Tech startup: Glass Bottom Games

INITIAL LIGHT BULB After working in Louisville for the since-acquired and shuttered NetDevil on the Lego Universe game from 2008 to 2011, veteran game developer Megan Fox decided to start her own company in Glass Bottom Games.

“When I started, I had the grand idea of getting funding for a larger studio and bringing on developers,” she says.

Fox started down that path in late 2011. The company had three failed prototypes in its first six months, Fox let her sole employee go, and GBG became a one-woman operation. Now she’s working with “a cloud of independent contractors” to develop PC games with price tags of about $15 each.

IN A NUTSHELL After a moment of “panic” in spring 2012, Fox moved on to Jones On Fire, a “side-scrolling runner” where the player controls a boxy fireman to save cats from a raging inferno. “I made it in 48 hours,” she says. “It was goofy and fun.” The game was released in March 2013. 

“It was a huge critical success,” says Fox. “Financially, it was a bomb.”

But Fox saw the game as an opportunity to build GBG’s credibility in the market for $15 PC games. She’s parlaying the buzz into a follow-up in Hot Tin Roof, slated for release in spring 2014. The film-noir-inspired game is another side-scrolling runner, this time featuring a feline detective looking to break up a catnip ring.

“The biggest problem working independently is visibility,” Fox says. “It’s super heightened in the mobile market. Good games disappear every day.” The solution? “You just need to keep releasing games. Over time you can make a market that cares about your next game.”

For this reason, GBG is focused specifically on the PC game market. “I will never again make a game targeting primarily mobile,” Fox says. “PC indie is a lot different. Currently, PCs are still the driver of the $15 tier.”
GBG works with partners to port its game titles to mobile and console platforms. “You need to be where the action is to catch the next wave,” Fox says.

THE MARKET The market for console games like Microsoft Xbox and Sony Playstation dwarfs the PC market, with mobile at its heels. Microsoft pegged the console market at $27 billion of the $65 billion worldwide spent on gaming, with PC gaming coming in second at $12 billion and mobile/tablet pegged at $10 billion. Online gaming is about $8 billion. Many analysts expect both mobile and online to overtake PC games in the coming years.

FINANCING Fox raised $25,000 on Kickstarter to fund the development of Hot Tin Roof. “I’m not burning my own money to make it,” she says. But venture capital doesn’t interest her, either. “I could probably scare up some venture capital, but the problem with games is there’s no collateral.”

“I can’t see us ever getting an office. I’d focus more on short, high-intensity meetings rather than chairs and desks. It opens up your talent pool – you don’t have to hire locally. It’s just the way the world is going. I don’t see offices lasting 50 years.”   
— Glass Bottom Games Founder Megan Fox

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