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Google’s Indie Game Accelerator Bootcamp: Supporting Asia’s Burgeoning Startup Culture

The first of its kind in the world, the Indie Game Accelerator Bootcamp took place in Google Singapore in November 2018.

Google Bootcamp: Google SG
Entrance to Google Singapore

Considering that it started in Asia instead of Silicon Valley, this was truly a breakthrough for the gaming startup community in Asia. The Bootcamp consisted of mentorship, training workshops, and networking sessions to allow startups to work with mentors from Google and the gaming industry, focusing on the following core areas: game development, business development and people and team culture development.

Google Bootcamp: Speakers

The aim of the accelerator curriculum is not to produce one-hit gaming wonders but rather, to prepare developers to establish a sustainable gaming business. The Google team recognised the talent and diversity of indie game developers in Southeast Asia, India, and Pakistan, and wanted to help them realise their potential. Five homegrown studios made the cut, most of which, are no strangers to indie fans in the region: BattleBrew Productions (BattleSky Brigade Tap Tap), Boomzap Entertainment (Hidden Conspiracy), Springloaded (The Legend of Evil), The Gentlebros (Cat Quest), and Touch Interactive (Autumn Dynasty: Three Kingdoms).

On 28 November 2018, the bootcamp drew to a close and both startup developers and their mentors shared announcements for the future of their businesses.

Google Bootcamp: Circle

One of the highlights of the bootcamp was revealed to be the ‘f*ck-up circle’. Studio founders and leaders would sit in a circle to openly talk about their failures and what they’ve learned from it. Only peers who were in the same position could empathize, and it proved not only psychologically cathartic but also useful in its supply of constructive criticism and feedback. It was important not just to show how they could learn from it, but to know that it was alright to fail in the first place – a message that Asian society definitely need to hear more often.

DANAMIC also had the opportunity to have a chat with Desmond Wong, CEO and one of the founders of the local game studio The Gentlebros over lunch. He shared fascinating stories about their startup journey and the recent developments of their latest game, Cat Quest.

Google Bootcamp: The GentleBros
The Gentlebros founders Leon Ho and Desmond Wong

It all started when Desmond Wong, and the other two founders, Leon Ho and Nursyazana binte Zainal, bonded over game development when they were working for the same Japanese game company, Koei Tecmo. Considering that they happened to be sitting together when they first joined the company, it seemed that everything was meant to be. Furthermore, each had different skill sets to offer, as one is good at writing, the other is an artist and game designer, and the third founder is a programmer.

The Gentlebros came up with their first game, Slashy Hero, on the side when they were still working with the Japanese company. Unexpectedly, Kongregate, a well-known US publisher for mobile and online games, featured Slashy Hero. With this encouraging development, they decided to leave the safety of their careers and apply for a few local grants to set up their own gaming studio.

Google Bootcamp: The GentleBros 2

However, the journey was not all bed and roses. “Revenue tends to pick up very fast and then goes down,” Desmond explained. When the revenue for Slashy Hero dipped, the group was faced with a difficult decision: they had to decide whether to continue with the startup or give up on it altogether. The Gentlebros took a risk creating the second game: Cat Quest.

“Thankfully, we managed to clinch a deal with another publisher, and we’re back to being good. If it (Cat Quest) didn’t do well, we wouldn’t be here today with the startup.”

Moving forward, The Gentlebros were faced with the question of sustainability. Given the short-term nature of popular games, how could they take steps to ensure their gaming business could be sustainable and not a one-hit wonder? In response, Desmond emphasized the importance of diversifying avenues of revenue: “It’s important to build a fanbase so you can carry them forward to each game you make. Also, it’s a good idea to expand the intellectual property (IP) into merchandising and other avenues of revenue too.”

Recently, The Gentlebros collaborated with custom toy manufacturer Symbiote Studios to produce a limited run of plush toys based on the main hero from Cat Quest. Only a limited number of 300 plushies were produced. The adorable and colourful nature of the hero cat also easily translated it into an attractive plushie. Priced at $24.99, this is a pretty good price for a rare collector’s piece. International fans can also purchase it as the toy is shipped worldwide, giving more buttress to The Gentlebros’ income.

Google Bootcamp: Playtime

The Gentlebros’ startup journey is but one of the many gaming startups’ journey in today’s highly competitive market. According to the statistics given by Google Play, the Southeast Asian gaming market size is projected to grow from 3.8 billion dollars in 2018 to 10 billion dollars in 2025.

Google Bootcamp: Phone Demo

With this expansion, there is bound to be many more gaming studios stepping into the scene. Google’s Indie Game Accelerator Bootcamp aimed at promoting the startup culture in Southeast Asia is all but a beginning.

Find out more about Google’s Indie Game Accelerator program at the official website: https://events.withgoogle.com/indie-games-accelerator/.

Photos by Soloman Soh of the DANAMIC team.

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Huang Yimin

Aiming to live passionately and not settle for a mundane life. Firm believer in the Oscar Wilde quote "You can never be overdressed or overeducated". I wish to publish a novel someday in the unknown future.

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