Jeff Hangartner – Revealing the Path Less Travelled in Video Game Industry

Jeff HangartnerJeff Hangartner, the founder of the gaming start-up, Bulletproof Outlaws has been a professional developer of games over the last half a decade. Creator of Pixelation, the 1st Pixel Art Forum and also originator of the Pixel tutorials which have been published in the form of a book. Jeff has always been a pioneer of the gaming industry.

CG Today is proud to present Jeff’s exploration as he shares the whole process of creating a start-up right from day 1. With the belief that gaming development is coming back to its original “one programmer in the basement roots” idea, Bulletproof Outlaws is chronicling every step of its start-up process from strategies, to marketing, setting goals and outsourcing, successes and failures. The aim is to help other developers who have ideas but are intimidated by the whole start-up process and are not sure how to go about it.

You can visit his website Bulletproof Outlaws to know more about him or send an email to get connected.

Our business coaches have recommended that we keep track of our financials on a monthly basis. Some of the other businesses in our class are already making money because they offer services or already-made products. Since I have to develop the game before I can make any money, I know before I even open my spreadsheet that I’m going to be losing money this month on my start-up costs and such. It would be more awesome to have positive numbers everywhere, but this is all part of the plan (a dip at the start till I get some games out and then a slow rise up) so it’s not worrying. I could skip this month’s financials but I figure I’ll check out exactly where I’m at and it’s good to get in the habit.

I’m starting with $20,000 of savings in the bank for this whole thing. So let’s see what we’re lookin’ at:

Bulletproof Outlaws - Financials

This actually isn’t as bad as I expected. I didn’t realize I didn’t project any income for January (waaaay back before I actually started this I figured I’d have a game out and making money by the end of January but I guess I wisened up closer to the actual start-up date haha), so it’s balanced up on the Income part where I thought I was going to be like “I WILL MAKE A JILLION DOLLARZ THIS MONTH!!11″ and be a jillion dollars behind.

- I didn’t buy all the equipment I figured I might. I’m not as worried about super-old devices, because my games aren’t going to be epic 3d gongshows… they’re pretty simple 2d games with not a lot going on at any given time, so I didn’t bother buying a 2nd Gen iPod Touch and the 4th Gen iPod Touch is pretty much an iPhone 4 so I figure I don’t need to test on them at this point.

- I bought Adobe Creative Suite 5 because I heavily use Photoshop, After Effects, Flash, and will be using Soundbooth and possibly Premiere (although I like iMovie’s ease-of-use more so far).

- Because I changed my development schedule to finish the art before hiring a programmer, I spent no money on programming this month.

- I paid $500 for an animation tool so I can do cool-ass animations in my iPhone game and create most of the game based off animation files instead of needing the programmer to hard-code things.

- Marketing cost way less than I expected, I only spent $82 on one of the PR services (I’ll be doing my write-up comparing marketing services soon)… I think I wrote $500 down because I was originally going to use a $250 service twice (once to announce BPO and the second to announce releasing a game). On the plus side, I saved some money there, but on the down side it’s because my game isn’t done yet haha

- I’m factoring in $1000 for me, just to cover my rent ($600), groceries ($250), and misc ($150)… this is kind of a silly one, really I could pay myself all the money I have. I’m just doing this for the sake of it, haha  If I get to a point where this number is $0, I’ll have to consider if my business is actually financially feasable or if I have to re-work it.

- When you work from home you’re allowed to write off your work space, and I use about 1/3rd of my place.  I pay $600/rent a month so I put down $200 for “office space” rent.

- I don’t really know how much I can get away with putting my cell phone bill as a business expense, so I’ve decided to just stop tracking that one. If I get to tax season and find out I can write it off, super, but I’m not going to calculate it because I do use my phone as a phone and not just for testing/business.

- I didn’t factor in website stuff in my projections which was silly of me.  I didn’t realize I’d have to register a domain name and my webspace renews every January so I just lumped it all together.  Only have to pay this annually and it should be less next year.

- Taxes and licenses were goofy.  I couldn’t even tell you what they were at this point, I spent so much time filling out forms haha This was stuff like registering a tradename, doing a check to see if Bulletproof Outlaws was already taken, getting a Home Occupancy permit (you need this at the bare minimum if you’re working from home), etc.

- According to a lawyer chick that visited our business class, I don’t need any insurance.  Sweet!

All in all from my initial $20,000 I’m down to $13,400 meaning I’ve spent $6600 so far.  I originally projected being down to $7700, so technically I’m $5700 ahead of where I expected which is good in theory… but when you consider I projected a crapload for programming and didn’t hire a programmer this month, I mean, that’s $3500 of that savings right there so it’s not like I should get cocky or anything haha

Projections for February:

Bulletproof Outlaws - Financials

I figure the first game will be submitted mid-month and in the App Store by the end of the month, so no income predicted for this month.  And even then I hear Apple tends to wait as long as possible to pay up.  But as long as the income is theoretically “existant” somewhere, even if it’s not actually in my bank account, I’ll be considering that as all good.

- Got all my equipment so all I need is programming. I figure this should be pretty easy to put together, and I’m going to hire low-cost programmer from India or somewhere so I’ve dropped it down to $2000.

- Press release for when I release the game, and the rest of my marketing will be social media.

So this month should only cost me $3300 and that’s including a “salary” of $1000 for myself, which realistically I’ll be eating macaroni & cheese and really only spend like $800 for the month.  If I purely paid myself enough for rent ($600), and food ($250), and stuck to royalty free music/SFX (or favors from people), I could basically make a game each month for about $2900… which if you divide that into what I have left, I can make 3 month-long games including this first one before I have to worry about going into any kind of debt.

I always feel a few days behind, but logically, I’m just fine.  :)  It’s reassuring to know the math works out haha

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