Should I start a Game Studio?
This is a thought that runs through every game developer at one point or another. We learn to develop games by making our games. It is like a right of passage for many of us. And after you scaled the daunting challenge of your first game you get this rush and feel like if you could make a game you could make a game studio. Well...maybe
Here is a short list of things to consider before you go all in and start your studio.
Q: Who is this guy on the internet telling me whether or not I should start a studio?
A: My name is Colby Morgan. I have been developing in some fashion or another for the past 8 years. I have spent the last 2 years focused on developing tools and game for VR.
2 years ago I started my own company, Bion Studio. I have had steady success and I am satisfied with how it has progressed.
You can find me rambling on Twitter @co16y
Q: Colby the internet already is filled with articles that answer this same question. Why should I read yours?
A: If you are considering starting your own game studio you should read everything you possibly can. My article will have bold bullet points!
1: Skills for making games != Skills for making a game studio
Making a game requires a broad range of technical and artistic skills that gives developers an god like ability to create interactive worlds. Making a studio takes a completely different set of skills. Starting a studio requires knowledge of business principles, leadership, marketing, accounting, and many other things that are less than exciting. People are brought to game development because of the artistic and technical freedom of creation. But many forget that a studio is a business and a successful business has to operate as such. So unless you have a large sum of money to start a company be prepared to learn a lot about basic business principles.
2: Starting a studio will eat your life
Games such or World of Warcraft are known for consuming players lives. Because of the thousands of hours players will put into these games grinding. Starting a studio will consume your life in the same way. And for a studio to be successful it will take you putting an ungodly amount of time making a business plan, a business strategy, marketing, social media, analyzing trends, reading market data, and many other tasks. And unfortunately it will not be as entertaining as WoW.
3: You need buckets of motivation
As you may have gleaned at this point starting a studio is a lot of work that is not all fun. This is why it’s important that you can keep yourself motivated to trudge through the all stuff that you may not enjoy about running a business. If you struggle to keep yourself motivated you may want to find help.
4: You need a team
A business is a beast that is easier tamed with friends. There are many tasks involved with making a successful company. And it is difficult to do them all by yourself. One can do everything but they can’t do it all well. And if your studio is like most startups there is not a lot of initial capital to hire employees. So see if you have friends that are interested in starting a studio with you. If you don’t know anyone, consider joining a club. MeetUp.com is great place to find local clubs where you could find other developers and entrepreneurs.
5: It’s a business
People get so enthralled by the artistic possibilities and forget that a studio is a company and has to be run as such. A company is a commercial business. A company's focus is on creating commercial products and/or profiting from commercial products. You have to make decisions based off what is good for the company. You are not your studio. You may run your studio, but what you may want may not be what your studio needs. Be prepared to make decisions where you have to prioritize profits over technical or artistic options.
6: It’s a slow process
Unless you are one of the few who create a viral hit and gain instant success, starting a studio is a slow process. It takes time to build a community, team, and a good game.
7: It will be hard, but you can do it
Hopefully, I haven't scared you from your dream of starting a studio. You can do it! It will take a lot of learning and work but it can be done. It is just important to know what you will be getting yourself into. So you can be prepared and ready to start a company. It’s a learning process so even if you don’t have all of these things you can learn and grow as you go through the process. But if you are not ready or you do not want to deal with the business side of things it may be better to find a studio to work for.
No matter what, video games are an amazing thing and you are amazing for making them. Go out and do something incredible.