Editor’s Note: Part 1 of a two part post from CJ Schnase on his experiences at the 2015 Game Developers Conference 2015. CJ Schnase is a local entrepreneur and co-founder of Fargo-based gaming studio, Wicked Soul Studios LLC. A few months ago, he was accepted to design games for the Nintendo Wii U, garnering attention that has only added to the rapidly growing game-maker scene in Fargo – fueled by events like the Fargo Game Maker’s meet-up, organized by Kyle Weik. Read more about CJ, here & more about the Fargo Game Maker’s Meet-Up, and how it’s cracking Fargo cliques, here!]

I recently had the fortune to attend the Game Developers Conference 2015 from March 2-6 in San Francisco, through the GDC’s conference associate program. I received a free All-Access pass (worth $2100 the day of), a small weekly wage, free access to their Vault program ($495 / year subscription), and food vouchers to use throughout the week. It was a lot of work, but very rewarding at the same time.

Game Developers Conference 2015

Selfie at the Game Developers Conference 2015

I loved every second of my time at Game Developers Conference 2015. I worked really hard, dutifully completing the work assigned to me. In my “free” time, I was attending session after session. These sessions were with industry professionals who’ve successfully released at least a single game. They learned a lot over the course of their first year, and then some as they’ve continued development. From wearing multiple hats, among of which is marketing / business practices, I learned enough to melt my brain each and every day.

Three things I learned at the Game Developers Conference 2015

1. Always have another idea in the works.

Looking back at the conference, I would say that for an independent game developer, some of the best advice I was given would be to always have something in the works. Stick with it, and keep releasing games. It doesn’t matter if they suck or not because so many up and coming studios want to release the mythical “perfect” game. The truth is, there is no such thing.

2. Get the game out.

You can’t anticipate how a player is going to break your game (and it will happen), and there will always be someone who hates it. That is just the nature of the beast. Get the game out, and don’t wind up like many studios that close their doors after thousands of man hours into a game project – all because they ran out of money and never released a thing.

3. Stop while you still can.

The other thing I learned at the Game Developers Conference 2015 was not to spend too long on a game development project. If the idea isn’t going anywhere then stop as early as you notice it. The mobile market has an interesting strategy for the studios like King with their Candy Crush game, or Rovio with their Angry Birds game. Angry Birds was not an overnight success story. It was Rovio’s 52nd game release. It took 51 games before they reached their “overnight success.”

One individual explained the mobile market like this, “Imagine you have a handful of crap, and you throw it at a wall to see what sticks.” In a nut shell that is what the mobile market is. If the game doesn’t get moving within 24 hours of its release, there is a good chance it will never see the light of day.

Furthering that concept, he explained that many studios spend at the maximum, two weeks to ship a game. That is an insane concept, but it fits the idea of “seeing what sticks.” It doesn’t mean that the game is garbage or horrible, but you can’t create a product for a casual audience that only wants to play your game at the most for about a month.


Photos courtesy of CJ Schnase and Fargo Game Makers.

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