Yo, kamal here!
Previously on Business for games, we talked about launching your game and before that, we talked about Market research. It’s time to use these subjects in a coherent way to produce a solid business plan that either turns your game into a success story or minimizes the losses if any. Let’s jump right into it.
What is a business plan? A business plan is a detailed document that describes how your business would operate. Typically, this means describing goals and milestones for the business, describing products and services, market research and marketing tactics, and a bunch of other subjects. But when it comes to the game industry, things are a little bit different; There are two main approaches here and I’m going to explain the headlines of how to construct a business plan then I’ll explain how to adjust said plan to adopt one of these two approaches.
First things first, you need to identify a gap in the market that you can fill. We’ve already talked about this in the Market research 101 episode.
Secondly, you need to decide on publishing; That is, how are you going to publish your game? We also already talked about this in the How to Launch your game episode.
Finally, using the data from your market research, write a complete game design document (GDD) that describes every single detail in the game. (store, mechanics, inventory, player controls, levels, back story, online matchup, etc)
It’s always better to let an experienced game designer write down the game according to your collected data. This way you are minimizing the number of bad designs that might make the game flop in the competition.
Now that you have these three solid sections (Market research, GDD, launching strategy), you can now start asking the real questions:
What is the business model for this game?
How will I operate on this project?
How to fundraise for this project?
What are the risks and challenges?
How to grow this business? (AKA, vision)
What team do I need to make this all happen?
The answer to each question will provide you with a very detailed and realistic view of how much time, money, and effort it takes to make this game a reality and whether you can do it or not.
Let me elaborate more on these questions:
The business model for the game:
A business model describes what this game offers, and how you will sell it. A business model needs to establish the value proposition for the game, segment customers that may play your game, identify the channels of communication and PR, define customer relation as a goal to reach, describe revenue streams, key activities, and resources needed to do all of the above and the cost for all of this.
A business model is not a fixed thing, you should develop your business model over time as things tend to lose relevance. Your first draft will be only dependable on your experience so far, so try your best. Read a lot about how similar games are operating and what kind of players they are targeting.
List down the tech needed for this game (engine, tools, licenses, etc), the hardware needed, the number of employees needed, milestones & workflow, management strategy, and backup plans in case of delay.
Are you going full indie (You will take on all the costs needed for this game) or are you going to pitch your game to a publisher? Either way, you need to prepare a “cool” pitch deck and showcase your game in as many events as you can. Most events, recently, have become online due to the pandemic. You can take advantage of this and join as many events as you need no matter where they are in the world. Talk with publishers and investors, collect their business emails, send them updates on your game regularly. You can also build a passionate community (especially if you are personally one of the said community) and have them help you with crowdfunding for example. Another way is to seek incubators or government grants. There are numerous ways on how to raise funding for your game and you need to study all possible options before you make your choice.
The most important thing is to have a clear work timeline and ROI that will attract potential investors.
Risks and Challenges:
Game development is a risky business, one idea might sound great on paper but completely loses its charm in reality. I’ve seen teams who believed in their ideas after tests and interviewing their audience turned in a good result but once it was time for publishing, they messed up the targeting and the game flopped. There are so many goals that you need to nail before a game is successful and these many goals give birth to a lot of risks and challenges. Your job is to give an educated guess to most of these risks and challenges.
An educated guess is a guess based on experience or knowledge. For example, if you’re developing an FPS battle royale, one of the bigger risks in front of you is optimizing the game and developing scalable multiplayer systems. While one of the bigger challenges will be marketing against giants like Call of Duty. Try and list as many risks and challenges as you can and include your plans to counter these situations should they arise. Remember, your counter plans must be within budget and team experience, so try not to adopt a solution that you haven’t tried before since things are not usually as simple as they are on paper.
Is your game online? Ask yourself how big you want this game to be and how you will support this. Maybe you’re developing a story-based game, then try and leave a possibility for a sequel or even a series. Business growth is very important to investors since they will usually want to invest in something that keeps growing. And having aspirations is a good thing. One important thing to do is to mind your aspirations though; If it is your first game, for example, don’t look forward to beating a giant AAA game or gaining millions of followers. Always keep your aspirations grounded and realistic, look at similar teams and how well it has gone for them, this will give you a better idea of how things really are. Investors don’t like people with huge aspirations that they cannot reach. So, show aspiration, and show how you would reach it.
Now, this is a very important segment. Investors, especially in the game industry, don’t only invest in good games, they also take a very careful look at the development team, because a good game design with a bad development team means a bad result.
If your team is inexperienced, it is better to first get experience through working in the industry. If you are a one-man indie developer, I suggest you at least keep a pool of freelancers that you trust. You can also have a contract with an outsource studio, like us, to provide you with experienced teams to work on your project. Whatever you do, you need to show that you have a team that has the experience and has delivered many times before.
And there you have it! Remember, a business plan is not fixed, you will need to keep it updated as situations alter your initial path. It takes time to formulate a good business plan, but it’s all worth it when you have a clear mission, a clear vision, and a clear business model to rely on when making big decisions.
Good luck in your game development journey, I’ll see you next time 😉