Tips for Starting a Games Development Company in Ireland

I originally had created a blog post on tips for tech start-ups. I have updated it for games companies and games start-ups. Also most of these don’t specifically apply to Irish games companies – hopefully you find them useful. They are based on my experience with a number of games and mobile start-ups.

Your majority spend should be on marketing
As you have probably heard, cash is king for all businesses, more so for start-ups. You won’t have much cash starting out so it is vital to spend wisely in those early stages. So, the simple rule is – any spare cash - only spend on marketing and sales. Game markets (indie, mobile or AAA) are all ultra-competitive and social media will only get you so far!

 Don’t rent an office
Office space in Dublin (and most European/US cities) is expensive and a real waste of cash when starting out. Offices are needed for full teams, meeting clients and storing hardware. You probably don’t have much (or any) of all three so you don’t need an office. If you are meeting potential clients, rent a ‘hot desk’ office or meet at their place. Use Skype and Dropbox to create a virtual office. When you have regular paying contracts or revenue streams, then rent

Try to have an alternative income source during development
Work part time, contract – do whatever you need to do to avoid paying (much) salaries when you are in startup mode. With your team, agree a profit share or equity share (for committed team members).

 Game Team makeup: Development, Design and Biz!
A lot of game start-ups tend to comprise mainly of developers and artists. Not a bad thing but it means the focus of team will be on game development, not the business. You need someone onboard with marketing, publishing or general digital business experience.

Forget funding… for now
Securing funding takes time…. a lot of time. If you are in the indie or mobile market for example, you should not need much funding to get your business started. Publishers and investors will only really consider you if you have a (sales) track record in a certain game genre.

 Network wisely
There are a huge number of games, tech and start-up networking events held in Ireland each year. Like all events, some are more useful than others.

 Sales, not Traction
With free to play, it is tempting to say you have 100,000 game players so, hey, we are a games business. Nope! Users or players don’t equal customers.

Social media should be part of your marketing plan, not a replacement for it.
This is related to the first point about marketing and having a Biz head onboard. Many new start-ups talk about social media as if it is their only marketing activity. The basics of a marketing plan are still as valid as ever (remember the 4 Ps). Your social media strategy should be part of your overall marketing strategy; not the other way around.

Try to avoid advertising only game revenues
A few (very few!) game companies survive on advertising revenue only. You need massive (tens of millions) numbers of players to generate decent revenues if you are relying on in-game ads only. Put simply, it is extremely difficult to make a profit on online ads only.

Keep your professional fees low
Running a business costs money. For example, every business will need an accountant and solicitor during your startup phase. Inexperienced company founders tend to have phrases like “our solicitor looks after our IP”. Professional services firms charge on an hourly/daily basis – in the beginning, only use them for your statutory returns. If your turnover is low, you will only need to file abridged accounts each year, a considerable cost saving. Good firms will give you some basic free advice, knowing that as your business grows, you will come back to them for further paid consultations.

The Cloud is your technical friend
The hype is true, the cloud really does work – especially for game start-ups. Services like Google App Engine and Amazon Web Services allow you to pay only for the computing power you use. In addition, most have free starting tiers of usage. You do need someone cloud savy to use them but they do save you on hosting and database costs (ouch!) when you scale.

Government Supports & Entrepreneurship programmes
Besides Enterprise Ireland (EI), there are a ton of other government support agencies. Most are listed on this very useful site ThinkBusiness

Get on a Entrepreneurship programme if possible
There are a number of good government supported start-up programs such as DIT Hothouse. Besides good advice and training, the best thing about these programmes is the networking with other start-ups.

12-month revenue target
If you are not making real sales within 12 months of starting your games business, maybe call it a day. A tough one this one but you will always find excuses for not making sales. Learn from your mistakes and start again!

Make it look good
People are visual creatures, we judge everything first by our eyes – including games. You can release your game if some features are not fully finished or included; however never ever release something that does not look good. That does not mean that you needed AAA 3D graphics. If you are going for simple stylised graphics, they still have to look good!

That’s it. Now go forth and develop………….

Loot Boxes & Game Developer Remuneration

In the free to play gaming market, loot boxes pose a real quandary for game developers. Using the Japanese gacha system they are a popular game mechanic for increasing player engagement. However, the recent controversy with a number of high profile paid games (using loot boxes) is a cause for concern. It appears that core game players don’t like loot boxes. They have already paid for the game and they don’t see the need to have to pay for new content.

With free to play games it is different. Casual game players are used to daily reward mechanisms. A number of countries are now looking at the legality of loot boxes as a form of gambling. Are they a form of gambling? As the in-game currency cannot be used outside of the game, in most cases they have been shown not to be a form of gambling. However, loot boxes in games have now grabbed the attention of legislators in a number of countries.

Game developers need to be very careful in their implementation of a gacha type loot box system. They need to ensure it is property designed to reward players for ongoing play and not give an unfair competitive advantage.

For us we see it as a systematic structural problem in the games market as a result of the prevalence of free to play games. Professional game developers need to be remunerated for creating quality games that provide hours of entertainment - even if they are free to play. Google and Apple are delighted with dominance of free to play games as it effectively gives their customers free content. Yes, there is the freemium business model but it only works for a tiny number of large publishers. Both Google and Apple have a big part to play in correcting the market to so that there is a balance between free content and content creators getting paid. Unless this occurs, the games market will stagnate with no innovation and everyone making the same type…. With lots of loot boxes!

 

Fierce Fun at CoderDojo Coolest Project Dublin 2016

CoderDojo Coolest Projects 2016 was so special! Our games Terminus and QuizTimeTrivia were a big success with the little Ninjas CoderDojos!

They were playing and giving us their feedback all the time!

We are working on Terminus game so keep up with us for more news and the free preview version!

But the most popular with the adults was Quiz Time Trivia, it is a generational thing. Check it out freeplayhttp://fiercefun.com/quiz-time-trivia/

Here are a few more snaps of the CoderDojo Coolest Projects in Dublin: see the full album here

CoderDojo Fierce Fun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bespoke Custom Games for business – Works every time.

As the gaming community has known for a long time, a game is not just about winning or losing, its far more important than that. Games are increasing in complexity all the time and are now firmly rooted in our everyday lives. Recent daily news reports about the invasion of PokemonGO players to such diverse locations as The White House to Ayers Rock, causing mayhem in their wake, are proof of this. To ignore the power of games to influence people and create market share would be a mistake for business especially those involved in building their brand. The future of marketing is complex and apps and games are a very useful vehicle and tool to drive business forward. This is not surprising to us at Fierce Fun, but what does surprise us, is the amount of companies both large and small, that are completely unaware of the marketing potential a bespoke game can have to their bottom line. Not only do games have the power to influence our lives but they are a powerful force for marketing and in the area of education and learning.

capture5

Continue reading

Social Media Internship

 

Mobile Games Social Media - Internship (WE) 

This Social Media WE role is an opportunity for hands-on experience in social media and digital marketing. Fierce Fun publishes its games on the Google Play and Apple App Stores. This role is suited to someone who is a passionate gamer!.... PC, console and mobile

This WE role has the ability to learn from the development and marketing team. Some the duties will include:

•    Content Sourcing & Creation:
•    Working with the Project Manager to produce effective content for the company’s social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and others).
•    Writing blog posts, social media posts and other communication materials for social media;
•    Researching mobile app and game market trends
•    Review and optimization of social media content;
•    Reviewing social media content for use in other digital marketing initiatives

Ideal Qualifications:    
•    Strong interest in communications, social media marketing and/or creative writing
•    3rd level qualification or studying for one
•    Good skills in Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint
•    Strong skills in Facebook, Twitter and/or blog software
•    Very comfortable using Android or Apple phones and tablets
•    Strict attention to detail and an ability to produce quality written content each week
•    Reads/knows games review sites and game bloggers

Terms:
Duration     3 months
Hours          Flexible and based on a candidate's schedule
Location      Remote work (mainly)
Docklands Innovation Park, East Wall, Dublin 3 (team meeting and reviews). Candidates need only attend weekly meetings onsite .Travel/lunch expenses will be provided.

 

 

Generation Z and Social Media

z

In a recent U.S. college survey by Fluent marketing and insights, conducted in March 2016, students between the ages of 17-24, (a.k.a. Gen Z)  were asked about the social media platforms they use most. The results are not surprising with Facebook getting a resounding, 67%, Snapchat at 51% and Instagram at 50%. Predictably the Snapchat phenomenon is continuing unabated with the steady rise of this platform worrying the Facebook executives.  33% of respondent stated they have increased usage of Snapchat and no major increase in the use of  Facebook.

However, it was found that Facebook retains its dominant position in the social media sphere, being the favoured platform for friends, family, and brands. But the findings indicate it needs to keep evolving if it is to keep its position as the default social media platform of choice. Snapchat and Instagram appear to be used by Gen Z for tighter close-knit friendships or groups.

The survey’s most interesting findings revealed what the platforms are being primarily used for.  

Facebook is the Daddy. Primarily being used for general digital profiles and regarded as necessary. Regarding advertising on Facebook, respondents indicated they preferred display ads as opposed to news feed ads. Despite Facebook heavily promoting  video lately, respondents still favour using specific video platforms like You Tube.

Snapchat & Instagram: The good buddy platforms. These platforms are used several times a day by the respondents and are used to communicate with close friends and their campus community. They are open to ads on these platforms if they are brief and not pretending to be content which is perceived as disingenuous.  

YouTube & Pinterest are brand central. Respondents follow brands and celebrities on all channels, but they seem to favour interaction with  brands on Youtube and Pinterest. They also like following celebrities on these platforms. Twitter is also popular for following celebs. Respondents expect  ads on these platforms, as they seem more brand oriented.  Adverts that service a need or address issues they care about are usually clicked on. The quality of visual content in Snapchat and You Tube, promote repeat visits, in contrast,  branded stories or celebrity endorsements do not engage respondent enough to buy a product.

Time is of the essence, but video is king.   Most respondents (74%) spend more than two hours a day on social media with just under half  (44%)  spending more than four hours a day. Video is popular on all platforms with You Tube, as expected being the top provider. Two-thirds of respondent watch up to two hours of video a day for entertainment, this may happen over several visits during this time. Unusually live streaming video conversation were not as popular as these figures would suggest, with in-person contact being the preferred method of communication.

 

Snapchat vs Facebook

fvs

We all know Facebook loves your photos and family videos, for what reason, we shudder to think? They are now, yet again I may add, trying to move into the Snapchat space and create a cloned Facebook version of the popular app, we are reliably informed. This is an effort to push their 1.6 billion users to generate more images and videos. Why? Possibly for their data mining operation? The planned app will be compatible with Instagram whom facebook already own and there will also be a video app to feed to your facebook account directly.  

But I hear you say, this has all happened before, and you would be correct in saying that. 

In 2012 Facebook launched the facebook camera almost in sync with its Instagram takeover. It bombed, probably because they realised they were re-inventing the wheel i.e Instagram were already doing it and they were doing it better.

Later in 2012,  they tried Facebook Poke an unashamed copycat of Snapchat, it lacked integrity and people saw through it. It bombed in 2014.

Also in 2014, came Bolt, designed by the Instagram boffins in their secret hideaway lab (probably located under some obscure mountain range). A  secret weapon perhaps? No! It bombed as well,  a year later.

Then came Slingshot another Snapchat clone, a stand alone app requiring no Facebook affiliation at all. It bombed in 2015.

Last but not least, they gave us Riff devised in the bowels of the innovative but not defunct Creative Labs at FB, a remix and editing app, which also bombed like the team that built it.

So we are sad to say the track record does not inspire confidence for Facebook’s attempt to take the Snapchat space. Some would ask, why can’t they leave other successful apps alone? What’s with this megalomaniacal attitude of destroying all potential competition?

Earth to Facebook, competition is good, it drives innovation and just throwing wads of cash at something does not buy success. Hunger drives success that’s where Snapchat came from, that’s where Facebook came from for pity’s sake.

 

How to make Dublin the start-up capital of Europe

Many of the components are already in place to make Dublin the start-up capital of Europe. We believe Dublin (and Ireland) has real identifiable strengths in software development, rather than hardware. Owing to their nature, software businesses require less resources to start and, in general, grow faster. With the right focus and structures, Dublin has the potential to become the focal point for European start-ups looking to target the US and international markets.

We believe the following action points as important to further increase Dublin’s potential as a leading start-up hub:

  • Form a focus group of start-up CEOs to work with the various state bodies and give quick feedback on proposed initiatives
  • Create a virtual start-up package in partnership with Irish multinationals including Microsoft (Azure), Google (App Engine), Amazon (AWS) and Facebook (social platform).
  • Provide a ‘pitching platform’ to increase the number of start-up proposals reaching Irish and international funders and VCs.
  • Create a large open office space area for qualifying startups. If you ask most start-ups, office space is more important than funding during the very early stages. Even with virtual offices, physical teams work faster and more efficiently.

In Ireland and particularly Dublin, there are multiple stakeholders involved in the start-up ecosystem including incubators, banks, VCs, universities, multinationals and government enterprise agencies. Some of these organisations work well together. Others either overlap or do not communicate. This is a key area where the we need to ensure a more efficient start-up ecosystem.