Marketing Here and Now

Introducing Troy Parker. Troy is our current development intern at Soma. We feel like the fortunate ones to have Troy around. When it comes to learning the ropes of the video game business, Troy is like a sponge. Beyond that he is a tremendous addition to our team. Troy one day plans to have his own game company. In that pursuit we have been giving him the full amount of what is needed to succeed today, from marketing to writing elegant code. 

This post was the result of an assignment Troy was given. The assignment was to read Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin and then apply what was learned to the video game business. Feel free to ask Troy some questions, challenge his approach or comment on your agreement. 

 

By: Troy W. Parker

Have you ever owned a business? Have you given it much thought? I used to believe that there was a special formula to running a successful business, but recently I read a book called “Meatball Sundae” by Seth Godin that totally tipped my perspective. Now I believe it is an equation that is ever changing and this article will help explain why.

I work at Soma Games as an intern and have come across many questions that I’m sure most companies are faced with. Here is a list of those questions and a formulated answer. I hope you will enjoy this information and that it will inspire and motivate you deeply.

How can the business communicate best with the customer?

Education Negatively Correlated to Income

20120528-143642.jpgThere have been several times where we’ve been asked to talk to students about job opportunities in the gaming industry. In most cases, these conversations are hosted by a teacher or administrator who has a vested interest in Academia as a pursuit in and of itself. I think in most cases those folks wish we hadn’t come…

A recent article in Game Developer Magazine confirms what I’ve been saying for years:
…if you want a job in gaming, don’t go to college.

God Games Never Sell – NOT!

Journey of MosesThe last session of CGDC this year was a roundtable discussion that opened with Mark Soderwall’s observation that where faith-laden works had made real headway in movies and books, when it came to games Christian content had scored a “big Goose Egg.” Now to be fair, Mark’s assertion was not accepted by all the members as accurate but I certainly agree that from the purely ‘sales=success’ metric used in basically any other conversation on a game’s success then we ought to be candid in saying that even the best-selling Christian games have come far, far short of  secular games we’d call hits…but perhaps that’s a’changing.

Hexify recently released their hit Facebook game Journey of Moses as the first Bible-based game on the platform – and its success has been self-evident. A whole raft of articles have been written in both religious outlets like the Christian Post but also secular sites including CNN, Inside Social Games, and One News Now. But press coverage is one thing – what’s really impressive is the game’s track record. On October 4th Hexify released some ground breaking news:

Journey of Moses had surpassed 1 million users in just 8 weeks!

I had the chance to have an informal interview with Brent Dusing* of Hexify to discuss some of the less-publicized aspects of the game. His insights should be of interest to anyone thinking about adding religious content to their video games but it should be of particular interest to the folks who want to add God to the game and ALSO make a profit.

On The Future of Game Publishing

by Gavin Nichols

The other day, Soren Johnsen posted a tweet that really caught my interest. He said
“The next console generation will be won by whoever understands why the Xbox Indie Games Channel did not become the iOS App Store.’
This is true in so many ways.

The iOS App store has enjoyed an unparalleled level of success since it launched a few years back largely because it managed to hit a golden combination of approachability by both developers and consumers, while simultaneously lifting the best to the top through a natural feeling review system. For the first time Joe Schmoe could take his idea, build it himself and publish it to millions of potential customers, all from his living room. Customers had access to hundreds of thousands of apps at their fingertips, instantly, anytime and anywhere, for an affordable price.

Morsels Of Memory Management

So if there’s one thing I’m learning in my career shift to “mobile developer,” it’s that computer programming is a science and that I’m not a scientist.

Previous thesis statement: memory is a magical unlimited resource.  200 mb webapp?  No big deal – my desktop has plenty to spare.  Zombie objects?  Let ’em be, they’re not hurting any one.

New thesis statement: memory management stinks. Texture memory?  Draw calls? GPU? Power of 2 Textures?  This is starting to smell a lot like the low lands of computer science and less like the flowered fields of Scriptable Mesa in the land of GigaBytes O’Ram.

They Don’t Call Him The “Creator” For Nothing

The premier entertainment electronics show in the world is going on as I write this and one of the feelings coming out of this year’s E3 is that it’s decidedly underwhelming. Dig this quote from a Wired article:

“As the E3 Expo, the videogame industry’s annual bombastic show of force, begins anew Tuesday, it’s getting harder and harder to tell one game from another. This is not simply because of the unceasing epileptic blasts of light and deafening cacophony of sound that fill the darkened halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center all week — although those help. It’s because as gamemakers come to grips with the ever-riskier business of building big-budget entertainment, more and more of them are playing it safe just to survive, feeding in the same narrowing pool of game genres.

The article goes on to make some observations about why gaming finds itself in a creative rut and the most persuasive idea seems to revolve around simple economics. Gaming has become a riskier and riskier industry (the AAA space anyway – more to that point in a moment) and studios thinking about investing $50M tend to play it safe. I can understand that.

But this observation of E3 makes me think about something else that has been scratching at the back of my mind for years, something that’s been hard to put words to but it comes to something like this. As Christians we claim to be in contact with, indeed to be individually lead by, the Creator of Creation. How is it that the state of Christian art has suffered so much diminution that with precious few exceptions Christian creativity has become almost entirely an enterprise of copying secular art and then pasting a fish over the top?

The majority of Christian history has included a strong impulse to truly and universally excellent artwork in every discipline. Paint, architecture, music, playwriting, literature. I’d bet that a majority of the truly great western artists of the last 2000 years were either Christians themselves or they were largely creating Christian art. But somewhere, perhaps around the time of the Reformation, that vein started to run dry in the church. There’s probably a great and fruitful conversation about why that happened but it’s beside the point for me today.

In “On Moral Fiction” John Gardner states that all true art is moral. That its function in a civilization is to beat back the trolls of chaos and darkness and futility that constantly threaten to unravel society. He also suggests that in the relatively recent past we, as a culture, have forgotten what art is for and therefore resort to portraying the simply entertaining or the plainly trivial. To build on Gardner’s thesis I say that art can be, at its best, one of the Truest and most Spiritual things we can do as human beings.

By virtue of our identity in Christ, Christians ought to be the most creative, innovative people in the world.
To be less is to live beneath our station.

Hunger and the Video Game Cheeseburger

by Ryan GreenThe Goat InThe Room

“So, what is it that you do with computers?”

“I make video games.”

“Oh! … cool!”

“Yeah, I think so…”

This is why I got into computer programming.  To make games.  Any nerd worth their salt in high school wants to make video games.  It’s nerd currency.  You make games for a living, and while the life of the indie game developer may consist of working for mana during the day, we spend nights, weekends, and 3 am working sessions at Perkins crafting our vision for the glory of nerd riches, that is, players spending quality time with our creation.  We want them to love it, spend time with it, discovering the jewels we lay into it.  We want them to have fun.  We want it to have meaning.  We want the badge; “Achievement Unlocked: Game Developer.”
Skill +5
Strength +50
Cred +100
Level Up.

Which Way Gaming

Reality Is BrokenI’m sitting here reading Jane McGonigal’s new book “Reality is Broken” and right in the front she says something like “…[a year after her 2008 GDC rant] everywhere I turned I saw evidence this movement to harness the power of games for good was already happening.”

Right next to her book I’m looking at some of the reviews for Bulletstorm plus our own recent rant about the advertising for Dead Space 2 and I find myself wondering…

Which way gaming?

Will the next 10 years bring gaming up into something more relevant, more mature, and more important that feeds our souls and inspires us to live well or will better technology only drive gaming ever deeper down into our id with hyperrealistic gore – always feeding our basest nature?