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  • Five Lessons Learned Growing A Game Dev Start-Up

    - Ryan Canuel
  • Five years ago, we received notice that our then-student game dev team "Petricore" was officially now our indie game studio Petricore, Inc. The day after that we all graduated, and we started our first official day of work.

    If you had asked me then if we'd still be doing this five years later, I would have probably told you "no." We went into founding a business on caution, I told most of the team we could expect to fail within the first year and to plan for that (yeah, I'm not the most optimistic person.) Here we are though; five years later, still in business, and far improved from where we were then. Saying that I've learned a lot over these last five years would be an understatement. 

    I'd like to take some time to share with you some of the things I've found most important to growing our business.

    To provide some context before we get started, we've bootstrapped the studio for all 5 years. That means we've received no outside investment funding, so instead we provide work-for-hire services as many indie studios do. As of this year, we've done almost $2 million in work-for-hire sales since founding. We've also worked on several of our own original titles including our mobile 2D puzzle game Mind the Arrow and our upcoming zany air combat game for PC and consoles, DogFight.

    When I speak about certain things I may mention work-for-hire specific issues, rather than things you would experience if you receive angel or VC investment. Also please think of this as some ideas that I hope can be of help, but are not the "right" way to do this. I'll speak more about this in the blog post - but this all comes from my own experiences and some of this might not be right for you. Lastly, we're US-based, so some programs I speak about may only be available here. With this context in mind, let's get started.

    #1 Networking, Networking, Networking.

    Does it feel like you've heard how important networking is about ten million times at this point? Great, here it is again: Networking is very important. 

    It was extremely important for me, since we'd started Petricore right out of college, and I didn't have previous connections from employment in games. Instead of networking though, we should all think about it as relationship building. It's going out, finding things in common, and making friends that work in the same industry as you. 

    Networking is not a mad dash to hand out as many business cards as you can at an event. It's not asking someone how they're doing, nodding but not listening, and going immediately into your sales pitch. It's not a one-way street to only benefit you. It's important that you understand what you can get out of the relationship, but it's equally important to understand how you can help this person too.

    Networking is also about being in the right place, at the right time, and being on someone's mind. How many times do you see an advertisement for something you need, and end up getting from that brand? It probably happens more than you even know. You are advertising yourself, and every event you attend, coffee you grab, and email you send is a commercial for you. 

    Lastly, there are many styles of networking. Not everyone is good at going to events, shaking hands, and meeting people. I very much enjoy in-person networking, but I prefer small one-on-one meetings to large events. Other people I know only do online social media based networking, which works well for them. Figuring out what you're most comfortable with, and works best for you is a great way to effectively network.


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