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UserWise Academy - Join the newest community for game makers
Written by Mike Moran on October 20, 2020, LinkedIn
Gaming experts know it takes business, math and engineering skills to make a great game, but the real pros have made the industry into an art form. Follow these eleven gaming masters for insights into all corners of the market and breakdowns of gaming wins and misfires (plus a high probability of Magic: The Gathering references).
If you're not following these people and you're in gaming, well. We don't know what to say. But we're very disappointed in you.
Ready? Press play.
Harshal Karvande is an engineer by training and is here to show you the forest and the trees about why certain games work - or don’t. From the pros and cons of level numbers vs. level funnels in Hay Day Pop to how events structure converts to monetary goals in Homescapes, Harshal homes in on features that capture the psychology of game building. The best part: he does it in a series of snappy short-read blogs that feature a new game every couple weeks.
A true designer, follow him if you also get a little thrill over the details of how a rubber banding mechanic interferes with the core loop in Mario Kart or the beauty of a humanizing first action. It’s the joyful nuance of Harshal’s breakdowns that set him apart.
Follow Javier Barnes awhile and it will come as no surprise that he once co-founded a pro wrestling promotion and works now as an indie game-designing-economist. His is a punchy wisdom, moving clumsy start-ups into the real world of strategic tech quality management complete with charts and graphs and quotes from Russian novelists.
Javier not only pinpoints what is working or not working about a game, but details a step-by-step illustrated process on how to fix it. His work isn’t light reading - (see, Russian novelists) - but Javier will help craft your thinking around technical topics like how to get the full grossing potential from an addictive game and the dangers of over valuing diversification as opposed to honing a laser-focused portfolio. Look to him for takedown case studies and putting monetization to the mats.
That’s Doctor Alexandre Macmillan, PHD to you, thank you. He is a self-described radically pragmatic sociologist of technology and culture. Meaning, our favorite human robot: segmenting metrics in various countries to determine overall LTV, while interweaving gaming philosophy (data drives processes, not people). Alexandre will get you thinking about your vision and how a game is no longer the creator’s once it’s released. At the same time, he deftly teaches the theory behind successful monetization (you don’t create engagement, you capitalize on it).
Follow Alexandre to keep your eye toward the future of the industry. His working theory centers developers as content creators who should be looking to other industries beyond tech. It’s not just about building an app that works, but about matching that content to audiences.
Bonus: if you really want to get into SQL step-by-steps, he’s your guy.
Michail Katkoff founds things: websites, studios, and F2P games and with kickass teams. His website, Deconstructor of Fun offers insights into the business side of F2P games with in-depth blogs and podcasts featuring probing discussions with industry pros.
With a background in everything from product design and management to production, he understands his world of F2P games from all sides - and it shows. He pulls together games from across the gamut, bringing all the charts and graphs to questions of whether super powers like Playrix can turn average games into stars and if Supercell can return to a growth path by deconstructing strategy, portfolio, culture and M & A efforts.
Joseph Kim is serving high-technology know-how with a healthy dose of charm, and he’s here to teach you how to build the Amazon of companies. Joseph has a bird’s eye view of the industry, but that doesn’t stop him from swooping down to untangle something as nuanced as the needs of the software artist in mobile gaming.
Catch him writing and hosting interviews with pros on the Deconstructor of Fun’s podcast or posting videos and how-to’s on his own site, Gamemakers, for a wealth of information on everything from product management, game design, strategy and opinions.
Excuse the proverbial, but Lloyd Melnick has been around the block a few times. With 20 years of experience in the mobile games and casino industry working everywhere from Disney to start-ups, you’ll never see the end of his perspective on tech, analytics and marketing. He even wrote the book on customer lifetime value. No, really, it’s called Understanding the Predictable.
His takes on the industry are snappy and helpful. See the three words he hates most and learn why we should retire terms like “gamification” (great games can’t be “gamified.”) It’s hard to be both prolific and on point, but Lloyd is putting fresh content out there about once a week and it’s everything from interviews with research pros, to creating data-driven customer experiences, breaking down the math operational analytics or hopping over to podcast with the Deconstructor of Fun team.
Follow him and it will soon make sense to you that he basically started his career Jason Bourne-ing it as an analyst for the CIA.
We especially love his bulleted key takeaways at the end of his articles easy skimming.
Joakim Achren, founder of Elite Game Developers, is a one-stop-shop for aspiring games entrepreneurs. The man is building a trove of top-notch resources on his site with weekly blogs, podcasts, newsletters, templates and courses, not to mention his book, Long Term Game, on how to build a thriving games company.
It’s a sleek gaming-start-ups-for-dummies. Joakim covers everything from structuring board meetings, working with advisors, and allocating employee stock options. We can’t get over the free access to business templates (who doesn’t need a cashflow analysis template from the jump?) and webinars.
Subscribe. Follow. Just give the man your email address and you won’t regret it.
Warning for Abhimanya Kumar’s essays: don your deep-diving gear. See his elegant collaborative investigation into what turns a gaming start-up into a dark horse for a masterclass on strategy and risk. He doubles as the founder of Naavik Mobile Games Consulting and a partner at Master the Meta, a weekly newsletter analyzing the business strategy of the gaming industry.
Master the Meta isn’t the number one newsletter about the business of video games for nothing; signing up won’t just get you great roundups of industry news, but Abhimanya will also hit you with mini deep dives on new games and pathways to some of the best gaming content out there. These can cover everything from a complex justification of Playco’s early high valuation to acquisitions and mergers in the worlds of Amazon and Microsoft to shouting out a new murder mystery game.
Sign up for well-crafted industry news.
Don’t let Will Luton’s casual-guy vibes fool you - he’s a master of the F2P world. Will runs Department of Play, and his background runs the gamut from SEGA to Angry Birds and more. Follow him for piece-by-piece deconstructions of new games on the market. Notice the precision in his diagnoses of Apex Legends’ weak monetization model and his detailed exploration of core retention theory (it’s all grokability and depth, people).
We’re looking forward to more of Will’s chill energy and incisive smarts in his new gaming tool spotlight series with creators of mobile game tools.
F2P creators definitely need to be keeping tabs on Will’s insights and check out his book, Free to Play.
Lisa Brunette has storytelling superpowers with over a decade in the industry designing award-winning and chart-topping games. In 2007, Nintendo tracked her down to develop its story-based games for her 30 years in journalism and teaching. Truly one of a kind, (before her gaming days, she once designed a Cyberville Gallery science center exhibit on the history of information technology) her boutique narrative studio, Brunette Games, adapts the work of Jane Austen into card games and specialized in interactive novels. She has been known to compare writing games to writing poetry.
She has game-writing credits on hundreds of titles (not to mention a trilogy of novels) and has been leading the way for women in a male-saturated world for years.
Startup Advisor & Author/Lecturer
Follow Joost on LinkedIn
Add this business professor’s newly-released book, One Up, to the syllabus. An investor, strategic advisor and co-founder/CEO of Superdata Research before selling to Nielsen (yes, that Nielsen), his site SuperJoost hosts some of the hottest takes on gaming, tech and entertainment while taking a rarified long-view of the industry.
He’s basically the cool college professor you wished you’d had, and he’s here to teach you how console makers finally seized digital disruption, platform economics, and music as the new frontier. Sign up for his weekly commentary newsletter, SuperJoost Playlist and keep an eye out for Joost on industry news sources, panels and at conferences.
Bottom line: Leaders like these game pros are not only great at what they do, but they’re great at sharing what they do. Follow them and be a part of a thriving community of experts.
You won’t regret it.
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