Keys to start your own videogame company

You have a dream: to create videogames. You have ideas and knowledge, so… What do you need to take the next step and start your own development studio? Eva Gaspar, our CEO, shares some keys to success on Abylight’s Twitch channel, where every week you’ll find expert knowledge about the videogames industry, from the entrepreneur’s point of view.

If you’ve seen the previous session about videogame publishing, you’ll already know that becoming a publisher requires some experience and know-how on the business side. On the other hand, becoming a developer is now more accessible than ever before. However, there are some important points that you must know if you want to build a company that will stand the test of time.

The team

Seems obvious, but it’s always good to remember that at the core of any developer company there’s the team. It’s one of the cornerstones of any enterprise, so you better know well who you have and why.

You have to make sure, when setting up or joining a new team, that everyone has complementing abilities. Surround yourself with people that will bring something to the table.

The goal

Once the team is set up, it’s important that everyone on this team shares the same vision. That all people have a common, clear goal, and always work towards it.

The videogames industry is a landscape in constant transformation: changes in technology, new tools, new ways to play… A lot of things can happen in a very short time, so you have to be flexible and ready to adapt on a dime.

Working in a team means you have to talk about this with your teammates, while always keeping in mind that shared vision. There’s nothing more draining that a team with different goals in a constant game of tug of war.

“If the team is not aligned and doesn’t have the same goal, it can destroy every effort you do.”

Eva Gaspar, Abylight CEO

Leadership

You’ve found your team and a common vision: now is the time for someone to take charge. But it’s not about ruling with an iron fist and imposing your commands just because you’re the boss. It’s about making decisions.

It’s very common in new companies, especially those young and inexperienced, to think they’ll do things differently, deciding everything together and sharing everything equally. A nice thought, but at the end of the day, leadership is fundamental.

It’s just not efficient to discuss everything endlessly. Someone has to have the last word and make decisions when there is doubt, so the team can spend their energy where it matters: making videogames.

“As a publisher, and as a partner, we check how a company is set up. It’s difficult to start working with someone without knowing how they are organized, what abilities the team has… It’s very important. It shows maturity to be well organized.”

Eva Gaspar, Abylight CEO

The first project

“We are going to make the best game ever.”

Sure. Everyone who has dreamt about making videogames will see themselves reflected in that thought, and it’s natural to be carried away by the excitement. But let’s be realistic: chances are you won’t be at the top of your game for your first project. There’s a long road ahead, and first you must evaluate the extent of the project.

It’s better if you start by doing something affordable, small in scope, in tune with the size and experience of your team. You must try yourselves out and gain the experience of creating, packaging, delivering… Go through the whole process involved in the creation of a videogame.

“Try to step outside of your shoes and into the shoes of everybody else who doesn’t know you, and isn’t friends or family, and imagine what they would think when they see what you’re doing.”

Eva Gaspar, Abylight CEO

Technology

Choosing the technology for your project perhaps isn’t as relevant nowadays as it once was… but it still is. However, developing tech is not what’s going to make you stand out. What you’ll be selling is the game.

Keep your goals realistic, and invest all your time into developing your game (trust us, we can say this from experience). There are lots of tools nowadays (Unity, Unreal, Game Maker…) that will make your life so much easier.

In the end, what’s important is selling the game. Be mindful of what tech you are going to use and why, and don’t become a prisoner of that choice. What does your project need and what platforms is it going to be on?

Of course, there’s always going to be exceptions. Here at Abylight, we had to develop our own engine for Mindkeeper: The lurking fear. We created Providence Engine in order to publish the first ever 3D game for Apple Watch, but… there was simply nothing like it!

Mindkeeper, a videogame for Apple Watch
Sometimes it pays off to develop your own technology

The project goal

Every team needs a goal, and so does every project. Deciding on the goal is an easy task, achieving it… not so much. All companies, no matter how big or small, have projects that never see the light of day.

The final stages of a project are always the most challenging. Regardless of the duration of the project, the excitement of a new beginning gradually wears off, the team gets fed up and wants to finish it as soon as possible. This is the most important time to keep your focus, overcome the tiredness and polish to the best of your ability. It’s in this instance that you prove yourself as a professional. You have to finish, but also finish well.

The Audience

Who is your game for? Decide this as early as possible and it will help you to explain and sell your game better.

Of course, everyone can play your game. The point is who is going to enjoy it more. Find out who that audience is, what are their likes and dislikes, where do they hang out…

Remember that visibility is key. It won’t matter how good your creation is if nobody knows about it. Nowadays is not just about having your game displayed in a storefront, but anywhere your users are.

Management

In the previous session, Eva explained how creating and selling were two completely different crafts. The same can be said about being a developer and being an entrepreneur.

A lot of companies start as a group of friends working together and they don’t take managing into account. It requires knowledge, analysis, planning, human resources, teamwork, problem solving, budgets, taxes…

Being an entrepreneur means responsibility with hard consequences and lots of invisible work, which is usually only noticed when something goes wrong.

It’s necessary to have a wide outlook, and if you don’t have anyone inside your team who is able to carry those managing tasks on their back, the recommendation is to get help (agencies, lawfirms, etc.)

Communication

“If you leave everything to chance, you won’t know what you did to be successful. You have to be able to sell what you’re doing and for that you have to communicate.”

Eva Gaspar, Abylight CEO

When the indie movement started, a lot of success stories were based on one factor: communication. Being known and being where your players are – that’s the big battle in the era of digital distribution. It’s worth repeating that, in order for your new company to survive, it’s not enough to make an excellent videogame.

Start the conversation about your game before launch. Way before! In many cases, it can be of great importance to build your community while you’re developing the game. Prison Tycoon: Under New Management will release in Steam Early Access this summer and we are already talking about it, because we want our players to be part of the process.

We are also constantly promoting our old titles, like Cursed Castilla (2016). That’s uncommon… but we are very stubborn!

Value yourself

Here’s an advice helpful in a lot of areas, whether it’s business or daily life: value yourself. OK, so you’re starting… it’s normal to be unsure of your abilities, and it’s not good to be arrogant or spoiled either. Just be conscious of what your worth is, so that value isn’t set by others and you find yourself forced into bad deals. Valuing yourself is a sign of maturity.


Are you dreaming of creating games? Do you want to start your own development company? Interested in publishing? Check out our Twitch channel every Tuesday to find out how the industry works, with our CEO, Eva Gaspar!