I took aside a bit of time and ask Nathan Lands (co-founder and a marketing guy from GameStreamer) about marketing and publishing options for indie games. Here’s the interview.
Juuso / GameProducer.net: Hi Nathan. Your Twitter account says “Co-Founder of GameStreamer. Entrepreneur, Gamer & Linguist.” – can you share a bit more info about who you are and how you “found your way” in to the gaming industry and ended up co-founding the GameStreamer company?
Nathan: Ever since I can remember I was a gamer. I grew up in a very small and poor town in Alabama and as a kid I’d skip meals to save my lunch money to buy the latest game. I once got a go-kart for my birthday and I returned it to upgrade my old Pac-Bell 486 so I could play Warcraft 2. I also was an entrepreneur at a very young age, making money online through various websites and game related e-bay businesses that all were pretty successful, starting when I was 15. Eventually things slowed down and I wanted to try something different in life so I ended up moving to Taiwan and staying there for a while, studying Chinese and traveling to Japan, China and other countries in Asia. It was amazing and a real eye-opener for me in terms of seeing how advanced the gaming industry is there and how hard-core the gamers were. The energy and passion for games in places like Shanghai, Tokyo and Taipei is just awesome.
Later I moved to Clearwater, Florida where I had lived several years before and started a digital advertising business with an old friend. Unfortunately we raised very little money and ended up going under because most of our clients were home builders and the timing couldn’t have been worse. After that I thought long and hard about what I wanted in life and realized with all the experience I had gained in starting businesses and with my passion for gaming I had to break into gaming. Eventually this led me to meeting Timothy Roberts who had the basic idea behind GameStreamer and connections to make it happen and from there it evolved. We worked without almost any sleep for an entire month, wrote the plan and raised money from a private source, all in one month. I think I really had to find my way to gaming because I truly believe everyone excels if they do what they love and I’m fortunate to be doing something I love. Not to mention that the people in the game industry are the coolest people to ever be doing business with.
Juuso: GameStreamer is a game service and technology company that is building its distribution network through close b2b partnerships – how do you guys see the future of video game distribution? There’s indie developers who are pondering “direct sales vs distributors” – what should average Joe Indie do with his game?
Nathan: We see there being a handful of distribution platforms, 3-5. Just like on the App Store for the iPhone you’ll be able to buy a game, movie, music or any type of entertainment and have portability to any device. You can read a lot more about my opinion on where the future of gaming is going on a recent blog post I did for ngConnect Program, backed by Alcatel-Lucent. For average Joe Indie I’d take all your options into account, I’d use GameStreamer, Steam and a few others as well as setting up my own website to directly sale to consumers. I’d also consider working with someone like GameStreamer to power the sale of my game on my own website and also consider selling other games that I think people who like my game also would enjoy. Marketing wise, go viral.. YouTube and all the usual mix. I’d make sure that there is a way to post my high-scores or accomplishments as a status update to FaceBook so people want to check the game out and you have $0 marketing cost.
Juuso: Another thing Joe Indie ponders is the game prices. Casual game portals are trumping the $5ish game prices – what’s your take on this?
Nathan: Casual game prices have been pushed so low it’s a bit crazy. I do believe the big trend from Asia, micro-transaction supported games, is picking up steam in North America and will soon be pretty common. The reality though is if you’ve got an awesome game like a World of Goo or a Braid, people are still going to pay $15-$20 for it or more.
Juuso: More on game pricing: Battlefield Heroes has launched quite recently. The game is free to play but offers features and things to buy. What do you think about this type of “freemium games” (where game is free… but you can buy things in it) concept?
Nathan: See response above. It’s definitely a great business model IF you make it work. It’s typically best to assume someone can enjoy the game without spending a dime and paying money just enhances the experience, isn’t a requirement. The few cases where I’ve seen games that are free but then REQUIRE money have failed horribly and received very negative feedback from gamers.
Juuso: Let’s go bit back from pricing topic to the topic of selling games. GameStreamer is expanding it’s catalogue of games, but do you have some tips on “what kind of games sell”? What Jane Indie should focus on? (Especially if he wants not only to get her game to GameStreamer but make sure the game also sells)
Nathan: I believe every type of game can become a big seller, I’d say focus on creativity and making a truly fun game, not on what type of game someone told you to make and would sale. We work on customizing our game stores for our clients to make sure we have games that match their audience’s tastes so we hope to be able to find the right audience for your game regardless of what type of game it is.
Juuso: What about affiliates? What kind of plans GameStreamer has for affiliates/partners? Should indie developers know something about this?
Nathan: GameStreamer is already in the process of building and powering white labeled game stores for some major .com’s and corporations. We can build a game store for any website that is branded in their name and through an easy to use control center they can change the look of the game store, what type of games it sells etc. The game store is powered by our servers but to the user it looks like it is all on your domain.
Indie developers should definitely know about this. We’re willing to work out very fair deals with indies to host the game store on their website including merchant fees and other costs or allow them to just link to our game store as an affiliate for their game and make a very nice return. We also give them the option to have a full game store with other games, indie games or however they want to do it.
Juuso: Last question: can you give some tips on what indie developers should do to generate more revenue from their games? Be it marketwise or otherwise…
Nathan: I’d consider (but not think it’s your only option) micro-transaction supported games. I’d 100% do DLC (downloadable content) but be loyal to your gamers and make it quality, they will in turn be loyal to you. I’d also get smarter with viral marketing, do something to get people to take notice.. I know I’ve met several indie developers that seemed against “marketing” but it’s a necessary evil in making money and it can be done creatively and fun instead of using traditional methods.