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29 Nov 2013

So You Want to Start Your Own Studio…

Great. What an awesome, ambitious plan. It sounds great when you think about it, yet do you know how you are going to actually form your own studio? Moreover, do you know how you are going to form your own studio while ensuring it remains profitable? There are big plans to make – big plans that must result in profits and outstanding, unique games simultaneously. How do you do it? Here’s a pocket sized edition for everything you need to know.

 

No-brainer: create a business plan

Believe it or not, many studios (and start-ups in general) have a stellar idea and believe that is all they need. They’re wrong: oh so very, very wrong. No matter what you are doing and no matter how great your idea may be, you need to write a business plan to discover if your idea is actually profitable. Great ideas do not yield profits: case in point, Webvan.

Webvan was a grocery delivery service in the late 90’s that was eventually killed due to the dot-com bubble bursting. It’s an awesome idea, in that people can order groceries, have them charged to credit, and Webvan would deliver them to the customer’s home. Kozmo was another service in the late 90’s that did the same thing, in that they would deliver video games, DVDs, music, magazines – even M&Ms all within one hour. Great ideas? Absolutely. Profitable? No, and it’s because they didn’t have a solid business plan.

Business plans help you to see every responsibility you are going to have for your studio and will allow you to see the reality of the idea. It can also allow you to adjust various aspects of your studio before you start going through with your idea. Use as much time as you need to develop a business plan, and you will plainly see what you need to do to make your studio successful from the getgo.

 

Create an identity

Is your business plan sound? Great. Now you need to provide an identity for your studio. There are thousands upon thousands of studios in existence, and each one of them are vying for the time and attention of players, media contacts, and more. What are you going to do to make yourself stand out?

Make your studio personable. Nobody cares if you make action RPGs for Android – so many other studios already do that. Instead, create a story that describes why your studio is different from so many others. Perhaps you have been working at a financial institution for 15 years, you were the VP of a company, and one day you woke up and decided to quit and begin making games. How awesome is that story? Use it to create your identity!

It’s likely that you have loved games your entire life and you do not want a regular 9-5 gig. You’re probably in the same boat as everyone else, and it may seem as if there is nothing special about your studio. With that attitude, no there’s not .Make it special. Be personable, create a unique and memorable name, and make yourself stand out from the rest. Nobody is going to remember ‘Legendary Adventures Studios,’ but everyone is going to remember ‘Spicy Horse Games.’ There’s no set way to create an identity and stand out, it’s something you need to brainstorm with your employees and discover yourself. If it was truly easy, everyone would have a unique identity.

 

Create a memorable website

Don’t skimp on developing your website, either. Hire a professional that has a proven history of making attractive, well laid out websites. And if you have the skills to create your own website? Take the time to create the best one possible. Your website should provide the following information:

  • Showcase your work
  • Contact information
  • The members of your team
    • Who they are, their roles, etc.
  • The story of your studio
    • Why does your studio exist? What brought everyone together to form your studio?
  • Media
    • Include the best images and video clips from past games
  • Ensure its attractive and easy to navigate
    • It doesn’t matter if you have created the best game of all time. If your website is difficult to navigate and isn’t ‘easy on the eyes,’ nobody is going to stay there and learn more about it.
  • Development blog
    • Blog about every aspect of the development process. Moreover, feel free to livestream your employees’ work to a place like Twitch or UStream to have a log of how the game was actually developed in real-time. A lot of indie developers are doing this nowadays, and it’s a great way to show how a game truly was created.

 

Licensing

You are going to need to license the programs you are going to use for developing games. Game engines such as Unity, Unreal, etc. will need to have legitimately purchased license, as will 3D apps, Music programs, and even licensed for fonts, music, etc. It can get fairly expensive, so plan ahead and make a note of every license you are going to need to purchase.

 

Misc. Areas to Consider

  • Where are you going to work?
    • Can you get away with working remotely with your team? If so, renting commercial space can be avoided as you can work out of your home. Money saved.
    • If you need to rent a commercial space, how much office equipment are you going to need?
      • You need desks, chairs, printers, workstations, a coffee maker, cups – you need a lot of equipment to have a functional, productive office.
  • Consider contacting foundations to see if they would be willing to invest in your start-up
    • With a solid business plan, stellar brand, and attractive, informative website listed above, the chances of a foundation investing in your company initially rises greatly.

As you can see, there is a lot of things you need to do in order to start your first studio. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t something you should simply jump into just because you want to develop games for a living. Take the steps needed to plan ahead and set yourself up for success, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be successful!

4 Responses

  1. Dusty, nice articles and lots of great insight. I have taken your advice to heart and implemented your advice on creating a memorable identity. I appreciate articles like this. Thanks

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