A Business Model for a Game Studio

Facing the Giants

Success doesn’t mean the absence of failures; it means the attainment of ultimate objectives. It means winning the war, not every battle.
Edwin C. Bliss

Hello everyone and happy new month! I sincerely apologise for not posting last week. I had to do some serious soul searching. It has been a roller coaster so far but I am grateful to be able to pick up from where I left off! This week, I will be talking straight from the heart while looking at business models for games studios.

I developed my first game in 2010. At that point in time I had a trifecta of personal, academic and financial issues. I had reached a point in my life where I was tired of being pushed around. I had to make a stand somewhere. One thing led to another and it was in game development that a stand would be made.

You have met people who wander through life. They simply accept whatever fate brings them. A few may succeed by accident, but most suffer through a lifetime of frustration and unhappiness. They have neither the determination to succeed nor the willingness to devote the time and effort necessary to achieve success. Up until 2010, I was one of those people.

In the 2 years that would follow, I would try to impose my will on the world with disastrous results. I would search for a way to setup a game studio and be rejected at every turn. In the end, in frustration, I would leave everything behind. In my time away from my country, I have retrained myself. I have become a better programmer than I could ever become in Nigeria. This year, I am taking courses in entrepreneurship and learning how to build a business. In the course of learning about entrepreneurship, the concept of a business model came up.

A business model is a sustainable way of doing business. Here sustainability stresses the ambition to survive over time and create a successful, perhaps even profitable, entity in the long run. The reason for this apparent ambiguity around the concept of profitability is, of course, that business models apply to many different settings than the profit-oriented company. A business model is how a company creates value for itself while delivering products and services for its customers.

Last year ended on a mixed note. I tried to raise funding on Indiegogo with no success. When that failed, I had a choice. Give up and live the rest of your life defeated or go on in faith. I decided to go on and by the end of 2012 I had created my first HTML5 game. For that to happen, I had to review my entire technology stack. No longer could I look at the app stores as my first line of attack. This was not due to any technological deficiency on my part but an awareness of technology trends.

The Tablet Wars are starting! In March of this year, the Windows 8 Pro will be officially released. When that happens, Microsoft will have made a firm declaration of war in the tablet space. With the mobile wars over with Apple and Android taking the day, Microsoft knows that defeat here will signal an end to their empire.

So where do developers come in. Well in Nigeria, we have a saying “When the elephants fight, its the grass that suffers!”. From the browser wars of the 90s to the coming tablet war, developers have always felt the brunt of the clash between the technology giants.

For me that is the reason I made the shift to HTML5. I want my own plot of land to defend when the war starts. I don’t want to be tossed around by any of the app stores. On the business end, by shifting to HTML5, I also avail myself of opportunities to develop web applications for clients thus generating revenue. Any one who has seen the revenue forecast for a startup in an new market will have an idea of why this is important. In the first 5 years, revenue is a big issue.

New Markets Revenue Forecast
Currently on the African game space, there are no companies! All we have are startups looking for a way to generate their own funds from within and become viable companies. To this end venture funding becomes an important advantage. With the state of the industry, game development is no longer a street fight. It is now an arms race! The odds of survival favour the game studios that have the financial muscle to withstand the onslaught of the coming years.

But that isn’t the whole story! There are guys like me who have given up everything! Who can no longer go home! Who have only a hope and a dream. How do we give up? Well we don’t! On paper, the odds don’t favour us. What we lack are Money, Education and Influence. But what we do have are Initiative, Faith and Tenacity.

If I had understood the odds before I made a commitment, would I have done it? The answer is YES! The reason being that deep down in my heart I have a belief that this is what I am meant to be doing. Empty pockets have never held anyone back! Only empty hearts and heads! So I will continue learning and developing HTML5 games of increasing complexity. I am however grateful that going forward, I have an understanding of what I have signed up for!

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