top game developers in the industry use ironSource’s game growth platform, which takes care of both sides of the business, helping you monetize to fuel user acquisition, and vice versa.

From their ROAS Optimizer, the only product on the market built to optimize UA campaigns towards ROAS according to both IAP and ad revenue data, to LevelPlay, their in-app bidding solution, they offer everything you need to supercharge your growth. See for yourself at ironsrc.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.

Strategy Course for Entrepreneurs

My friend and business coach Laurent Notin, who was on the podcast last year, is offering a discount for new students when they enroll in his Strategy course. Check out Laurent’s course here, and if you sign up, you can use the code EGD to get a 10% discount. I highly recommend Laurent, he’s made my work much more balanced and effective!


That’s all for this week. Take care and stay safe!

Joakim