- A great story will draw gamers
- Do not follow the crowd but do what your team is good at
THE idea of making a tabletop game that combines the grandiose battles of Warhammer with the addictive gameplay of trading card games like Magic: The Gathering, was what inspired Ian Gregory Tan to make video games.
Handy with a blade, Tan toyed with the idea of making a physical tabletop game where he would craft props and cards that folded into different characters. Though he liked the core concept, the challenge of logistics and marketing it as a real product put him off.
However, his friends and co-founders Brian Kwek and Kevin Mohinani encouraged Tan to turn his strategy game idea into a digital game.
Taking the analogue concept of a turn-based strategy game and converting it into a digital game was surprisingly easy explained Tan. Brought together by their love of games, the three friends founded Witching Hour Studios in 2010.
“The three of us had no game development experience at all. I was training to be a copywriter for advertising while my two co-founders had business majors,” said Tan.
Using his skill as a writer and storyteller, Tan (pic, right) naturally fit into the role of the creative mind behind the studio’s games.
“It was an interesting time for me as I was still in school while running the company and doing part time work to support myself,” he recalled.
“It was a reckless move, but I told myself if I was going to fail I might as well fail young.”
Indeed, the spirit of entrepreneurship runs deep in Tan’s family as both his parents are entrepreneurs themselves. They even lent him a hand by giving up a spare room in their house to be used as the studio’s office when they first started.
Today the studio has moved out of their home office and has 14 staff.
Riding the app wave
The year 2010 was the height of the app wave when mobile games were picking up steam.
Witching Hour Studios spent a year developing its first game, Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion in 2011.
It was around this time that many other developers made games under the free-to-play model, where players could download the game for free but were encouraged to pay for in-game items via In-App Purchases.
Witching Hour Studio made the bold decision to release Ravenmark as a premium game and sold it for US$9.99.
“Interestingly, we originally priced the game at US$4.99 and people said it was expensive but when we increased the price to US$9.99, people said it was worth it. It is all about the perceived value of the game,” said Tan.
Their second game, the quirkily named Romans In My Carpet in 2014, was also a premium priced game.
Tan is a firm believer in the saying, "All that glitters is not gold." Just because people make money from free-to-play does not mean you are going to make money too.
“We recognised that our team is good at storytelling and the best format to enjoy a story-based game is via the premium model,” he said.
“Admittedly, you can also have a good story in free-to-play games, I am not denying that, but there are steps you need to take to make it a viable business. The story side of things would suffer as a result. That is the absolute truth of things.”
With two games under its belt, Witching Hour Studio set its sights higher with its latest game Masquerada: Songs and Shadows. The game is set in a Venetian fantasy world where masks imbued with magic powers are commonplace.
The game, released on the PC platform, is the company’s second foray into the PC arena. It’s first was Ravenmark, which was released on Steam. It is also slated to hit Sony’s PlayStation 4 in 2017.
Having poured all their time into Masquerada, Tan says the team really deserves a break before they embark on their next project.
“We have a few project ideas that we want to try, but the team wants to take the time to really think about what we will do next,” he said.
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