Train2Game interview with games industry consultant Nicholas Lovell – Part 2

Train2Game recently caught up with founder of Gamesbrief and industry consultant Nicholas Lovell. In a wide ranging interview he discussed subjects including the different types of game development studios, advice for small independent developers, social gaming and the business side of the industry.

The Gamesbrief founder also told Train2Game about a special offer on his book, How to Publish a Game. The 200 page book is available for half price until December 7th.

In part two of this three part interview, Nicholas Lovell tells Train2Game about how an independent developer can go about successfully distributing and marketing their games.

Part one of the Train2Game interview with Nicholas Novell is available here, while you can see part three here.

Train2Game: How would an independent developer actually go about distributing their game be it online, through social media, or mobile phones?

Nicholas Lovell: In my definition – what I use in the book distribution involves getting code into people’s hands. But marketing and distribution start blurring because there’s a large sense that distribution is about the channels by which you encourage people to know about your product and want to buy it.

On the distribution side – the literal process of getting code from your hands into your customers’ hands – if you’re publishing on Apple, Xbox Live, PSN, Android… they handle it. You upload your game to Apple, Apple takes the money and delivers the code so you don’t have to worry about that.  You still have to worry about discoverability so we’ll move onto marketing in a second.

If you’re doing something on Facebook or the broader web you have to handle it. So I strongly recommend you would use a scalable cloud backend like Amazon Web Services – something like that – which will cost you money and if you don’t have a business model, it will cost you more money which will be more expensive. You need to make sure that the more successful you get it isn’t the case you lose more money. I’ve had one client who the more successful they got the more money they lost. We fixed that now but that was the case.

If you’re looking at Flash development – I think it’s much harder to make money from Flash development – but if you’re looking at Flash development then there are sites like Kongregate, like Newgrounds.

In fact there’s a blog post on Gamesbrief, it’s a Preloaded blog post which talks about how they consider distribution, which you might want to look at.  [How we publish an online game]

Let’s move onto the marketing side, because distribution and marketing are often very tightly linked.  In my mind, distribution is simply ‘can they get it?’ Marketing is ‘do they want to get it? And there are a bunch of ways in which you can market your content, and they don’t have to be that expensive.

My view is that the primary objective of most of the marketing you do is to be able to talk to people again.  It’s not to sell them a product, because it takes longer to sell a product than just the first time seeing your banner ad.  [The customer going] ‘Oh I’m going to see that ad, click on it and buy immediately’ …that’s pretty unusual.

What your marketing activity should be about is to try and get people to allow you to talk to them again.  So that’s about Twitter feeds, that’s about blogs. Your social media strategy should be about being open, honest and clear, and about building a persona. There’s a lot of talk about building a story;  if you’re three struggling students, ask for help from the community, ask for people who read your blogs to tell you how to do stuff, start engaging in that kind of dialogue and build that over time. So that’s one aspect.

The second aspect of it is virality. Virality is much, much harder than it used to be, march harder and particularly on Facebook. There are two different types of virality. There’s mechanical virality, that’s the kind of stuff where you get spammed on your Facebook feed.  And there’s the ‘this is really cool’ kind of virality where word of mouth is key.

Certainly I’ve discovered games like Words With Friends, like Angry Birds, like Flight Control, because everyone was talking about them.  Personally I think that’s tough to rely on because it’s really, really hard to build a game that gets that level of success. Better is to have some way of encouraging people to want to play with their friends. However, I think virality is falling in terms of its level of importance.

Where I tend to focus – and why I’m not really a big fan of a business model which involves you just selling the product for a one off fee – is less on the how do you acquire customers, but more on how do you keep them, and how do you make money from them.

So let me give you a reason why:  On the iPhone, only 1.3% of apps have in-app purchases. Most people’s business model is free plus premium at 99 cents or so. But 33% of the top 100 grossing titles have in-app purchases.  So in other words, we’re getting to the stage where it is really, really hard – you can do it, Angry Birds has made over $10 million from a 99 cent purchase – but that’s very hard.

The guys who are making more money are allowing people – if they like the game – to keep upgrading. And instead of the maximum amount of that money you can make from customer being 99c you can make $5, in some cases $30.

There’s a game called Pocket Frogs which has in app purchases of values of 99 cent, $4.99 & £29.99. Only 8% of people by the $29.99, but in revenue terms, more than half their revenue comes from those bigger packs.  And most businesses stop at the 99c level, they would make a tenth of the revenue of Pocket Frogs. [For a full run down on the success of Pocket Frogs, check out this article on Gamesbrief]

Part one of the Train2Game interview with Nicholas Lovell can be seen here. The third and final part is available here.  His book, How to Publish a Game, is available for half price until December 7th.

You can leave your thoughts here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game Designer Student Jon’s Video Diary

Part 1 of Train2Game Games Designer student Jon’s video diary
It’s been a dream of his to get a career in the games industry, ever since he was visited by a Careers Advisor at school who asked him what he wants to do with his life and he said all he wants to do his make computer games.
For more information http://is.gd/bAApW

Train2Game on BBC 1Xtra Rampage Blog

“Train2game is the name of a new educational course that sets you up for a career in the gaming world. The course has been given the thumbs up by important men in suits and you could end up with a properly recognised qualification. (Bonus!!).”

For more from the BBC 1Xtra Rampage Blog: http://is.gd/bze5p

Train2Game I am gob-smacked at the amount I have learnt

James

Over  the past month I am gob-smacked at the amount I have learnt. Although I have only started the course and done my first modules, I feel like this is what I should of been doing all my life.
Every morning I’ll wake up with answers to problems I had the night before in game designing, even when trying to sleep my mind is buzzing with new ideas.

I would never of thought I would be able to learn and create such games so quickly and to a good standard like http://www.yoyogames.com/games/show/97263
(although the long days and nights are probably the reason!)

I have made great social network on the forum and have even started helping people out with their projects.
Project : Colonisation (World Map Designer)
Project : Soul Wars (Guild Sign Designer)

I hope they lead to more projects as I thoroughly enjoy working with the people.
Over all this has been a great opportunity where I have learnt SO much knowledge and can’t wait for more materials… BRING IT ON!

Train2Game I’ve been doing my course during Physio

Simon

Well I have been doing my course while being in a lot of pain from the 20 wires that went through my leg in a frame in recent weeks. I have been doing physio to try and regain the ability to walk even with the pain I have been doing the course to the best of my ability so that in the end I will be able to be a game designer.

http://www.train2game.com

Train2Game the future I have been dreaming of

Train2Game the future I have been dreaming of

Douglas

I have managed to start work on a few design documents for ideas I have had for years. One of these ideas I have adapted so it can work as a portfolio piece. Nearly all my ideas are my own, apart from one which was thought up with late night chats between me and my girlfriend (she likes to get involved). I am also quite surprised and enthusiastic about a lot of the things I have learnt while revising for the course.

I am currently doing something I never thought I would do, and that is get a library card so I can study a bit more and look up some history for one of my games. I have recently secured a job alongside my studies and feel I am putting even more time into the course than previously. I feel I have taken a positive step towards the future I have been dreaming of.

Train2Game The idea is genius

Train2Game idea is genius

Martyn

Who ever came up with the Train2Game idea is a genius to say the least. Not only does it give people the opportunity to create their own game but it also builds peoples knowledge of gaming and how computer games are created from start to finish. More importantly it actually gives people the opportunity to fulfil their dreams of becoming a computer games designer.

A bit about my background. I grew up with computers as I started out with the old commodore 64 and went right the way through each console to the current day XBOX 360 and PS2. I’m totally I.T literate, which is courtesy of the C64 because where as many people just used to play the tape games, I used it for my typing skills. This paid off as every job I’ve had since leaving school has involved a computer in one form or another. My I.T grades speak for themselves, having achieved a GCSE and a level grade at school in the subject, I also passed my ECDL and got a Merit in an advanced HEFC course at the local college to further my own knowledge which also included designing and creating my own website. So from an early age, I always had aspirations of one day making my own game and now thanks to this course, which has been a little ray of sunshine, I can now have that opportunity. One thing that I did regret was not being able to get my hands on the Nintendo power glove for the original NES, that thing rocked as I believe it was only available in the USA and I still think that it had a lot to do with the creation of the Wii because it used sensors that were place around the TV, kind of like the Wii today.

So far I have found the course challenging but interesting at the same time. I have learned things that I never knew and were quite surprised at. My achievements so far have been steady for most of my TMA’s. As you have noticed I’m sure, I’ve got 85% for 3 of them meaning 3 answers wrong each time with exception of the resubmitted one which I understand fully now where I went wrong. However there is always room for improvement and I want you to know that I always aim to get 100%. Which is exactly where I want to aim for in this course. I want to aim for the top of designing and creating my own computer game but I can’t tell the future and wants going to happen so even if I ended up as part of the team that design games then I would be satisfied with that.

To finish off, I would just like to thank you all for your help as you are always there for me when I call after each TMA to go through the incorrect answers as I do enjoy the chats as they help me to progress furthe