Pocket Gamer Connects London returns on 22nd-23rd January 2024, celebrating its 10th anniversary. Of course, this also means the return of our flagship Very Big Indie Pitch, the popular pitching competition that’s been providing developers with insight, feedback, and prizes for years. It’s also great fun. We spoke with the organiser Sophia Aubrey Drakefor her memories and tips last week.
What better way to celebrate ten years of Pocket Gamer Connects than by reconnecting with some of our most successful developers? In this new series, we’ll learn more about where they are now, what they gained from their pitching experiences, and what advice they have for anyone heading to London for The Very Big Indie Pitch in 2024.
First up, we’re catching up with Minidragon, one of only two developers to have won the pitch three times, to learn more about their past, present and future.
Sophia Aubrey Drake: We know you well, but can you introduce yourself and the team for those who may not know about you?
Hank Choi: We are Minidragon, an indie studio from Hong Kong that has been making mobile games since 2013.
You’ve been part of the BIP numerous times and are one of only two three-time winners. What first made you want to be a part of the pitch?
In the early stages of our startup, we were very introverted creators. Basically, we just put our heads down and ground, morning till night! That led to a lot of issues as we weren’t aware of changes in the rapidly growing mobile game industry.
Since then, we have constantly tried to put ourselves and our games out there, build connections, and chat with people about trends. The Big Indie Pitch serves as one of the big platforms, letting us feel the pulse of the game industry.
We have learned to make sure the studio can embrace as many failures as possible
Hank Choi, Minidragon
How did you find the experience? What was the most challenging aspect, and was there anything you weren’t expecting?
If I may quote from a fellow Hong Kong game studio owner:
“The hardest thing about the game industry is that you will need nine months of development to create a product, but only then will you see if that product is a success. If that product turns out to be a failure, you will need another nine months of development to create something else, and again, only then will you see if that product is a success. If that product turns out…”
This is the aspect that we all didn’t really think of in the beginning, and since then, we have learned to make sure the studio can embrace as many failures as possible. It seems like success is often expected in the industry, despite the fact that, more often than not, studios will face failure. However, these failures can eventually lead to big success.
You’ve pitched Hyper Dungeon, Pixel Petz, Fatal Funnel, and Dungeon Warriors! at the Big Indie Pitch. Can you tell us more about what happened with these games following the pitch? Did your experience as a part of The Big Indie Pitch impact your development and subsequent release?
Pixel Petz, Dungeon Warriors (now known as Tiny Fantasy) and Hyper Dungeon all became successful products for the studio. Unfortunately, we can’t share a similar success story for Fatal Funnel. However, for all four games that we pitched at the Big Indie Pitch, we received really insightful feedback from the industry professionals who were judging and were subsequently able to make valuable adjustments based on their feedback.
The games industry is constantly evolving. How hard is it to survive as an indie developer? How have you dealt with all the changes since you were a part of The Big Indie Pitch?
It seems like being able to embrace failure is the key to survival in this industry. It is well known that Angry Birds followed 51 failed games before its fruition, and Supercell burns through countless failed prototypes before release. Many developers, starting out, tend to focus on their success story but don’t plan ahead to withstand at least 10+ failures.
Is there any advice you would give to indie developers based on your experience?
Show your game to as many people as possible (even better, the Big Indie Pitch judges) and listen to their feedback. Do this as often as you can.
Being able to embrace failure is the key to survival in this industry
Hank Choi, Minidragon
How important is attending conferences, competitions and networking opportunities for independent developers? What advice would you give developers considering attending conferences?
I believe that just asking questions to fellow developers will help indie developers improve drastically. You can learn so much from their experience. You can show them your game, and some of the tiniest changes in the game can lead to a big impact on how your game performs.
An example story from us would be this: the levels in Tiny Fantasy used to be quite short. Another studio owner advised us to make each level longer to incentivize players to “revive” when they die in the middle, as it would be more frustrating to start over on a longer level. In the end, the “revive” mechanic is one of the most revenue-generating aspects.
What is your studio currently working on? Is there anything you can share with us?
We just launched a new game called Return-To-Earth, which is available on iOS and Google Play. It is based on the theme of a space elevator where the heroine is stuck at the top and must battle her way down through robots and aliens. It is a super fast-paced sci–fi shooter RPG with easy controls.
We’re also working hard to develop a next-gen action RPG, which should be out in Summer 2024.
Want to show off your exciting new game? All details for Very Big Indie Pitch at Pocket Gamer Connects London 2024, including how to enter, can be found on our upcoming events page on BigIndiePitch.com.
If you just want to attend the conference, then tickets for Pocket Gamer Connects London 2024 (22-23 January) can be found on the Pocket Gamer Connects Website, with mid-term discounts still currently available.