FDG Entertainment’s Philipp Doeschl became fascinated with video games at a very young age. From the time he was given his first Nintendo system when he was four years old, he realized he wanted to be involved in making video games. That became a reality when he went on to co-found FDG Entertainment at only 19 years old.
The Challenges of Starting the Business
Doeschl tells us that because he and his co-founder Thomas Kern did not have a technical background they faced many challenges during their first few years in the industry. Although they had many ideas, finding ways to realize these ideas was very difficult. They had to learn everything about running the business, making good use of the people, and how to make games.
One of their first challenges was finding people they could rely on who had the necessary technical knowledge – Doeschl was a sound engineer and Kern was a Product Manager of Games at O2 Germany for three years. A second major challenge was the limited money they had available to invest in making a game. They solved this problem through finding people willing to work with them on a revenue share basis. Once the first sales of games began and money was being generated, the situation changed, but it took several years to realize the success they were hoping for.
Doeschl describes most of the early mistakes they made with the company as a result of their lack of experience and the fact that they had to learn everything from the beginning. Their greatest difficulty was finding the right people to trust. When they discovered they had relied on the wrong people, they began attempting to run more and more of the business by themselves. Ironically, this was also an error; the games they were attempting to develop simply were not being made when they had been promised. It took until the beginning of 2004, approximately 2 years after founding, until the company was profitable and successful.
Moving to a New Platform
Moving into the production of iOS games also took longer than expected because it was so new. As Doeschl says, “This cool new touchscreen interface was excellent matter, and we had to play with some limitations. It was a totally different approach and quite a challenge to work without the hardware buttons.” Their first iOS game was an import of their successful mobile game, Bobby Carrot Forever, chosen because they already knew the game and only had to renew it, not create a whole new game. But Doeschl discovered that it was particularly challenging to adapt a game from one platform to a totally new platform.
With what they learned with their first iOS game, they were able to rapidly develop their next game, Parachute Panic. As Doeschl says, “You have to open your eyes and be thinking of new ways to interact with this new input which is touch. It’s a totally different way of creating games and thinking up games.” He also emphasized, “What we learned was you have to make the best of the technology you have. So if there is touch, use it wisely; don’t try to take old controls schemes into the new world because it won’t work.”
The Importance of Marketing
When Doeschl speaks about the challenges of developing a successful game, he emphasizes the importance of marketing. The biggest mistake a developer can make is thinking marketing is unnecessary; that all you need to do is upload the game to the app store and everything will be fine. Without good marketing, it will be impossible to find the game. “That’s where the publishers come into play. It’s harder and harder for devs to get visibility, so marketing is very important inside the app store and outside the app store. It’s important everywhere.”
Doeschl asserts that cross-promotion has now become very important. “It’s the easiest way to tell people about your game and the other games from you as well that people may like. If you can present to a user apps with cross-promotion, they may enjoy it and everybody wins.” He feels that it makes the user base stronger because their background awareness increases. When FDG Entertainment first began using cross promotion, they had difficulties, including technical difficulties. He discovered that it is important to find the company that can provide the cross promotion services that you want. Every cross promotion provider has advantages and disadvantages, so you may have to work with more than one.
FDG Entertainment has several social freemium games in development, to be released within the next few months. They also have several other games in development, including a Japanese action/adventure, Across Age 2.