London-based mobile publisher Product Madness has opened applications for a new incubator program aimed at finding the next free-to-play hit.
Best known for popular games like Heart of Vegas and Cashman Casino, the company has slots open for up to ten teams in the program’s first year and says so GamesIndustry.biz The incubator is said to be “a game changer in the industry.”
The program, called Madness Ventures, will be funded in three phases: one for prototyping and testing, one for a full prototype, and then for full development and global release. Participating developers retain their creative independence as well as full ownership of their intellectual property.
“We want to encourage innovation not only internally but also externally because we believe great ideas exist among talented game entrepreneurs,” said Zvika Pakula, Vice President of Business Development and Strategy GamesIndustry.biz.
“This incubator platform allows us to build personal and privileged relationships with ambitious and innovative entrepreneurs who need funding and guidance to develop their ideas.
“We know that some extraordinary new game concepts are being developed, but that many game entrepreneurs do not have the contacts, resources and support needed to bring these games to market. If we can bring these great ideas to life through our incubator program, then we will not only bring fresh and exciting games to our millions of players around the world, but also help top talent and our dynamic industry thrive.”
Studios can submit a game of any genre, but it must feature random-based game mechanics, demonstrate commercial potential and be scalable, and “have an innovative advantage that easily sets them apart from the competition.”
The focus on random-based mechanics is largely due to Product Madness’ own experience in this area, making it easier to offer mentors to successfully selected developers. With such mechanisms under scrutiny over the last few years – with multiple governments and regulators either imposing or banning the practice – how will Product Madness guide developers on best practices?
“It’s important to reiterate that we want to expand our portfolio of free-to-play games – that is, games that are free to play for any player,” explains Pakula. “However, as a company, we strive to be leaders in all matters related to gaming experience, and that extends to responsible gameplay standards as well.”
“We know that extraordinary new games are being created, but that many developers don’t have the contacts, resources and support to bring them to market.”
He adds that Product Madness’ parent company, Pixel United, even has its own “Responsible Gaming” department that will oversee the free-to-play portfolio and will also support the developers.
“It’s worth noting that any monetization mechanisms included in the games developed by Madness Ventures will not necessarily be random-based – it’s just the gameplay that needs to contain an element of randomness. But as you might expect, we have clear policies and guidelines that apply to every game we make, and these are shared with teams and adhered to as part of the development process.”
The free-to-play space on mobile is notoriously elusive, with a handful of companies dominating the charts in terms of both revenue and downloads for years, if not decades.
Pakula acknowledges that breaking into this space can be “very challenging” for independent studios – hence the incubator – and is keen to help set reasonable expectations. The incubator follows a “gated production approach” with “clear and realistic” success metrics for each phase.
“Having access to the funding, resources, and mentoring needed to create, test, and release a great game idea allows development teams to focus on what they do best: making great games,” he says. “Beyond funding, we bring extensive knowledge in analytics and performance marketing to conduct marketing testing, tech launches and soft launches that can otherwise be costly and time consuming.
“We believe in agile game development, so the program focuses on rapid market testing. One of the key success factors of this program is aligning our goals with those of our potential partners and setting realistic and shared expectations.”