Sent on April 23rd 2021.

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It’s Joakim here. Greetings from Helsinki!

I’ve just recorded my first Ask Me Anything episode, which will go live on the first Monday of May. If you have questions that you’d like to ask me about starting a game studio, developing games and getting funding for a game studio, you can submit your question by going here.

Now, on to the news.

📱 Merge Genre On Mobile

Last week I talked with Collin Foss, Co-Founder, and CPO of Skunkworks, the makers of MergeFriends from Helsinki, Finland. We talked about how the Merge genre has become so immense and how developers could still catch the tailwinds of this massive new genre on mobile.

Here are my top takeaways from what Collin said.

How can developers stand out in the genre?

We wanted to make sure that when the game came out, that it would be distinct enough. And I think we’ve done a great job. We tried to position ourselves not as a clone but as a standalone title. If you’re trying to deliver a game fast and trying to enter into a genre, you need to define the key things you want to focus on and then do those as quickly as possible.

How does player fantasy matter?

We chose the city-builder genre mainly because of the connections between Okay, hey, we have this core game; what do you use the items for? And then it was like, okay, there’s a city builder game, here is the fantasy, we want to build the town. Okay, how do you do that? Then you serving the customers, and then we thought about, okay, here are the different, you know, items that we can have in the game. And that was the player fantasy wanted players to feel like they were helping the town grow.

It was like, here’s the player fantasy; this is what we want. And then, okay, how do we express that? You’re going to be helping others in the town, and we wanted to make it more personal. And then those things connected like puzzle pieces.

What can casual merge learn from Match-3?

There are a few games already out there that are making the game, the core gameplay quite complicated. There’s a risk there, like how do you make it more approachable but not remove what makes that game fun?

You have that space management. You’re optimizing the space, and you’re moving things around. That’s the fun part of it. You’re trying to be smart about it. But then that’s also maybe a turnoff for a lot of players. I would say that approachability [is essential] and making the game a bit more user-friendly in some aspects, but without sacrificing what the core part of the game is.

How many were on the team in total when you built that game in eight weeks?

In the very beginning, we had one programmer, and we had two other people working on the game to build out the core part of the game. And we had a part-time artist to help us in the early stages. It was about three to five people. When you’re working in a startup, everyone was wearing many different hats and just trying to get the game out.

Listen to the full interview here, or watch the webinar recording and get the presentation from here.

🎮 Work on more than one game at a time

I wanted to revisit the product strategy article from 2020. Several startups, which I’ve been talking to when they have a game out that is working, start contemplating on setting up a second games team to work on a new title.

Investor perspective: you’ve just managing to build one game. How do you make us believe you can create another one at the same time?

Loads of funded startups in Finland have focused on one game for a year or two before they’ve embarked on the second project. These include: Small Giant GamesTraplightReworks.

At Next Games, we launched Walking Dead: No Man’s Land in September 2015, and it took two years and ten months to get Walking Dead: Our World launched globally.

All that being said, if you still want to pursue a second project, I’ve put together a checklist to help you determine your readiness for a similar game project.

There’s a lot of moving parts here. Here’s a checklist of three times.

1. Do you have the human resources to set up a second game team?

If you have enough talented people to build up another team, you can check the box. I’m underlining talent here. One way to bring less experienced people into your game teams is to let them work on a live game as you transition the battle-hardened team to work on a new one.

Finally, make sure that these people are dedicated to the project on a full-time basis. I’ve never seen a game developer successfully work on two-game projects at the same time.

2. Do you have a system in place for concepting, production, and launching your games?

I used to land in the camp of game developers who think that systems and processes hamper creativity. I changed my mind. Why? I believe that creative people, especially a team of creative people trying to work together, will be overrun by disorder and indecisiveness if they haven’t unanimously decided on systems to provide them with progress.

For game concepting and prototyping, the system should be built around game jams or other formats where ideas and experimentation is allowed to flow without much restriction. For production, you need to have discipline around understanding and meeting the needs of the audience.

And for launching, you want a system that optimizes for measurement: how quickly can you get the game out into the hands of the players, to get valuable data for making marketing decisions, update development, or even deciding if the game can become profitable and should a product be discontinued.

Once you’ve figured out the systems, you are ready to check this one from the list.

3. Do you have sufficient capital to concept, produce and launch a game?

Launching a new team will consume capital. If you already have extra resources in-house, you might end up not adding to your bottom line. Each market has its content quality and quantity expectations. The timeframe for concepting, producing, and launching a hypercasual mobile game is a matter of weeks or a few months. As we get into the realm of triple AAA console and PC game productions, both expected quality and quantity of content skyrockets from a few hundred thousand to tens of millions.

A few words about funding a game project: when you start a parallel game project, it’s ideal to fund this project with revenue from your existing games. But in many cases, it’s sensible to derisk the effort and raise another funding round with the reasoning of enabling themselves to build the parallel gaming project.

Both are good options and reasons to grow the company. Having more games published by the company will be an excellent measure for growth. And for bringing more success to the company.

📈 Game studio PnL

Last year, gaming investor Ilya Eremeev published the Perfect Games Company pitch deck template, which a lot of founders have been using. How do I know this? Because I constantly see game studios approaching me with Ilya’s template visibly being used as the basis for telling a compelling story 😊

Ilya is back with yet another helpful template. This time with a game studio PnL (Profit and Loss) template. This is a more extensive cash flow projection or budget for your game studio, from the template we have on Elite Game Developers.

On LinkedIn, Ilya posted:

“During the investment process, we ask for PnL, and some companies struggle to provide it as they do not have a convenient example of how to create and maintain it. So, I decided to create my own PnL template and share it with the community.”

“The company is completely fictional, and numbers do not represent real business performance, but this document displays the common logic on how to construct the PnL for your company. It could be useful when you are talking with the investor as well as for internal usage.”

You can get Ilya’s template by going here.

📃  Articles worth reading

Thoughts On The New Clash Games — “When it was announced, I expected something more in the direction of Might & Magic Clash of Heroes: a much more complex approach that would add more tactical depth than Legend of Solgard, and potentially even include a PVP competitive element.”

+ ATT opt-in rates are irrelevant — “I believe that the industry generally misunderstands how opt-in rates will impact mobile advertising efficiency. There are a few factors that render opt-in rates — and especially the opt-in rate of any individual app — mostly insignificant in ameliorating the degradation of efficiency that ATT will visit on mobile advertising.”

The song machines — “Another reason I think this clip appeals is that, statistically, hardly any popular music is written like this anymore. This clip comes from a particular post-Beatles moment in time when singer-songwriters were on the rise.”

Digital media trends — “The next wave of disruption may lie with Generation Z—who prefers to play video games, stream music, and engage on social media, rather than just watch TV or movies.”

💬  Quote I’ve Been Thinking About

“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.” — Albert Einstein


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That’s all for this week! I hope to see you next week! 🙂

Cheers,
Joakim

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