We have gotten a lot of questions lately about what Joystick Labs looks for when evaluating applications. It comes down to two things: the team and the game.
We look for great founders. You need an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for your game and the commitment that creating a new game studio requires. The team needs to possess most of the capabilities required to deliver the game you propose, and if you are missing anything, a path for finding them. For example, we can provide a lot of business advice, but we don’t have artists or programmers on staff. Of course, you can contract art and programming, and in some cases that is the most efficient implementation path. But if you don’t have the expertise to manage those resources, that is one more challnenge you will need to overcome. We are interested in building not just a single game but building a game studio that will be successful long term.
The bottom line – the more complete team you bring, the more interesting your application will be to Joystick Labs.
We don’t limit applications to a specific genre or platform, but we have some strong preferences and the more your idea aligns with those preferences, the better your chances. Our thinking has changed since our first session and over time will likely change some more, but for current applications we look at these questions:
Can you (and we) make money with this game?
Today’s market is shifting rapidly – 40% of iPhone games are now free to download. How will your game make money – license fees, in-app purchases, advertising, something else? Will Joystick’s share of the royalty and equity stake reflect the risk of our investment of money, time, and resources?
How big is the audience for your title?
If you (and we) are going to make money, there has to be a market for your game. A game that appeals to a broad audience has a better chance of success than a game that might only appeal to, say, Leelanau County euchre players. But if there is a smaller market with a passionate audience and no game for their interest, that might outweigh a game targeted at a broad audience.
How hard will it be to finish the game?
Our funding and the work we do with you over the three months you are at Joystick Labs must do one of three things: 1) get you finished, 2) get you close enough to done that you have the resources to finish within another couple months, or 3) finish a prototype and business plan that will enable you to get funded to finish.
The last thing we want is to fund a bunch of half-finished games. So we have a bias towards smaller, simpler projects because funding for bigger games is very challenging today.
So far we have funded five mobile titles and one social title, and the latter title has evolved into mobile as well. Mobile fits with the criteria outlined above – a large audience and relatively quick to develop. And we do not today have console devkits at our disposal, so that rules those titles out.
Other than the factors above, we don’t have a genre requirement, though we do have a preference towards mobile, casual, and social games. MMOs are big and expensive and we would be very unlikely to select one. 3D games take more resources than 2D games, so there is some bias against them.
We look more for clever and innovative ideas no matter what the genre. Games that take advantage of the mobile platform – augmented reality, the accelerometer, location, or that make good use of the UI would be interesting.