Tips on Creating a Video Game Company

Tuesday, March 26, 2019, 6:00 AM | Leave Comment

A few years ago I worked on a game that was nothing more than financial black hole. It was a project of passion, and as is so often the case with projects of passion, it took my money, gave me nothing in return and left me broke. 

Fast forward a few years and I tried again, and again. This time I focused more on the practicality of it, drafting in some helping from a friend in the business and making sure we didn’t spend a penny more than we had to. The end result was a game that actually came in under budget, finished before the deadline, and looked every bit as impressive as hoped.

I later sold it to an investor who paid a high price for what he saw as a turn-key project that was ready for launch. The low budget and quality product meant I earned a pretty penny, and it’s something I am already looking to repeat.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Always Use Freelancers

    Freelance platforms were a godsend throughout this process. I don’t want to come across as cheap or as someone who undercut hardworking developers, but after wasting so much money on earlier projects I was dead-set on doing this one cheaply.

    I spent a lot of time trawling through freelancing portals to find developers who had the skills, but didn’t have the qualifications/experience and weren’t able to charge a premium. I had to devise a few paid tests to ensure they were capable before I let them loose, but this cost me less than $400 and allowed me to cherry-pick the hardest working, most skilled developers I’ve come across in years.

    In the end they charged around a third of what an experienced worker would charge. In return I made some allowances with regards to the deadline, but they were so keen to impress that they finished before the deadline anyway.

    The problem with freelancers that work cheaply and don’t have experience is that they simply aren’t reliable and often require you to hold their hand. That’s why the “test” was so important as it allowed me to sort the wheat from the chaff, rejecting over a dozen freelancers who didn’t deliver—one of them was still asking me questions about the process after everyone else had finished!

  • Ask Around

    Everyone knows how much money can be made from apps and mobile games and everyone assumes that if you’ve created one or have one in the Google/Apple store, you must be rolling in it. I used this to my advantage to secure funding from friends that had practically been begging to join me on my adventures.

    They invested in the project and covered all of the funds needed in exchange for share of the eventual profit. They didn’t have any involvement in the creation process and while they tried to offer their input (many times), they eventually understood that it was best left to the developers.

    In the end it meant that I had to give away a little over half of the money I received during the sale, but as I never invested a penny of my own money to begin with, all of that was profit. I also helped my friends to earn a sizable profit and guaranteed future investment if needed.

  • Give it Away

    One of the investors I worked with was an author who makes a very healthy living on Amazon. The one thing he told me prior to the build was “Give it away to as many people as you can”. It worked for him with his books and basically made him a bestseller, and while it seemed counter-intuitive, I decided to try it myself.

    I had planned to give it away for free on completion, but decided to try this tactic before completion as well. I contacted forums, communities, reviewers, Youtubers—everyone—and gave them a free copy of the first build. I told them it was exclusive and that they were one of the few receiving a copy, and they were so grateful that they helped to make it popular even before it launched.

    This was actually how I found the eventual buyer, a man who loved the game so much he wanted to take it off my hands.

  • Be Prepared to Work Hard

    Prior to the aforementioned project I helped to make an app for an online casino, through which I learnt some of the techniques I used and also made a friend who guided me. I had more of an active role in that app than I did in my game, yet I worked much harder on my own.

    I assumed that hiring freelancers to make it and getting investors to fund it would mean I didn’t need to do anything. I even started a couple other small projects at the same time. But I was wrong. It took a lot of delegating and supervising, and if I wasn’t doing that I was fielding questions from investors, looking ahead to marketing, and managing troubleshooting.

    A couple weeks in I dropped the other projects and focused entirely on this one. I had no other choice.

The truth is, if you want to cut corners, do it cheaply and manage everything yourself, it’s not  easy and it requires a lot of hard work. But it’s definitely doable and profitable, and that’s ultimately what matters.

Author Bio

Nicky Martins is a marketing expert, a game developer, and a proud gamer. He got his start in business running a small gaming company from a California co-working space before taking what he learned to establish retail and marketing businesses.

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