“It’s easy to keep employees motivated when your growth and revenues are taking off like a rocket ship. What keeps people from leaving a company when times get tough is having a strong culture, people who care about the company and each other…” said Emily Greer of Kongregate in a panel that Josh Nilson took part in at Casual Connect San Francisco on the critically important topic of Community Building in F2P Games.
Eastside Games Banks on Communities
Josh Nilson, Co-Founder of East Side Games in Vancouver, emphasizes the importance of building stronger community in the games industry. He says that in the days of console studios, they never talked to each other, but East Side Games and some other studios in Vancouver wanted to change the situation and decided to work to build the strong community they envisioned. They began talking and sharing real information with other studios. Josh tells us, “We supported the grassroots Meetup groups, we mentor at local game design schools and help out other Indies as much as we can. We also started throwing our IndiePower small meetups to connect with other Indies worldwide. We still have lots of work to do, but it’s a great start.”
Josh describes himself as a coffee and beer nerd who never turns down a tasting. On weekends, he spends his time hanging out with his family and Jabba the Pug. As an avid hockey fan, he prefers listening to whatever music is playing at the hockey game.
Amazing Customer Service goes Beyond Answering Emails
At East Side Games, Josh is responsible for running the day-to-day operations, building the team, defending the culture, and making sure the games go out and stay up. He believes customer support is a big part of making it all happen. Before founding East Side Games, he worked at Relic in Production and IT, worked as PM at some startups and as Technical Support at a large ISP. But he feels that the most important things he learned came from the ten years he spent working in hotels before moving into games and IT. There, he learned about giving amazing customer service and treating guest right so they continue coming back to your brand for years.
The most important advice he gives about making a better product is “Don’t forget your customer. We obsess about great customer service for all our games, and so should you.” He points out that this was forgotten along the way with games, but with free-to-play, it is essential. Now games are built with customers, relying on their feedback.
Josh believes that, in the future, games will be even more about providing great customer experience. In some parts of the world, there is already 24/7 live phone support. He foresees that more companies will be pushing the boundaries to connect and build games with their fans. He also sees fans of games getting younger; his two-year-old wants to play Toca Boca games, asking for them by name. This is a market and demographic that will only continue to grow.
Excellence Takes Focus
Josh feels the biggest challenge he faces is rapid growth. The company grew four times in one year, from 14 people to 50. He tells us, “In the end, the growth was too fast. We had to put aside some of the games we were working on and refocus.” However, during this time, they were able to build their own analytics platform, game framework and CS tool; they learned they could build tech during these times, but, he says, “Games are a different beast.”
A Culture of Community Building, Internally and Externally
Something that gives Josh great satisfaction is the East Side Games culture. They work an intense day, but then go home to live their lives. He claims, “We love our community and obsess over it. Staff meetings are at a pub and everyone has a say. We only build games the team pitches at the Swill and Spill; then we do prototypes to ensure they are fun.” Family life is also supported, with people bringing in their babies for everyone to see after they take maternity leave. He has found building this culture during a period of intense growth an amazing experience.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.