Game Entrepreneurship course in Montreal

By Donovan Garcia-Buckler (He/Him) (Game Production Management ‘22)

A little about background about me: I’m a third year Game Production Management Major at Champlain College. I have had the wonderful opportunity to take the Game Entrepreneurship class during the Fall 2020 semester (more about that experience below), and I am taking the second course of Game Entrepreneurship this Spring 2021 semester. I look forward to the amazing opportunities that I will be able to be apart of, for example visiting Gameplay Space (A shared collaborative space for indie developers in Montreal CA) virtually.

When I was signing up for classes last fall, my advisor brought up a new class that they were creating for the Game Studio. This new class was going to be an advanced seminar course that would teach students what it means to be a game entrepreneur. As a Game Producer, and someone who was interested in business, I was excited to get to take this class. This was the first business class that I took that had a sole focus on the business of making games.

This course is broken up into three, five week-long crash courses that taught us essential skills for folks interested in going into a smaller studio or maybe even opening their own studio. What is great about this course is that the information helps build some great skills that can be applied to any game industry that someone would find themselves in.

The three topics of the course were: Game Pitching and Funding, Game Discoverability, and Research and Data Analytics. Each of these sections were taught by a different industry professional who was doing this work actively and it was incredible to learn from these folks.

Topic One Game Pitching and Funding:

Jason at Montreal DemoNight

This section was taught by Jason Della Rocca, an industry developer with over 25 years of experience, he works with mentoring new studios. We learned the fundamentals of pitching a game and what publishers and potential investors want to see when you pitch them a game.

It was interesting to learn what things are important to publishers, and how to frame things so they can understand the game that you are trying to make. A lesson that really stuck with me was you should always pitch an opportunity and not a problem. Here is a hypothetical example of both perspectives.

Opportunity: We are looking for investors for our studio, so we can continue to make awesome games.

Problem: Hey we need some money because we sort of ran out and we want to finish development. 

We also looked at that timeless question in game development, “How are we going fund this game?” This question surprisingly has a few answers depending on where you find yourself in the process of development.

Through readings and class discussion, we learned that depending on where you are in the production timeline is where you should look for funding for your game. We also learned about what different types of investors there are out there and what each group is willing to invest in. Making sure you have funding for the project or studio you are working on is just as essential as making the game itself.

Topic Two Game Discoverability:

This section was taught by Chris Zukowski, a freelance creative director who works with studios on game discoverability. We did research on what makes a game discoverable on PC storefronts and how you can make intentional decisions in the design of your game to make it stand out more.

Marketing your game is essential if you want your game to stand out in the PC marketplace amongst so many games being published on digital storefronts like Steam. We learned what platforms work best to market games and how to guide our potential consumers down the “funnel” (A premade set of platforms that we place to gain the interest of consumers and to keep their interest until the game releases for sale). 

With learning how to market games we also researched about what kinds of games genres are commercially viable and how, depending on the strength of that market the risk associated with each genre. It doesn’t mean that you have to compromise the vision of the game that you want to make, but this class teaches you the skills you need to assess the risk that comes from game design choices you make, and what you can do to address them.

Topic Three Research and Data Analytics:

This section was taught by Mingmei Pang a data analyst for Gameloft, a mobile game studio based out of Montreal. We focused on what it means to be a data analyst and how to analyze different types of data to make educated decisions.

We started with what it meant to be data analysts and the mindset we had to have when we look at data. We also got to practice. The data can be overwhelming but by learning what the indicators are in spreadsheets, we could break down the data into digestible chunks.

By being able to work with real world game data, we were able to go through the process of analyzing data and noticing trends within it. These trends could then be looked at closer to find out things about the game. For example, we could see where players were getting stuck and leaving the game. That information allowed us to draw conclusions that the level is too difficult, and we should adjust it for our players. We were able to gain some amazing experience at what it’s like to be a data analyst and how to analyze data to make informed decisions for the game.

I’m incredibly grateful for this class and the amazing skills that it helped me to develop not only as a producer, but as a person as well. This course showed me that doing business should always have an empathetic approach to it. Everyone that you work with is a person and treating people with respect and kindness is the way to do business. I encourage anyone who wants to learn more about game entrepreneurship to take this class. It is an incredibly informative class and I think it’s necessary, especially, if you are thinking about going into the world of indie game development after school.     

I look forward to this Spring 2021 semester where I will get to learn from some more amazing industry professionals in three new topics (Building a Game Studio, Working with Influencers, and Monetization Strategy).