It needs to start with an incredible idea. Not just good, or different, but incredible. This will not only set you apart from the rest, but drives the momentum of the team to a common goal during hard times.
Timing must be right: you are not working for another game company, finished with prior projects & obligations to your colleagues, have enough money to last through early development / prototyping etc…
Go All In.
Form a founding team, don’t go solo, that has a common passion and vision for making this incredible idea real. You will need the support of your family and close friends. Get used to working efficiently from home around the clock pretty much every day of the week without any salary.
Prove to yourselves first that the idea will work, be sustainable and fit into the current market trends. Create a “plan” for how you will build it, distribute it, attract gamers, financially sustain development, and scale it. Have a compelling answer for: Where do you want the game industry to go, and how will you get it there?
Find a good attorney / law firm to help form your company entity, either LLC or S-Corp and trademark important brands you want to start building. I recommend forming in early January to shift the headache of complex taxes as far out as possible. You can turn your company into a proper C-Corp later when you get funding.
Build your presence online to gather interest, both for gamers and potential business partnerships. Build your internal engine / framework for developing your game & incredible idea(s).
Do not underestimate the difficulty of building a “refined” game design. This takes a very long time. It is very hard to design “fun”, much easier to remove elements that are “not fun”. This takes time.
Every time you hit a “wall” realize that the harder it is to solve, the less likely someone else is going to beat you to it :). Try to get through 20 or so of these and you will be in good shape.
Build connections with interested companies, investors, competitors, potential co-workers, and media during the entire time of early development.
Develop your first minimal viable product / game for internal play only. Best done completely in grey-box stage, where art does not hinder changes / iteration. Only move forward once the game & idea is functional and refined and feels like it will be a huge hit. If your grey-box game feels like it will be awesome and has the potential of re-shaping the industry at this stage, you are in good shape.
Put on your “business” hat and make sure what you are doing and how you are doing it will actually work as a profitable business. Need to figure these out to make sure your business strategy will even work financially:
- Unit Model – How you will monetize to sustain your business.
- Gross Margin – Percentage of revenue over direct costs, needs to be positive.
- Expected customer growth curve – Understand your scale expectations.
- Burn rate – Be aware of your business’s overhead to operate.
- Revenue Projections – Based on the above, how much will you expect to make?
- Break even point – When will your business make more money than it spends?
- Estimate company valuation – Understand how much the equity of your company is worth.
- Major milestones – If reached, drastically increase company’s probability of success.
Have a compelling answer to: What is your value proposition? ( Why should an investor bet on you? ) Shoot for getting them a 10X return on their investment with you after ~5 years.
On the flip side, be prepared to ask an investor, Why are you right for our company? Investor relationships go both ways.
Prepare for these other questions from investors:
- What is the opportunity?
- What is your market size?
- How will you stand out over your competition?
- How will you market and distribute your game?
- How much funding do you need, and what do you need it for?
- Tell me about your team and why should I believe in you?
Start minimizing your risks, reducing your unknowns etc… Once you have a very not-risky business, that has an incredible working idea, that also will be hard for others to duplicate, along with a community of gamers playing, and you need money to help scale it up to change the game industry, you will most likely be able to get investment.
Don’t forget it is ALL about your founding team. Investors will make sure they do not lose money with you, but most importantly, they have to believe in the team. They will only invest once they know the team will find a way to make things work regardless of any obstacles that come along. This is important to keep in mind as the team grows.
Establish exactly the kind of take away you want your first gamers to have after playing the game with your “incredible idea”. Refine and polish the experience, art, content etc.. to hit your first, outside your internal team, playable millstone / alpha.
Prepare for devoting lots of time to truly listening and understanding perspectives from your community as they may drastically help improve your game’s experience.
( We are currently in the middle of this stage so I will stop here. )
Take all this with a grain of salt since we have not launched off the ground yet, but so far it is working well and we are not looking back.