If not everyone’s dream, starting your own studio is certainly a fantasy that has occurred to most of us at one time or another.
Usually when you have just been told to make the thing blue rather than red for the umpteenth time by your idiot boss who seems totally incapable of reaching any kind of informed decision and actually sticking to it.
The daydream is then followed by the reality check of green light meetings, employment law, PAYE and pensions. It is at this point that most people leave the dream behind, smile and make it blue. Not because they don’t want to follow their ambitions, but because the reality of being your own boss, and especially of employing other people, is pretty daunting.
Certainly, it is not a lifestyle choice that would suit everyone. If you like the certainty of a paycheck at the end of every month or stress-free evenings and weekends (though neither of these are always guaranteed in the games industry) then it probably isn’t a choice for you. But if neither of these things is daunting then read on.
The truth about both of these situations is that the only real change is that you are more in control; if employees were aware of how close most companies are to either overdraft or bankruptcy they probably wouldn’t sleep so well. Which brings me to probably one of the main facets to running your own company: responsibility.
Not the most glamorous word, but it is what running your own business is all about. You are responsible for choosing what direction to take the company, what value you place on your staff, along with hundreds, and I do mean hundreds, of other small decisions that crop up in a working day.
Which includes motivating any and all of the people who work for you. Not always the easiest task. The last thing you want to be bothered with when you are trying your damnedest to hit a deadline is the Xmas party, but miss that out at your peril.
Another bit of advice I would impart is to learn how to run a business first, if only a little bit. Running a business really does involve you being an expert in a lot of different roles.
Obviously, the larger your company the easier this becomes, as there will be someone else to do the job for you. However, this can have its own downsides; losing touch with the actual job you love and the people you work with being just two of these.
But attending evening classes on book-keeping and learning how to read spreadsheets is a necessary part of running every business, even if you have an accountant. If you don’t you will never understand your finances. Without this you have no business plan and, very likely, very little future after the first project.
As all small-to-medium-sized games companies will tell you, one of the hardest things to do is to keep the company going and concentrate on finishing off projects you are working on, whilst at the same time trying to bring in new work. That considered, a love of plate-spinning and multitasking is an absolute must.
THE TIME IS RIGHT?
This edition is aimed at helping all of those people out there who believe that the time is right for them. The last thing that I would want to do is to put people off, but games development is a challenging choice.
As we are all aware, despite games being one of the fastest growing industries, the incentives given to other countries has had a seriously detrimental effect on games production in the UK. According to research by TIGA, the amount of people employed in the games industry fell from 9,900 in July 2008 to 9,010 by the end of November 2010.
TIGA believe these figures were due to the huge tax breaks offered in other countries. As an answer to this, the UK government have announced earlier this year that they will also offer their own series of tax breaks. Although the exact nature of these is yet to be determined, they will hopefully, address some of the disparities currently operating elsewhere around the globe.
If you are still determined then all I can say is ‘good luck’. It is, without doubt, one of the most fast-paced, exciting industries to be involved in at the moment.
Whether you choose to plough your recent, hard-earned royalties into that killer, triple-A console game you have always dreamed of, or fill that niche in apps for 70-year-old trout fishermen, you will be faced with similar issues; namely those that accompany the setting up and maintenance of a successful business.
Having the choice of whether to make the spaceship blue or red is really what it is all about and it is a fulfilling and fun thing to do – if it doesn’t kill you that is.
Read more on of topic of start-ups in Develop’s special series on starting your own studio