UKIE CEO Jo Twist explains why it’s vital for start-ups to network with developers, publishers and investors from the beginning
We represent developers of all sizes and it’s amazing to see the number of fresh, young start-ups that are growing up around the UK.
But whilst we know that the barriers to making and selling a game directly to your audience in this country are currently at the lowest they have been for years, this doesn’t mean it’s at all easy for start-ups to survive and thrive.
There are lots of pitfalls in running a small business, but the two main issues we hear most about are access to expertise and access to people – whether that be people with whom you can work or people with whom you can do business deals.
When money is tight and every penny is incredibly precious, having a network that you can go to can be a cost-effective lifeline. If you know the right people, you can collaborate on mutually beneficial projects, get advice about how to solve any problems you have in your process (whether it be coding, art or technology), and learn from others who’ve ‘been there, done that’, especially about the practicalities of running a business and appealing to potential publishers or investors.
But above all you can strike up commercial deals and partnerships with the people you forge relationships with. This could mean access to money and the ability to scale so that your business grows.
However, forming those relationships in a meaningful sense takes time – especially if, as a small team, your focus is to get the game made and if your team is working in isolation from other games businesses.
There are a great many networking opportunities, whether that be through formal conferences, seminars or informal meetups, across the country. But travel, entrance fees, time out the office are all scarce resources that not everyone has.
Trade bodies such as ours can help alleviate the financial burden by offering members free or discounted access to many events. And we can help online as well as in person. We have a network of nearly 200 UK games businesses, which between them represent the widest possible spectrum of the video games industry.
We see it as a network that can be flexed at different times for different needs, and we make it our business to guide you towards the right people within that network and help share their insights online and in person.
The network includes the console format holders (Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft as well as new entrants like Ouya); multi-national publishers; development studios of all sizes (from big triple-A types to many micro studios and start-up businesses). There are also other businesses such as accountants, lawyers, retailers and academics who are all there to help (and of course gain new clients).
Trying to be where you are with the right people is a challenge for a small company like us, but we know that bringing together these experts in one room outside of London, and coming to you instead of you coming to us, is crucial. So too are collaborations with like-minded networks across the country.
You don’t have to be member to get some of the benefits of the UKIE network. For example, we like to partner with others such as the Indie Games Collective that brought 100 indie devs and Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo together to speak about developing on next-gen consoles. So whilst you don’t have to be a member to benefit from our networking, when you do join you become part of a community. You can use our free facilities and our contacts to put on the event you want, and you can access all the other events and discounts that your UKIE membership brings.
We all need every bit of help we can get in these competitive times, and we make it our mission to help as much as we can. Together we are stronger.
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, plus a full schedule of the guides still to come by clicking here.