I’ve always admired Steve Zehngut’s business sense (and Gary Rosenzweig’s, for that matter) because they figured out how to make a living developing games, which is something I’ve never managed to do. So, of course, I went to Steve’s session on game development.
Steve’s program started off with a little glitch, as he tried to show the remixed trailer for The Shining as an example of a viral marketing tool. The vagaries of wireless connections at a conference….
Steve went through some of his history and that of Zeek Interactive (curiously, I used to work at a company called Zeeks.com). He talked about the major players in the online and shareware game distribution development industry, including Pop Cap, Skunk Studios, Mumbojumbo, Reflexive, and Freeverse. Estimates are that a company like Pop Cap spends well over $75,000 developing a showcase game.
A number of questions and comments centered around one of Steve’s statistics, that a prime purchasing market for shareware games is women 35+ in age. Speculation ensued over whether they were buying the games for themselves or whether they were buying them for their kids, whether you were writing games specifically for that audience, etc. Points were made that the most successful games in the category didn’t require you to spend a lot of time reading rules, that they had lots of unexpected goodies that popped up during the course of gameplay, and that they could be walked away from to attend to something else (a la solitaire) without affecting game play. Steve recommended Chuzzle and Zume from Pop Cap, both of which I downloaded before heading to the hotel where I’d have had to pay for wi-fi. There was a brief but firm lecture that Director was still a better environment for shareware games than Flash.
Steve encouraged everyone to go to Shockwave.com to play his years-old title Taco Joe, because he’s still getting checks through their advertising-supported model. At other venues, he said that a top game at a place like RealArcade might bring in $100,000 to $250,000 per month at its peak, of which the developer gets 25%. All hail capitalism!