Start-up Special 2013: When is the right time to form your own game company?

Start-up Special 2013: When is the right time to form your own game company?
James Batchelor

By James Batchelor

November 21st 2013 at 10:30AM

Game Lab Social's Ollie Clarke and Steve Stopps discuss the important factors to consider when founding your studio

What advantages do you have when setting up a new studio if you are already in development?

You get to make what you want, both in terms of games and studio culture.

We are lucky, we have been exposed to the commercial side of game development for many years, so we know what works and most importantly what doesn’t.

What disadvantages do you face when restarting?

The first big disadvantage is simple, it is really hard work. So many people don’t fully understand the implications until it is too late.

Running a business comes with lots of pressure, and lots of admin. Many indie developers I know are surprised by how much time they are spending not making games. There are so many unseen activities that happen behind the scenes when you are an “employee” like accounts, legal, insurance, marketing etcetera. This stuff can be time consuming and often feels endless.

There is also the insecurity, you never know where your next salary will come from.

What was the toughest part about setting up Game Lab Social after Blitz's closure? How did you overcome this?

For those that don’t know, Game Lab Social/Arch Creatives is more of a collective than a studio, and something that Ollie and I have established with Creative England, and Warwick District Council. We are creating a space where microstudios can work in a fun, inspiring and creative environment.

This is a very different model, and one we believe is more in tune with the future of game development. One of the biggest challenges we have faced is helping people understand what we are trying to achieve - since it is so different. The developers understand, and WDC have been incredibly supportive, but we are still working hard to secure wider support.

It takes a lot of passion and self belief to keep going when times get tough.

What was the easiest part?

Working with amazing talent, and making great games. This may sound odd, but making games is always the easiest part. The hard part is the work that comes later, building success, and generating enough revenue to support future games.

How can new studio teams differentiate themselves from their previous company? Or should they embrace that connection?

It is important to define the vision and values of the new company. These will help define the direction of the company and help it stay on course.

So much depends on what you want to achieve, and if a link to your previous company will help or hinder you. Some teams are keen to build on past glories, others are more intent on forging their own way.

if you're currently employed at a games studio, when is the right time to branch off and form your own?

This is a personal choice. It needs to be a mix of head and heart. Use your head and do your research. Read about starting up a business. Understand the costs, and think about all of the other non-creative stuff you need to do. Think about how you are going to pay your bills, and the bills of the people who may come to rely on your business. Be realistic about how much money you can make. Build healthy relationships and connections and prepare as much you can before making the jump.

Once you have done all of this you will probably be terrified (you should be). Then it is time to listen to your heart. If setting up a studio or creating games was purely a commercial decision no one would do it.

Ultimately it comes down to a leap of faith. If you really believe in what you are doing then you will jump. Just do it with your eyes open.

All this month, Develop is publishing its Start Your Own Studio guide online. You can find all of our start-up articles at www.develop-online.net/startupspecial.