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The Vandiesel Game Prototype – How it Started

Dirk Vanderlinden, author of the series of books called ‘The Vandiesel Company’, contacted us to come up with a game concept and prototype it for him.

There are currently two books in the series – both available in Dutch only at the moment (Het Geheim van Stolzenfels and The Fiandre Broederschap), with a third one currently being written and several more in the pipeline.

The concept we came up with is an episodic game with elements of the hidden object genre (like in Big Fish‘s successful Mystery Case Files series) and adventure genre, but also including action sequences with gameplay inspired by Infinity Blade.

Watch the video to find our more about how this collaboration started…

In a future blog post, we’ll share more about the prototype itself.

4 Years of Rapid Game Prototyping

Today we’re celebrating the fact that exactly 4 years ago, our company, PreviewLabs was officially registered!

4 Years Rapid Game Prototyping

We took a break from work to enjoy some tasty chocolate-caramel cake and a rosé Champagne.

Here are four bits of info about our first four years.

1. PreviewLabs’ Startup Story

In a previous post, we summarized some fun facts about PreviewLabs’ startup story.
You can read the article here: How it All Started

2. Top Blog Posts in the Past Four Years

Here’s the top 4 of the PreviewLabs blog posts, ranked by the amount of page views:

  1. File I/O in Unity3D (40,178 pageviews)
  2. Writing PlayerPrefs Fast (28,626 pageviews)
  3. 2D Game Development in Unity3D: Overview (14,730 pageviews)
  4. Unity and Playmaker (5,264 pageviews)

3. Global Reach

The need for rapid game prototyping seems to be a global one, since game development companies and startups can be found all over the world.
Here’s the list of countries where our past four year clients are based – in no particular order:

Germany, United States, Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Canada, Israel

PreviewLabs Clients around the World

4. United States

Since the US is quite much like Europe in that it contains a number of states, and also because the large majority of our clients and revenue come from the US, it makes sense to break it up by state.

Most of the work comes from the San Francisco Bay Area, and also from the larger New York City area. Here’s a full list of the states:

California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, Washington, Massachusetts, Nevada, Illinois, New York

PreviewLabs Clients in the US

60% Growth in iOS & Android Games for 2014-2016

Yesterday, someone asked me how the games industry is doing as a whole; whether it’s growing.

I answered ‘I suppose so’ – since the world population is increasing, while many countries are in full development and having increasing access to the technology required to play digital games.

To back-up my assumptions, I quickly googled for a chart, and found the following one on the website of Newzoo:

Global Games Market 2012-2016

Taking a closer look at this graph, the strongest growing markets would be the smartphone and tablet markets: according to Newzoo, an 85% growth would be expected for iOS and Android games between 2013 and 2016.

The global market for iOS and Android games is expected to grow by 60% in the next three years.

Not everyone is expecting such a huge growth in tablet and smartphone – for instance IDATE seems to be expecting a 35% growth in the segment, as can be deduced from the graph:

mobileGamesGrowth

Assuming the truth lies in the middle, we could say that the global market for iOS and Android games is expected to grow by 60% in the next three years.

Incarnate Prototype – GDC Presentation

Our client Skeleton Hand presented the prototype we developed for their game Incarnate: Body, Mind, and Soul at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Incarnate is a tactical card game with some very unique elements. For instance, you can create your own character by choosing a body, mind, and soul out of four different character classes.

The Character Selection Screen in the Incarnate Prototype

As you’re selecting and combining these different parts, different parts of the music are enabled and combined, resulting in a different soundtrack for each of the 64 possible combinations.

This presentation was held by Skeleton Hand at the booth of Somatone Interactive, the audio production house which created the different samples which can be mixed-and-matched in the character selection screen.

Here’s a two-minute compilation of the highlights of the presentation:

Casual Connect Europe 2014

February 11-13, I’ll be attending Casual Connect, for networking & lectures, and of course to demo some of our latest prototypes.

Casual Connect Logo

This event, held in Hamburg for the last few years, is now back in Amsterdam – the city where it was the very first time I attended it back in 2007, when it was still called “CGA: Europe West”.

Casual Connect is one of the smaller game industry events in Europe (especially compared to GDC Europe), but with a lot of bang for the buck.
From $350 you can enter and follow lectures all-day. Especially for startups interested in networking, or people wanting to get a good sense of what the games industry is about, this is a very interesting offer.

Now register and get in touch to meet in-person!

How it All Started

This month, the story of how PreviewLabs started is covered in Ondernemers (translated: ‘Entrepreneurs’), the magazine of Voka, a major employers’ organisation in Flanders.

For our English speaking readership, here’s a translation of some key points from the article.

2013_12_PreviewLabsInWetterenOntwikkeltConceptenGames_small

Business Plan Grew Out of Own Passion

Bernard devised a business concept based on what he would like to do, and went to the trade show ‘Casual Connect‘ in Hamburg. “I went there with a concept, including website and business cards, but PreviewLabs wasn’t yet officially founded”, the young entrepreneur explains. “I mainly wanted to test my concept, verify if there’s any demand, and network.”.

We Just Worked From my Living Room

“The first programmer added to the team literally worked in-house, with me in the living room. This was of course not feasible in the longer term: we temporarily moved to an office in Ghent, while I renovated the ground floor of my house to a proper office.” Meanwhile, Bernard has three full time programmers on the payroll and is working with a sales agent in the United States.

Starting from Scratch Fascinates me Most

In a very short time, we make [a game concept] playable, allowing the client to verify whether it’s a good concept. It’s a proof of concept, a feasibility study. It’s precisely this first phase – elaborating a concept while starting from scratch – which fascinates me endlessly. What we do is very varied and challenging. It’s also an interactive process: by collaborating with the client, and based on the client’s feedback, the final concept is established.

You can read the full story here (in Dutch).

Game Connection Europe 2013

Like last year and in 2010, PreviewLabs will be present at Game Connection Europe.

Game Connection can be seen as a business-to-business speed dating event for the games industry. This event allows you to schedule another meeting every 30 minutes, and this for three days – resulting in potentially 46 meetings.

Next week's crazy meeting schedule. 35 meetings booked so far.

Next week’s schedule. 35 meetings booked so far. :-o

Having so many of meetings in such a short amount of time is very interesting, but can be hectic – to an extent where you won’t know anymore who was working for which company when seeing people again at one of the evening parties. So taking notes can help a lot when it comes to following-up on your leads once you’re back home.

A small part of the list of companies attending.

A small part of the list of companies attending.

Using the meeting system, you can browse through a list of the 600+ participants, see a short company description and list of who is attending, and what their role is in their company.

selectedProjectsSmall

Definitely recommended for anyone who wants to show his/her game or prototype to publishers and potential investors is to submit your game for the Game Connection Selected Projects, as this allows you to attend for free. The selection has been made already for this time, but Game Connection is organized twice a year – in San Francisco and in Paris.

When deals fall from the sky, you still need to catch.

When deals fall from the sky, you still need to catch.

As I’ve attended twice in the past, I can say that the main value of Game Connection for us lies in being able to rapidly add a lot of new connections to your network. To get some deals of out this, a thorough follow-up is required. Game Connection is only the start…

Serious and Applied Games

Earlier this month, at Games & Biz – an event aiming to bring the game development communities from Belgium and The Netherlands together – I held a lecture about prototyping for serious or applied games.

PreviewLabs' lecture about prototyping for serious games

Basically, serious games (or ‘applied games’) are games that do not have entertainment as their primary purpose.
Gameplay mechanics are then used to incentivize users, or as an way of bringing a message across.

We’ve prototyped serious games for research (for Yale University’s School of Medicine), education (for Class Compete and Kinection), and for day to day use by company managers (Destrier Studios) and surgeons.

There’s no doubt that this is a growing segment of the games industry – good for roughly 50% of our revenue of the past 12 months!

Prototype for a serious game concept in which knowledge is tested - for Class Compete

PreviewLabs Covered in Belgian Press

Game Studios Have a Laboratory in Wetteren

With this title, the main financial newspaper in Belgium, de Tijd, opened its article today about PreviewLabs.

The word ‘rapid’ can be taken literally. The development of the prototypes usually only takes a couple of man-days, and typically costs a few thousand euros. In comparison: the production for a completely finished game can take months, with costs ranging between tens of thousands and hundred thousands euros [or more].

Article Covering PreviewLabs in 'de Tijd'

After describing the unique nature of PreviewLabs, Wim De Preter, journalist at ‘de Tijd’ continues the article with insights in the growing market of serious games:

More and more organizations are using techniques from games to meet other goals, like education or research. “I noticed the demand in serious games rise clearly over the last two years, for instance in medical research”, François says. “I estimate that [serious games] are good for half of our revenue”.

To conclude this blog post with another quote from the article:

PreviewLabs is a small company, but it’s growing fast. Since the company’s start about four years ago, Bernard François added three employees to the team. Last year, the revenue doubled to a quarter million euros, and this year it will be about the same.

Read the full article here (in Dutch).

The Belgian Video Game Industry

Citing this Wikipedia article, Belgium is famous for beer, chocolate, waffles and french fries with mayonnaise.
As a team based in Belgium, we certainly couldn’t agree more!

Less well known is the fact that Belgium also has a small but growing games industry. This didn’t go unnoticed by the financial and economical magazine Trends, as they published an article about the state of the industry.

Click to view the PDF version of the full article in Dutch.

Click to view the PDF version of the full article in Dutch.
Kudos to Trends for providing the PDF!

Since the article was written in Dutch, I’ve summarized it for you:

  • The Belgian game industry has been (and still is) a lot smaller than in most neighboring countries.
  • Mobile games, social games, advergames and serious games: the game industry has been diversifying during the last couple of years.
  • At the same time, the Belgian game industry started to grow. From 7 companies in 2007 to 15 companies in 2011, and a few more since. This means an increase in revenue from about 1.3 million euro to about 4.5 million.
  • Both in Flanders and Wallonia, there is some government support – including subsidies for specific projects and cheap loans. However, some say a tax cut for the entire Belgian game industry would be a more fair measure.
Graph based on the article. Not all companies are included in the numbers, but it does give a sense of the growth.

Graph based on the article. Not all companies are included in the numbers, but it does give a sense of the growth.
Note that I applied a small correction to the numbers, by distributing the revenue of the biggest player over two years, as they extended their financial year.