How Anvilhead Studios tapped Omaha’s e-sports scene


Anvilhead Studios CEO Steve Taylor shows off the latest version of BYOB. Photo by Jess Sodeke.

In early April Anvilhead Studios sponsored NETWAR, an Omaha LANfest chapter of gaming enthusiasts.

“There were about 600 hard-core gamers in a space that covered six basketball floors,” said Steven Taylor, CEO of Anvilhead Studios.

The NETWAR event was held at The Mark in Elkhorn, Nebraska, and ran over a 27-hour period. The game development company was looking for potential game testers for their first game BYOB (Build Your Own Base).

“We hoped to get about 10 players from the 600 to play our game,” he said. “We ended up with over 80, and that group had more than 100 bases built.”

According to Taylor, the feedback was “overwhelmingly helpful.”

“We’ll use that group to drive a private beta we’re planning. The players who were there can continue to help by shaping the game they want to play.”

The company is considering a Kickstarter campaign to build momentum for the private beta.

“We have to get people to participate,” Taylor said. “We’re hoping a paid beta will get people to invest in the game.”

Gamers who are interested in participating in the beta can go to the Anvilhead Studios website and sign up.

The rise of e-sports

Taylor was asked about his perspective on e-sports generally and the local gaming scene.

“E-sports are on the rise nationally with tournaments, leagues and so forth,” he said. “There are a few pro teams in Omaha, maybe some in Lincoln also.”

And just like in sports that require athletic skill, age makes a difference.

“Reflexes peak out for males at about 25,” Taylor said. “There’s a statistic that says if you’re 35 or older, you lack the cognitive reflexes to compete with 20 and especially 18 year olds.”

To compensate for this skill gap, some game makers try to level the playing field as best they can through means such as choke points or forcing players to move around instead of just camping.

“Some do it well,” Taylor said. “And some do it to the detriment of the system. It’s about finding the right balance.”

Accelerating a game studio

Since SPN profiled Anvilhead Studios in March the company has joined the NMotion Accelerator in Lincoln.

“To be perfectly honest, a gaming company in an accelerator is ballsy,” Taylor said. “It’s something that was a huge challenge for both sides.”

Gaming companies like Anvilhead Studios tend to need a longer runway than typical startups.

“The economics of gaming studios is incredibly fragile,” Taylor said. “It’s tough to accelerate with a 60- or 90-day platform. It’s like trying to bake a cake in 5 minutes.”

Meaningful engagement with players is a critical piece and building it doesn’t happen overnight.

“You need good mechanics, heart and empathy that players will connect with and love,” Taylor said. “There’s no other way to make money at it.”

Regardless, Taylor is finding value in the NMotion experience.

“NMotion has been incredibly valuable in asking questions and teaching me about a growth business,” he said. “How to get recurring revenue and grow a user base at an aggressive linear growth rate.”

Like other NMotion companies, Anvilhead Studios deeply appreciates the mentor network.

“The mentor groups have been phenomenal,” Taylor said. “In four weeks, I’ve met five times as many people as I did in the last year and a half. For me as a founder, it has really helped me create a base of people to help me succeed.”

Anvilhead Studios is actively looking for creative professionals to join their team.

“If there are any artists, developers, anyone interested in the game space, please contact me,” said Taylor. “We want to create a really strong studio in Nebraska with local talent.”

Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.


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