Last Thursday (25th November) I was very kindly invited to talk at the videogame industry conference Develop in Liverpool. Chaired by Will Freeman of Develop and billed as ‘The Rise of the Micro Studio”, I answered questions alongside Robin Lacey of Beatnik Games and Deejay of Binary Tweed on what it takes to make a success of a small team. The talk was well attended, with Phillip Oliver of Blitz and Michael Rawlinson of the trade body UKIE (formerly ELSPA) being spotted in the audience.
There was a great deal of discussion on how to set up and run a successful micro studio (we like the term ’boutique studio’), with particular focus on balancing own IP projects with ‘work for hire’ or ‘contract’ work. The panel’s opinions ranged from the guys at Beatnik Game who only do original PC or console games, to Binary Tweed’s Deejay who took on web design to fund his excellent Clover: A Curios Tale. Here at Mobile Pie we take a mixed approach, with both our own projects, such as Oh, My Word!, B-Boy Beats, bada pool and My Star, and mobile games and entertain work for our varied clients.
Will raised what this approach means to the creative freedom of boutiques like us. It’s a great question and lead me to think back on our approach, where we have actively sought partnerships and worked with clients. There’s a very real risk on easily becoming isolated on a project and building something only the development team, having been on the journey of the production, wants. Working in partnership with other parties helps to ensure our goals and vision looks right to external eyes, so has become something we actively encourage. In fact, getting and interpreting feedback during development cycles has been one of our keys to success and something which is of really important to young, small creative endeavors.
We also talked on why being small means being more efficient and flexible, why small often means better in terms of quality and if micros like us could become the stalwarts of the industry as the big studios hit rough times. It was a very enjoyable 45 minutes with some great questions, debate and polite disagreement and I think we could have all talked on for another 45 minutes (we ran over by about 5 anyway).
Thank you to all who attended, listened, asked questions and gave such kind words after the event. I hope you got out of it as much as I did!