How to start a games company with zero gamedev experience

This is the story of Yakuto. Or how two guys with no games experience managed to make a No1 game on their first attempt.

Jordan had big hands and big dreams. He dreamed of making an awesome table tennis game for his iPhone. I’m sure he had some other dreams too but the table tennis game one is relevant to this particular story. Being the ambitious, creative young lad that he was, he taught himself all he needed to know about being a game developer. He learnt Unity and managed to build what resembled a nearly-working game on his phone. However, he figured he needed a hand with the coding as he could only get the bat to travel in a straight line. The project was put to one side for three years.

James was a programmer building trading software for big banks. He decided that he was tired of that soulless life and wanted to do something more inspiring. He packed it all in one day and wandered the streets looking for inspiration. He knew that the universe would present an opportunity for him. James was married to Vanessa (yes, me) who was working with the aforementioned Jordan – both supervising the CG for Total Recall (yes, the excellent one with Colin Farrell). “Hey James”, she said, “stop wandering the streets like a madman and why don’t you meet Jordan and help him out with this project? It shouldn’t take long – just a few months. I mean, it’s blimmin’ table tennis – how hard can it be?”

Three months turned into six months which turned into one year which turned into two years.

James was working full-time on the project and Jordan worked every evening and weekend around his regular high-stress job. It was pretty insane for both of them. They only worked in the same room a couple of times and all communication was done over the occasional late-night Skype or messenger chat. Friends and family soon tired of asking about the game, James and Jordan soon tired of being asked about it. Everyone doubted it would ever be released.

Table Tennis Touch was finally released in May 2014. Convinced that nobody would even know it existed, James and Jordan had low expectations. Fortunately, it turned out that people (and the good folk at Apple) really did want a quality table tennis game and Table Tennis Touch was picked as Editors’ Choice and rocketed to the top of the charts around the world. That one week of glory earnt them enough money for Jordan to quit his job and for them to rent a small, draughty office in Shoreditch opposite a noisy building site. It’s not the millionaire lifestyle many might expect from having a hit game but it did turn Yakuto from a bedroom project into a fully formed company with a whiteboard, tax returns to fill in and roadmaps to plan.

So how do you start a games company with no games experience? You teach yourself all you need to know. You work insanely hard. You take a big risk. And then cross your fingers and hope.

Vanessa Gratton


COO

Vanessa used to create Hollywood visual effects (and the odd rollercoaster). She now makes plans, spreadsheets and flowcharts.

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