In the Monday Musings I try to talk about the stuff that’s happening in the world of Game Development, from interesting game releases, to interesting technology, and game business happenings.
One of the few interesting things that floated around in my social bubble last week was the rumor of Sega preparing to buy Rovio (makers of Angry Birds) for $1 billion dollars. That’s a 1 with a lot of zero’s (honestly, I have no idea how many!)
It’s certainly an interesting thing, but I’m not diving into the technicalities of that, because honestly I have no idea why or how or when. I don’t understand the thought process behind why a company like Sega would want to buy a company like Rovio (if you got great ideas for that, come tell me on the discord!). Certainly Angry Birds was HUGE and is still a big brand to own, but I also know that Rovio as a company always struggled to get away from the success of Angry Birds, and non of their other IP’s got even close to that success.
It started my thought process on why something like that will never happen to, my company, Orangepixel.
Road not taken
When I started Orangepixel I never set out to start a game company. My goal was always to create fun games and MAYBE I could make a living from it, or maybe some extra money alongside a normal job.
A lot of business things I had to learn as I started creating more games, selling them on different distribution channels, moving games to new platforms, trying to maximize game-revenue by releasing them on different hardware and in lesser known places.
I don’t like doing all those things, but they are required for me to continue doing the thing I love doing: making games! – Luckily, so far, I also got somewhat good at it? maybe!?
The whole thought of having people working with me, or for me, was never on my mind. I would probably be a nervous wreck thinking about having to make sure all those people would keep their job, and money would keep flowing in.
The easy money
During the early years of Orangepixel I landed myself various jobs creating games for other companies. This was at first “easy money” and a very welcome way of turning my company from more of a hobby towards an actual business. I would do those jobs as quickly as possible, and always with far less passion, just so that I had time to work on my own games during the same period. If those projects ran, and they were according to the specifications, I was done with it!
I also quickly realized that wasn’t the thing I wanted to do! It felt like a job without much control over the creative aspects. My joy comes from creating my own games and designs, making my own decisions, and I take the rough side of marketing and selling those games for granted. It’s a necessary evil.
Port of least resistance
It quickly became very clear that there were two options in the world of game development. The option chosen by many of my Dutch peers was to grow into a proper company by hiring people and then finding contract work to create games for other developers,publishers and other type of companies.
I noticed a lot of “porting companies” popping up in the Netherlands since around the time I started (early 2000s). And a couple of those are still around! Most of their work is porting games that other developers made to different hardware or platforms. Often it’s technically very interesting work and challenging, and some of those companies are the go-to companies for publishers and platform holders all over the world.
So it obviously worked for them to build a company out of it, but none of them have released more than 1 or 2 of their own designed games in the last 20 years! Which is remarkable at the least.
In that same time span I’ve also seen a lot of developers doing the thing I was doing: trying to push out their own games as their main business, and many of those have since ended their business practices.
The difference is of course, mainly, that if you port games for other companies, you are offering a service and you get paid for that service. The risk of selling the resulting game (ports) falls completely on the other party that owns the brand/ip. And you get your money to pay your team and move to the next project. No marketing budget needed and less risk.
I am my own company
The choices I made for Orangepixel, and sometimes they happened without me really thinking about it in such a way, have lead me to be a solo game-developer working on my own game projects and the flip-side of that is that Orangepixel IS me.
I haven’t built anything for a future buy-out, never wanted the risk of employing other people and having to make decisions with the focus of keeping them employed. It’s been stressful enough at times making sure I could provide for my own family, so let’s not even think about other peoples families!
So to circle back to what spawned this musing: as awesome as a $1 billion dollar buy out may sound, it’s never been a thing I pursued with starting my business in game development. My dream was creating games, and I managed to make a living from that for almost two decades, so I’ve been happy with that. I just have to keep in mind that Orangepixel ends when I do, and there’s no bag of money waiting for me ;)