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The Complete Game Startup 
Turnaround 
HD Redux Edition 
When even 27 million 
downloads and 300.000 
DAU can’t keep us sa...
Question 
How much are you willing to sacrifice 
to do something nobody else is doing?
Table of contents 
• The story of Critical Force Entertainment 
• What does a damn game startup turnaround look like? 
• T...
Who am I? 
This is a talk by 
Vlad Micu 
Head of Studio at 
Critical Force Entertainment 
Used to be the PR Manager of 
Gr...
Partners & Clients
Where does this all come from? 
• 600+ developers 
interviewed 
• Personal start-up 
experience 
• Advising multiple 
inte...
Not enough to succeed! 
The past 9 months looked like this: 
• (A) Post traumatic stress from 
layoffs, 
• (B) then just h...
Coincidence 
• Jason Gold 
This talk is inspired by a blogpost on Startup Turnaround by 
Jason Goldberg, Founder and CEO o...
“The experience we will gain in this turnaround will be the 
most valuable experience of our lives.” 
– Random Fab Employe...
Our challenge: 
A complete startup turnaround 
• Team Culture 
• Legal Concerns 
• Funding 
• Staying alive 
• Investors
#1 What is our culture? 
• Team = Not a family, but 
a well-oiled machine. 
• Responsibility > Authority 
• The ‘24H bothe...
Adding the right people 
Ben + Minh = 
25+ years of game development experience
Do we foster young talent 
the right way? 
• First month of 
intensive research & 
training 
• Giving them more 
responsib...
#2 Do we optimally exploit our 
own products? 
300+ websites iframed the web version of Critical Strike Portable 
from Kon...
Solution: Funnel
CriticalStrikePortable.com
Early results
Success!
Now
2 Million users! 
Earning us 19757.59 euros 
from Feb 25 – September 17th 2014
#3 How are we handling our 
budget? 
• Monthly burn-rate: 
+- 20.000 euros 
• Major budget cuts! 
• Improve our existing 
...
Bootstrapping: my example 
• No salary 
• Living in the office 
• Travel costs covered 
as a speaker 
• Computers from 
un...
Kurt Varner lived in his car for 4 months, renting a 
coworking space and using a gym subscription to shower 
http://blog....
Petsku from Zorg Entertainment sold his Transformers 
to fund his startup and game AG Drive
The BetaDwarf team lived in a university classroom for 7 
months before getting discovered and kicked out 
http://i.imgur....
(Smart) Work for Hire 
= Perfectly alligned jobs that allow you to 
work on/prepare for your own dreams
Early results 
“Although The Last Tinker feels like a blending of different genres 
and earlier games, the gorgeous art st...
YouTubers 
47+ YouTube videos from February – May 2014 
with a total of 750.000+ views
Final Results 
153 Reviews published after launch on Steam
AppCampus 
There is no such thing as a ‘free lunch’
#4 Is all of that enough for us to 
keep running?
Focus > Growth 
• Different platforms 
• Reskinning 
• Growing audience 
• 3rd party devices 
• SDKs SDKs SDKs
We’re a fucking start-up! 
“What is Fab right now? Right now it’s a fucking startup. 
It’s really hard. It’s intense. It’s...
Vision: become the Riot Games of 
Scandinavia! 
Company Mantra: 
Become market leader of real-time multiplayer mobile 
gam...
Different attitude & vocabulary 
• Sustainable traction 
– who’s ever used that word? 
• Cash flow positive 
– or this one...
Having everything in written 
• Every important 
meeting 
• E-mail followup 
• Contracts, jezus!
#5 Pitching = Knowing thyself 
• Know who you are and 
who you aren’t 
• Know what the other 
person wants and doesn’t 
ha...
The #1 Skill? Resilience 
But be prepared
A support system helps 
Colleagues 
Mentors & 
Peers 
Therapist 
A FUCKTON of Friends 
books
Our result: we’re getting there 
Progress, huzzah!
A closer look
We’re sustainable!
Take aways
Take aways
Take aways
Summary 
•Team 
•Product 
•Funding 
•Vision 
•Pitching
Further reading 
• http://www.businessinsider.com/kurt-varner-lived-out-of-his-car-for-4-months-in-silicon-valley-2014-8 
...
Bonus tip: watch my other lectures 
www.youtube.com/vgvisionary
Contact me 
#imlonely 
• @vgvisionary 
• Mail me at 
vlad@criticalforceentertainment.com 
• Slides: www.slideshare.net/VGV...
Thanks! 
Questions?
The Complete Game Startup Turnaround - When even 27 million downloads and 300.000 DAU can’t keep us safe
The Complete Game Startup Turnaround - When even 27 million downloads and 300.000 DAU can’t keep us safe
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The Complete Game Startup Turnaround - When even 27 million downloads and 300.000 DAU can’t keep us safe

Some of the biggest causes of a game studio to fail include: a demotivated and/or burned out team, lack of funds, legal trouble, not seeing the problems ahead, a neglected game and/or audience, internal arguments and publishing problems. At the start of January 2014, Critical Force Entertainment based of Kajaani, Finland had every single one of those challenges one way or another. This talk is intended to share the insights, learned lessons and best practices of how we succeeded through failing endlessly, even with a game that had a huge audience which we sadly never managed to properly monetize. Regardless of that, being creative and coming up with solutions to our problems on a step-by-step basis got us to become strong than we ever thought we could be. The main focus of this talk is on sharing our story of performing a complete startup turnaround regardless of the relative success we've had with our games. Topics include:

I will be sharing concrete examples of how we tackled the above topics and will provide various forms of data, references, tips, best practices and learned lessons.

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The Complete Game Startup Turnaround - When even 27 million downloads and 300.000 DAU can’t keep us safe

  1. 1. The Complete Game Startup Turnaround HD Redux Edition When even 27 million downloads and 300.000 DAU can’t keep us safe Slides: www.slideshare.net/VGVisionary
  2. 2. Question How much are you willing to sacrifice to do something nobody else is doing?
  3. 3. Table of contents • The story of Critical Force Entertainment • What does a damn game startup turnaround look like? • The lessons we’ve learned so you don’t have to go through this crap • Summary • Questions
  4. 4. Who am I? This is a talk by Vlad Micu Head of Studio at Critical Force Entertainment Used to be the PR Manager of Grambleworld.com Did production, game design and creative direction for arkavis Siam co. ltd. in Thailand Wrote for many other international outlets including Gamesauce.org, TechInAsia.com, PocketGamer.biz, Control Magazine, Gamer.nl, XBLAFans.com, Casual Connect Magazine and many more. @vgvisionary
  5. 5. Partners & Clients
  6. 6. Where does this all come from? • 600+ developers interviewed • Personal start-up experience • Advising multiple international studios & getting tons of advice • Reading a BUTTLOAD on the interwebz & listening to other devs.
  7. 7. Not enough to succeed! The past 9 months looked like this: • (A) Post traumatic stress from layoffs, • (B) then just hoping the wheels don’t fall entirely off the car, • (C) then investing in product pipeline, • (D) then on-boarding new team members and leads, then — and this is the place we’re at now — • (E) solving for a repeatable viable business model.
  8. 8. Coincidence • Jason Gold This talk is inspired by a blogpost on Startup Turnaround by Jason Goldberg, Founder and CEO of Fab (betashop.com) He took a lot of words right of my mouth…
  9. 9. “The experience we will gain in this turnaround will be the most valuable experience of our lives.” – Random Fab Employee
  10. 10. Our challenge: A complete startup turnaround • Team Culture • Legal Concerns • Funding • Staying alive • Investors
  11. 11. #1 What is our culture? • Team = Not a family, but a well-oiled machine. • Responsibility > Authority • The ‘24H bother’-rule • Weekly reports • Shareholder agreement “I can say with confidence that Fab will win or lose based on our ability to assemble and manage the right people for right now.” – Jason Goldberg, Founder and CEO of Fab
  12. 12. Adding the right people Ben + Minh = 25+ years of game development experience
  13. 13. Do we foster young talent the right way? • First month of intensive research & training • Giving them more responsibility • The simple rule: make informed decisions based on proven practices. Free or Unpaid internships?
  14. 14. #2 Do we optimally exploit our own products? 300+ websites iframed the web version of Critical Strike Portable from Kongregate.com
  15. 15. Solution: Funnel
  16. 16. CriticalStrikePortable.com
  17. 17. Early results
  18. 18. Success!
  19. 19. Now
  20. 20. 2 Million users! Earning us 19757.59 euros from Feb 25 – September 17th 2014
  21. 21. #3 How are we handling our budget? • Monthly burn-rate: +- 20.000 euros • Major budget cuts! • Improve our existing revenue sources – ad optimization – IAP design • Find alternative sources of revenue
  22. 22. Bootstrapping: my example • No salary • Living in the office • Travel costs covered as a speaker • Computers from university • Collected cans on the street for ‘pant’ (Finnish for change)
  23. 23. Kurt Varner lived in his car for 4 months, renting a coworking space and using a gym subscription to shower http://blog.kurtvarner.com
  24. 24. Petsku from Zorg Entertainment sold his Transformers to fund his startup and game AG Drive
  25. 25. The BetaDwarf team lived in a university classroom for 7 months before getting discovered and kicked out http://i.imgur.com/yacucU1.jpg
  26. 26. (Smart) Work for Hire = Perfectly alligned jobs that allow you to work on/prepare for your own dreams
  27. 27. Early results “Although The Last Tinker feels like a blending of different genres and earlier games, the gorgeous art style and creative story offer a vibrant new appeal.” – VentureBeat "The Last Tinker is a colorful and truly beautiful game." - IndieMag.fr At first, I thought The Last Tinker: City of Colors was a childish game. It turned out to be the game that has made me smile the most in the past year. – TheDailyChill.co.uk “The Last Tinker is particularly eye-catching for being so colorful in a Viva Piñata-esque manner” – Destructoid 115 Preview articles from February – April 2014
  28. 28. YouTubers 47+ YouTube videos from February – May 2014 with a total of 750.000+ views
  29. 29. Final Results 153 Reviews published after launch on Steam
  30. 30. AppCampus There is no such thing as a ‘free lunch’
  31. 31. #4 Is all of that enough for us to keep running?
  32. 32. Focus > Growth • Different platforms • Reskinning • Growing audience • 3rd party devices • SDKs SDKs SDKs
  33. 33. We’re a fucking start-up! “What is Fab right now? Right now it’s a fucking startup. It’s really hard. It’s intense. It’s a struggle. It’s ambiguous. It changes a lot. It’s all consuming. It’s a lot of sausage making. It’s working weekends to hit numbers and dates. It’s stretching people beyond their comfort zone. It’s insisting on doing it better even when it’s already pretty good. It’s being brutally honest about gaps and weaknesses. It’s one day you’re headed in one direction and the next day another, because the first move wasn’t the best move. It’s being ok with things not working because that creates opportunities to learn how to fix it. It’s a fucking startup.” – Jason Goldberg, Founder and CEO of Fab
  34. 34. Vision: become the Riot Games of Scandinavia! Company Mantra: Become market leader of real-time multiplayer mobile games with a competitive e-sports community
  35. 35. Different attitude & vocabulary • Sustainable traction – who’s ever used that word? • Cash flow positive – or this one? • Share holders agreement • Business plan!? Get standardized legal documents for your startup here: http://seriesseed.fi/
  36. 36. Having everything in written • Every important meeting • E-mail followup • Contracts, jezus!
  37. 37. #5 Pitching = Knowing thyself • Know who you are and who you aren’t • Know what the other person wants and doesn’t have • Use that to disarm your opponent and put him/her in the defensive • Make yourself rare/scarce Learn from Eminem! http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/18/how-to-get-an-mba-from-eminem/
  38. 38. The #1 Skill? Resilience But be prepared
  39. 39. A support system helps Colleagues Mentors & Peers Therapist A FUCKTON of Friends books
  40. 40. Our result: we’re getting there Progress, huzzah!
  41. 41. A closer look
  42. 42. We’re sustainable!
  43. 43. Take aways
  44. 44. Take aways
  45. 45. Take aways
  46. 46. Summary •Team •Product •Funding •Vision •Pitching
  47. 47. Further reading • http://www.businessinsider.com/kurt-varner-lived-out-of-his-car-for-4-months-in-silicon-valley-2014-8 • https://eliademy.com/catalog/appcademy-online/appcademy-dealing-with-investors.html • http://www.npr.org/2013/03/11/174030515/making-mistakes • http://venturebeat.com/2014/08/13/how-to-get-funding-as-told-by-august-capital-video/ • http://reidhoffman.org/linkedin-pitch-to-greylock/ • http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2008/06/24/the-margin-manifesto-11-tenets-for-reaching-or-doubling-profitability-in-3-months/ • http://penny-arcade.com/report/editorial-article/how-five-men-are-changing-the-business-and-size-of-game-publishing • http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2014/08/whats-it-like-to-lose-100000000-at-facebook/ • http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2014-08-06-dan-adelmans-advice-for-indies • http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2013/10/28/business-mentorship-and-muses/ • http://www.businessinsider.com/if-someone-handed-steve-jobs-a-pen-this-is-how-he-wouldve-sold-it-2014-8 • http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-influence-anyone-2014-8 • https://medium.com/@morganb/ten-things-i-learned-researching-ten-of-the-worlds-fastest-growing-startups-a53106e2599a • http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/the-entrepreneurs-creed-inner-beliefs-of-true-entrepreneurs.html • http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2008/06/24/the-margin-manifesto-11-tenets-for-reaching-or-doubling-profitability- in-3-months/ • http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/how-to-negotiate/ • http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/18/how-to-get-an-mba-from-eminem/ • http://betashop.com/post/83367408084/its-a-fucking-startup-why-are-you-here • http://www.incomediary.com/decoded-17-secrets-to-jay-zs-entrepreneurial-success • http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/03/26/the-psychology-of-automation-building-a-bulletproof-personal-finance- system/#more-1528 • http://lifehacker.com/make-46-meals-for-under-100-in-4-hours-1480339310 • http://blog.readyforzero.com/how-to-create-a-budget/ • http://venturebeat.com/2014/08/04/the-top-22-mistakes-of-first-time-ceos/ • http://www.zef.fi/building-incredible-company-culture-buying-tesla-wont-salvation/ • http://www.businessinsider.com/etsy-chad-dickerson-blameless-post-mortem-2012-5 • http://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2013/05/10/5-things-founders-dont-talk-about/ • http://www.forbes.com/sites/margiewarrell/2013/06/07/70-disengagement-3-ways-to-engage-those-who-arent/? utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter • http://venturebeat.com/2014/08/22/on-trust-founder-fall-outs-and-6-steps-to-getting-things-back-on-track/
  48. 48. Bonus tip: watch my other lectures www.youtube.com/vgvisionary
  49. 49. Contact me #imlonely • @vgvisionary • Mail me at vlad@criticalforceentertainment.com • Slides: www.slideshare.net/VGVisionary
  50. 50. Thanks! Questions?

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