Aaron Murray of Tandem Games Talks about His Startup and the gaming community in Austin.
Where are you from?
Northern California near Sacramento. I came to Texas because it’s a lot cheaper and my family can enjoy the quality of life.
What is your day job?
I’m a programmer for a leading online hospital staffing company; they call it vendor management. The company has 40 employees and the company successfully competes with some of the bigger players such as McKesson.
How did you get into Tandem Games?
I have a buddy that’s an artist and I’m a programmer so we decided to make a demo for the 2007 Independent Games Conference in Austin. We came in second, but also landed a contract to make a small game. We only made $8K for that game, but the deal was that the company would use it as the focus of their marketing campaign by giving it away on their site and at all of the major conferences on 1GB USB keychains. We did that game in about 6 weeks. The goal with that project was to give us some credibility in a market where many companies never complete their projects. That game went on to win the 2008 Intel Game Demo competition for best graphics.
What’s the next step?
We’re got an entirely new game that we'll be launching soon called Domain of Heroes. It is in public beta right now. The idea is to give people a fun online game to play while at work or school. We've been calling it "Covert Gaming."
How many users do you have?
A few thousand people have signed up to help play that game and give feedback so far.
What is it written in?
How much does it cost?
The game content is completely free. There is a monetization method from Asia that is become increasingly popular in the U.S. called "Free to Play."
What is the “free to play” game market about?
It’s well established in Asia. It basically lowers the barriers to entry by letting players play the game for free, but allows them to make small purchases called micro-transactions as often as they want. We sell "Wishes" for our game. Players can use these wishes to customize everything about the game, as well as acquire many "convenience" features. One nice thing about this model is that it allows us to run ads (which can be removed for a Wish) without bothering players. The great thing is that it enables us to sell to players who don't want to spend more than a couple of dollars on a game, but we can also sell $40+ worth of Wishes to players who want to really have a customized experience. That is hard to do with the traditional fixed-cost single-purchase model. This way we can maximize the monetization of each player at an amount that they all feel comfortable with.
How do users sign up?
If they have an email address, they can register on DomainOfHeroes.com and start playing immediately.
Do you have any help from the community?
There’s several known industry folks who've helped us out in various ways, including: Dr. Cat (Furcadia); Mr. Mike McShaffry (McShaffry.com), George Sanger ("The Fat Man"), Billy Cain (Heatwave Interactive), and Matt Scibilia (Critical Mass Interactive).
Why did you call it Tandem Games?
Originally when we started last fall, I told my buddy I wanted to make a game that I could play with my kids. That concept grew into the idea that most people enjoy playing games of some type (Card, Board, Video, etc.), and that sharing that experience with other people was a happy experience. So the idea of playing games together became the basis for our name, Tandem Games.
How do you find Austin?
Austin has been great to me and my family. The people we've met here have been the most genuine, friendly bunch that I've met in my entire life.