Small Studio, Big Decisions: Betting Big on a Free Demo

Let Us Start With Poker

I won a poker tournament one time. There were 30 or so people in it, some of which were better and had played much more poker than me, but after some momentum and a dose of confidence, I cleaned out the second place player with back-to-back all-in hands. It was sweet!

There I was, just three hands into my next poker tournament. I had a great hand, but when I put in a big bet, one of my opponents put in a bigger one. Much too late, it occurred to me that I might not have the best hand at the table. I had a dilemma. I was not all-in yet, but if I lost all the money in the pot, I would be so far behind that I could never catch up.

What should I do? I felt helpless and trapped. I knew what I had to do and I resented it.

My odds of recovering that pile of chips on the table if I folded were less than the odds that my opponent was bluffing and I was going to clean him out. It was a long shot, but I called his all-in, lost the hand and was the first player eliminated from second tournament.

I’ll always remember how I felt when I was faced with the terrible situation of having to go through with a bet because I’d invested so much in it already.. Then when I felt it again, staring at the contract for a game my studio had won by building an excellent demo, I knew the mistake I had made.

In this article I am going to explain to you how over investing in a game demo for a publisher limits your options just like making a bad bet in poker.

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Small Studio, Big Decisions – OPM – Opium

I was driving down Hastings St. in Vancouver.  I had just passed Main St., headed east, and was looking at the people on the sidewalk.  If you know the area, you know it is not a nice part of town.  It is the skid row where all the drug-addicted members of society come together.

I could see all these people at various points in their decline and I wondered, “How does someone end up here? Do they know when they take their first ‘hit’ that this is where they are headed?”

Then I had a shocking realization.  This was me.  This was my company.  My company had become an addict and didn’t even know it.  We were not hooked on any amphetamine or opium products.  We were addicted to OPM.  OPM is an acronym for “Other People’s Money”.  Any time you spend money you don’t control, that’s OPM.  In the video game industry it usually refers to publisher money.

When making decisions for a young game development studio, the decision to take Other People’s Money is one of the most important decisions you make.  It is more important than most people realize at first.  It may set the direction of your enterprise forever, just like drugs can set the direction of a human life.

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