Two years ago, Steven Taylor, Founder & CEO of Omaha-based Anvilhead Studios, was feeling stagnant in his latest business venture and wanted to change things up.
“I always had a few ideas for [entertainment] businesses that I wanted to start, but they required very specific talent,” said Taylor. “I spent years combing through Google searches, local websites and Reddit threads to find the right people, but never really found any good leads.”
While completing his course at Interface, Taylor decided to attend 1 Million Cups and ended up finding his dream team.
“As soon as I met my first two co-founders everything clicked,” said Taylor.
Taylor said he had been working on a cartoon script when he met a group of artists who convinced him to turn his attention to the gaming world. The group pointed out that Skyvu had just recently downsized their company, and that there were a lot of really talented people looking for work.
“They asked me what I thought about turning my ideas into a game,” said Taylor.
Taylor explained that he was thinking constantly of ways to get into the entertainment industry.
“I told them I had some other game ideas as well,” said Taylor.
A few months later, the new team started meeting with coders, and buying equipment to start developing Anvilhead Studio’s first game, “BYOB (Bring Your Own Base).”
Not your average video game company
“There are more than 500 games submitted to the iOS app store every day, and 700,000 games that haven’t been downloaded once,” said Taylor. “So one of the biggest challenges was trying to set ourselves apart from other games.”
He said the team really thought about the pain points of current games and how they could solve problems those under Anvilhead Studios.
“We thought about it a lot and ended up coming up with a concept we call continuity gaming,” said Taylor. “It is a way to engage the player through the best physical medium throughout their entire day.”
Taylor went on to explain the issues that go into designing a game for mobile.
“A lot of the time the interface sucks because there are no buttons, and the games generally have to be sculpted to autoplay so that your hand isn’t constantly covering the screen,” said Taylor. “So the only time you are touching the screen is to execute a strategy and then to see it play out.”
Taylor said their goal for the game was to have great gaming controls without a visible device.
“So we decided to make a game for PC and console. We wanted it to be fast-paced and engaging, and when the system was sitting idle, we wanted to have a fully-fledged mobile component that allows the gamer to think about the game and advance their game away from home,” said Taylor.
“It’s a first-person shooter mixed with a lego-esque type of base builder,” said Taylor.
Taylor explained that within the first iteration of the game there is an arena with four quadrants, and the player gets one quadrant to build their base. From there, there are two versions of the game – a deathmatch or capture the flag.
“We wanted to get to a place where the player doesn’t have to take time to build their base every time they get home,” said Taylor. “Now we’re able to take the mobile component and have users build their base from their phone, then get home and test their theories.”
The challenge of investing in games
Another big challenge for Anvilhead Studios has been the investing process within the entertainment industry.
“Proving traction and revenue is difficult in the gaming industry without having a full proof of concept,” said Taylor. “For the full experience you need years of work with a lot of people and it takes a lot of money.”
Anvilhead Studios did manage to raise $75,000 from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development’s Prototyping and Innovation Grant. Taylor said this will allow them to develop a prototype, which is huge for venture capital firms and video game publishers.
“We have to show traction to get the VC’s attention. We’re really close to getting some great metrics,” said Taylor.
What’s next for Anvilhead Studios
Anvilhead Studios is currently working out of Aksarben Innovation which is located in the Scott Technology Center. Taylor said they’ve learned a lot from the partnership, especially concerning the lean startup process.
“We’ve learned to ask questions, rather than make assumptions,” said Taylor.
Anvilhead Studios plans to release BYOB in early 2018, after they find the right publisher for the game.
“We’ve come out of the gate not wanting to take money from anyone local,” said Taylor. “Mainly because there are not many investors here who have industry knowledge.”
Taylor explained that Anvilhead Studios wants to align themselves with seasoned investors in the industry; however, they still want to stay local in every other way, and have no intentions to move from Omaha.
“My goal is to grow. I’m not interested in keeping this a 12 to 20 person studio,” said Taylor. “I’m looking to be the next big studio in the nation or the world. I hope in five years we will be a worldwide brand.”