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‘The challenge is for players to stay and spend money

Small business can

By Lisa Smyth

Published 01/11/2016

Gordon (left) and Adrian Campbell from the Design Zoo
Gordon (left) and Adrian Campbell from the Design Zoo

In case you missed it, Pokemon GO was a phenomenon that swept the world, making its creators hundreds of millions of dollars.

It has been claimed the game, which allowed players to search for Pokemon characters at locations around the world, made $600m in its first 90 days.

No other game has ever made that much, that quickly.

Even after the hype dampened, it's believed to still bring in $2m every day from its microtransactions.

So, it is clear that if you can devise a popular enough game, it is an extremely lucrative business.

This is why two brothers from Northern Ireland are developing software that allows companies behind games such as Pokemon GO to attract and retain as many players as possible.

Adrian and Gordon Campbell set up their Belfast city centre company, The Design Zoo, in 2006 - it's a service-based company helping start-up and entertainment companies build their innovative ideas.

They have since created Testify, a professional, play-testing platform for game developers on a budget.

Testify focuses on pre-release testing and helps ensure games make money when released.

Adrian (33), from Portglenone, said: "Basically, we are in the business of keeping players playing a game and spending more money when they do.

"The aim of the games industry is to make players spend more money on games.

"In the industry, 60% of players leave a game within 24 hours and a small percentage actually spend money, so it is a huge challenge to try and figure out how to keep those players on the platform and then to spend money.

"It is a very time consuming process to try and understand what motivates the players to spend money."

Adrian said companies can spend as much as £10m to attract new players.

He added: "But we have removed the expense and time and can produce real, high quality feedback for developers."

Gordon, (36) who lives in Dundonald, said: "Our focus as a company has been to try and develop software that helps the developers understand their players more intimately.

"Our software allows the developers to have their game played by customers or players all over the world and get feedback from the first time they play it.

"At the moment, our current platform allows developers to watch and hear feedback, so the players play in their own home and speak out loud.

"There is only one other competitor offering a similar kind of service as us, but one of the differences, or unique selling points for us, is that we are venturing into the world of virtual reality."

The software has only really been available since the start of the year, but the brothers have already received excellent feedback.

They now work with game developers all over the world.

Adrian said: "Our first customer was in Russia, then Atlanta in America, and we have customers in London and Scotland.

"Our whole product is 99% exported."

So, has it been difficult to win business?

Adrian said: "We have spent the last three months building up a strong network and relationships.

"We believe it is extremely important to speak to people directly, face-to-face, so we have done a lot of travelling to make sure this has happened.

"Initially, no matter how good your product is, when you are a new start up, you are a fresh face running around.

"It's important that people get to know you, know what you're about, what you can deliver.

"We're still working on relationships, we maybe started speaking to companies six months ago and we are still talking every couple of months.

"We're always moving towards greater opportunities."

Gordon also explained that working closely with customers has allowed them to ensure the software they develop meets the needs of the game developers as much as possible.

"I believe firmly that you have to listen to people to validate if you are moving in the right direction," he said.

"It's not good enough just to speak to family and friends; if you have an idea, you need to speak to people who work in the business.

"Once you have an idea you have to validate it to make sure it will be a success. We spent a couple of months on that alone.

Adrian said the validation process is vital when it comes to belief in your product.

"You have to be confident that you're building something that has value and you should be proud of that," he said.

"As a start-up you can tend to give away things for free, which is why you should listen to potential customers and realise you have something they are going to buy.

"This is something that we want to make a profit from and pay our wages, and from the first week we were putting up our prices.

"I don't believe you should be scared of doing that."

Belfast Telegraph

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