The good books

The good books
Will Luton

By Will Luton

November 2nd 2011 at 9:00AM

Will Luton shares six concepts that helped shape Mobile Pie

I don’t need to tell you that our industry is at a major juncture. It’s possibly the most historic, disruptive time in its 30-plus-year history.

Traditional developers are failing and small development teams are rising.

The bedroom developer is back, and making games they love. The wave is growing, but for many early stage ventures it may, as it has for some, crash and roll back.

As we at Mobile Pie transition from a small start-up to a company with a solid, regular and diverse income, I’d like to share six big things we’ve learned from our experiences.

Also, I have suggested some books which have shaped what we do here.

ONE: DON’T BE PRECIOUS ABOUT YOUR PRICE

There’s a lot of rhetoric out there about valuing yourselves and the work you produce and that gamers should respect that.

Listening to that will put you at odds with your potential players and fans. Digital distribution means no physical costs and your small team means low overheads, so you have to be competitive on price.

The most competitive price is free. You need to understand free and the digital economy. I’d recommend reading Chris Anderson’s Free. Ironically it’s priced at £8.99.

Two: Get a desk calculator, install analytics and make a spreadsheet

Obviously you need a basic grasp of profit and loss, but you also need to grab as much data about your business and games as possible.

Quantitative data will lead to qualitative improvements, which leads to you making more money and thus more games and informing lots of what you do.

THREE: YOU AREN’T EA

And that’s an advantage, so don’t try to be EA. Be open and friendly, not corporate and stuffy. Build a following and excitement around your difference.

Even mediocre independent games have been profitable because their developers talk about what they’re doing.

Seth Goldin’s book Permission Marketing explains how to use social networks to, by consent, market your product.

Also excellent is Al Ries and Jack Trout’s Marketing Warfare, which suggests a marketing ethos for the small guy as a guerrilla.

FOUR: BE OPEN TO NEW THINGS

Yes, you want to make your own games, but if there’s a profitable job making a corporate advergame that will bank roll your next title, take it. Alongside the money it will bring experience, contacts and unforeseen extras.

Perhaps a by-product of your game is a nice physics library: Sell it. Being open diversifies your income and makes you more stable.

ReWork outlines web productivity developer 37signal’s mentality towards business. It outlines new thinking for running small, nimble tech companies, and it’s extremely thought provoking.

FIVE: BE LEAN AND LOOK EVERYWHERE FOR MONEY

Keeping things simple, using slim process, hired and borrowed equipment and moving quickly will keep overheads low.

Alongside work for hire and your own cash, there’s lots of funding and support available for SMEs in the UK. Look at incubators and government bodies for support.

Also, networking will find you unusual partners, beyond investors and publishers, who are looking for developers and will fund cool projects. You don’t need venture capital to setup or grow.

SIX: DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Mobile Pie uses location in many of its games and My Star was one of the first, if not the very first, game to use Facebook Places.

This got us lots of attention with invites for feature articles and conference talks about the games mechanics, creating recognition.

Doing something new or different, even if it fails, generates interest. If it succeeds then you’re ahead of the pack.

THE FUTURE

So there you have it: Six concepts which have shaped Mobile Pie and will hopefully help other developers.

Those that believe the return of the video game start-up will be short lived as consolidation continues may be wrong or right. Either way, it is rather excitingly bringing a return to creativity and innovation to the UK right now.

We have the talent and opportunity, so let’s make it a reality. If you’re setting up, please drop me a line and let me know. I’d be interested to hear about your adventure.

May a British industry once again bloom.