"People have this perception that [building] games is like weird magic - it's not, it's like most other businesses... the only difference is that the products we create, our people have a massive passion for" — Richard Barnwell
At our most recent Grind in Dublin, I was fortunate to have the founder of Ireland's leading video game studio in the hot seat. Richard Barnwell founded DIGIT Game Studios in 2012, launching the free-to-play MMO title Kings of The Realm in 2014. The studio is currently expanding as it prepares for the release of a "AAA" title later this year. Richard has an incredible wealth of experience and insight into the world of free-to-play gaming. There mightn't be an "weird magic" behind it, but Richard outlined three key elements to their success:
DIGIT's development of Kings of the Realm judged the zeitgeist well, creating a richly detailed fantasy world which segued nicely into the recent "Game of Thrones" mania. DIGIT also chose their partners carefully, working with publisher Kabam, who had past experience with The Hobbit game series.
DIGIT were early pioneers of the seamlessly cross platform gaming experience, allowing players engage with the game on multiple devices of various form factors throughout the day. This seamless experience allowed DIGIT to acquire users through much most cost-effective channels (i.e. desktop browser) than their single-platform competitors.
This is probably the bit that's closest to the weird magic: the key to successful free-to-play games is effectively monetizing your "whales," the 2-3% of a game's audience that generate the bulk of the revenue. Game studios like DIGIT work endlessly to create the illusion that as a player you're exercising free will, giving you a rich, rewarding gaming experience, while at the same time controlling and crafting your game play to the point where your every choice has been mapped out in advance. Magic.
The full founder interview is below, watch it for all the best insights into the business of games, and check out our upcoming startup events in Dublin.