17 July, 2008
I found an interesting blog entry covering a post-mortem of a failed tech start startup: http://diffle-history.blogspot.com/ If you’re thinking of starting your own small tech business, including a game development firm, I think that blog is required reading. It’s not 100% gospel, but it can give you the much needed perspective on your business.
Read on for my take on a few of the issues.
The first bold header, that you need a ton of money to build a platform, isn’t quite correct. I think that you can try to build a platform, but you do need an advantage. That advantage may be a lot of money, or it may be an experienced team. If you get a bunch of experienced people from the area you’re focusing on, they can help you avoid the dead-ends that a younger entrepreneur might stumble into; as Jessica Mulligan has said, the experienced developers know where the bodies are buried. Of course, these experienced people usually don’t come cheap, so you may need a lot of money anyway.
Also, as a game developer you can’t just focus on one project and expect long-term success. Games are a hit-driven business, and putting all your eggs in one project means that you are taking a lot more risk. Of course, the reality for an inexperienced development company is that this is the only option you might have, contractually. A smart developer figures out how to re-use your assets. But, it’s sometimes hard to know how to do that without having some previous experience to give you perspective on how to do that.
I think the last bit is probably the most important tip of all: know your limitations. Sometimes people get into the middle of a project and get in over their heads. The classic newbie mistake is to think you’re going to beat the biggest game out there with 1/4 the team members and 1/10th the budget. Even as you get more experienced there’s the temptation to try to bite off more than you can chew. Even when you’re slogging through development there’s the temptation to add just one more cool feature to the game, not realizing that that one cool feature is actually a bundle of a dozen features put into one.
So, what do you think of these tips?