Go (Against) the Flow

I think this is a post that in 18 months is going to either look brilliant, or incredibly stupid. Just putting that there as a note to the future.

Just read this post, but Justin Kan of Twitch.tv fame, and it really struck a nerve. Back when we started Wonderspark - right at the beginning - we talked to a bunch of VCs, and we got the same sort of "soft rejection" from all of them. And it's hard not to take that to heart. But not taking VC money has allowed us to pursue development in the way we believe is best, and to me, personally, it's the most important decision we've made. We raised money from people who believed in our approach to building a game, and building a company, and trusted us to do the best job possible. For us, that's been hugely important because I think we do things differently than most places.

We're not looking to grow big and fight for the top grossing spots. Everything we've done has been first about building something that is sustainable for the long term, and second about building the best possible game we can that we believe people will want. And that means building something that we are going to be passionate about, not what an investor thinks will have the highest potential to be a "Unicorn".

If you've got a hojillion dollars, and can find yourself a really powerful license, yeah, you can do really well with a "predictable" success, by making a game that's like a previously-successful game. But no "mimic" has cracked the top 10 and stayed there for any appreciable amount of time. The things that have stayed haven't been like the things that have come before them, and the App Store is flooded with the corpses of Clashalikes that have all come and gone without anyone noticing... or caring.

We're building something we want to play. But building something we want to play isn't enough. We're building something that fills a need that we have, which is that we want something that has all the stuff we love about real games - strategy, socialization, mastery, progression - not just a way to kill 5 minutes - and packs them into a game that you can play for 30 seconds, or 30 minutes.

We're not doing this because some analyst believes that there's a "market opportunity" here. We're doing this because no one else is making the game we want, and we've done enough research to believe that others desperately want something like this as well. The sigh of relief, or the glint in an eye when we tell people that we're not monetizing ever-increasing timers, or that we're not going to progressively require an unsustainable time commitment, or that our goal isn't to monetize pain and misery, or that our game will be interruptible at any time without penalty... our focus is on building something great, and doing it in a way where we love coming to work every day.

Our investment is structured differently than anything else I've seen in the industry. We're dealing with equity differently than any other company I know of. Our goals are to build a sustainable place where people love coming to work forever, making games that people will love to play with their friends - hopefully also forever. And that means we're not in it for a splashy launch and smash-and-grab profits. We're not in it to churn through User Acquisition schemes and squeeze as much money out of players as possible to maximize short-term profits.

Make no mistake - we don't have an infinite "runway". We're gonna have to make this work in a year and a bit of time, or we're done. But we believe, fundamentally, that building a game that people will love over the long term, and a company that we and our players will love over hte long term is the right approach. And that means doing things differently than most.

To me, that's the difference between building a company on money, and building a company on love.