Tim Teh told his audience at Casual Connect USA 2014 how KANO/APPS was able to stand out and be different from their competition. “Instead of viewing being small as a disadvantage and hiding behind our brand, we humanized ourselves by showing that we weren’t a 3,000 person company, that actually, when we started, we were four guys working out of a condo,” he explained. “Players related to us better, and they were also more forgiven with some of the mistakes that we made. By giving players a direct access to our developer teams, we were able to build trust and loyalty.”
Tim Teh is co-founder of KANO/APPS, but as CEO, he wears many hats. When they first started the company, everyone was developing their first game. As the company grew, he transitioned out of that role. Some of the skills from his software background were transferable, but he had to learn many things on the job, by reading, or from mentors.
The enjoyment Teh finds in his work comes from the creativity and the people involved, not only the team he works with, but also those who play the games. He says, “It’s awesome to work with passionate people on a project and then release it to the masses.”
He also loves the feedback loop of online games. He points out that when you push a new feature out, you know right away if people are engaging with it the way you expected them to, or if they are not. Because you get these results immediately, you can take whatever action is needed quickly.
Pride in Accomplishments
Teh takes great pride in what the company has accomplished as a profitable, self-funded indie developer. Although there have been many factors contributing to their success, the most important part of it to him is the rewarding feeling he gets from putting in hard work and long hours with a group of like-minded individuals. And seeing that pay off!
But even with that success, he is constantly aware that there is still much left to do.
The Trouble With Discovery
He realized that a major challenge in the games industry today is user acquisition and discovery. There are so many products available in the market today that indie developers or anyone without a huge marketing budget will find it hard to get a game in front of an audience. It is especially hard when competitors do have a much larger marketing budget.
KANO/APPS works to mitigate this situation with two focuses. First, they use technology, in their case, HTML5, to allow them to write once and still release to many. They gain exposure because they can deliver and maintain games with smaller teams across many platforms. Secondly, they ensure that every player they bring into their network has a good experience and is retained as long as possible. This results from high-quality customer support, community development, and accessibility to the game development teams to close the feedback loops between the company and the players.
The Emergence of User Generated Content
Teh sees user-generated content becoming an important trend, especially when dealing with games as a service. He insists, “Providing players with good content that they can play with their friends is what keeps them coming back. Being able to crowd source and surface good content really kills two birds with one stone.” He cites their game, Free Rider HD as an example.
When Teh is gaming, he generally has only a little time for long gaming experiences. So he jumps in on his iPhone or iPad Mini. Although there are consoles at the office, he rarely has time to play them.
The game he is most often playing these days is the one they developed: Free Rider HD. He enjoys it because, “There are so many user generated tracks that each play session feels new and unique, and it’s very rewarding to beat co-worker times and share that online.”
Since Teh lives on the west coast in Victoria, B.C., he is very involved in outdoor hobbies, saying hiking is great year-round. And, with more restaurants per capita in North America than anywhere but San Francisco, and awesome craft beer and coffee, social eating is another of his hobbies. He also loves to cook, so he feels it is fortunate that he enjoys being active.
At Casual Connect USA, Teh announced that KANO/APPS has released the F2P version of Free Rider HD to Facebook, desktop, and mobile. By this fall, they will release Free Rider to the iPad. The game is available at www.freeriderhd.com.