The travels of Woodchopper in 2013, Part I

I have to say, when I first got into making games I didn’t think it would involve so much traveling. Since I was deemed the least socially inept of our team, I’ve been mostly responsible for representing Headnought at various events.

Pocket Gamer Mobile Mixer in Helsinki, Finland, 12 November

My first outing was as far as Helsinki, and I took some backup with me. Miikka our lead developer and Valtteri came with me, since the trip was free. The trip was arranged by Playa, a game industry hub, supporting local game companies.

I was genuinely surprised how international the event was. In late 2012 we already had the massive success of Rovio and Supercell was on the rise. They were all over the finnish news, and apparently we had the attention of the rest of the world too.  What I didn’t know at the time was that the finnish mobile scene didn’t pale in comparison with international events. The theme of the Mixer was western games in eastern markets. Most of the talks revolved around that.

One of the speakers at the event was Chris Hanage, I don’t remember what he was talking about exactly. But I remember one key thing and I’m paraphrasing “You should start marketing your game the moment you start making it.” He was probably talking about marketing in his presentation, now that I think of it. Anyway, I took it to heart and have been trying to push Woodchopper with a near zero marketing budget ever since.

Free Your Play in Helsinki, 19th  june

Another trip to Helsinki, this time it was a Supercell-sponsored event. I guess with million a day, or whatever they were making at the moment, you can afford to put together a quite nice get-together. To this day it has been to most extravagant event I’ve been to. I learned there about their collaboration with GungHo, which eventually led to the merger.

Peter Molyneux was supposed to give the keynote speech but his wife had gotten ill, instead we got his collegue from Lionhead days, Ben Cousins. First I was disappointed that didn’t get to see the legendary Mr. Moleneux perform. But what followed was the most captivating keynote I’ve heard in person.

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We had already decided to focus on mobile platforms at this point, but the presentation really drove the point home for me, that the future is going to be mobile. Now I’m not saying that there couldn’t be Headnought games on any other platform, but we’re most likely to make mobile titles for the foreseeable future.

From these first two events I learned a lot. First of all you can pretty much talk to anybody, even if you’re a nobody yourself, like me. Especially if you’re involved in making a game yourself and you have a demo to show for it. Everybody is at the events because they are into games, after all.

Second, marketing. I hadn’t really thought about it before. But marketing is almost as important as development itself, if nobody hears about your game it will sell zero copies and you don’t get to make another one. Quite a bit later I ran into this video about the subject, great pointers about zero-budget marketing.

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Third, the mobile gaming market is going to be bigger than PC, console and all others combined. I thought from the very beginning that we should focus on mobile platforms because of our limited resources. And I personally see no reason why we couldn’t have tablet games that have the same depth as PC titles of yesteryear. I’d like to play Master of Orion or the old X-Com on a tablet. See you next week for the part deux of our travel report!