Game industry veteran Jon Van Caneghem has managed to raise $4.5 million from investors like Pacific Sky Investments and Tencent to publicly launch a new L.A.-based mobile game developer/publisher: VC Mobile Entertainment.
Mobile startups from experienced developers are a common sight these days, but Van Caneghem's venture is especially intriguing in light of his lengthy career in PC and console game development. He founded New World Computing in 1984 and single-handedly designed its first title, the franchise-spawning Might & Magic.
From there he went on to work on a broad swath of games across multiple companies, including Trion Worlds (which he co-founded) and most recently Electronic Arts, where he worked on the Command & Conquer franchise. The latest entry in that franchise was cancelled and its studio was shuttered back in 2013.
In 2014 he founded VCME, and now the company is fifteen people strong and looking to launch its debut mobile game later this year. What follows is a brief conversation Gamasutra had with Von Caneghem via email earlier this week to shed some light on the origin story of VCME and what it means for the mobile market.
The lion's share of your experience seems to revolve around PC game development. How do you aim to apply that to making mobile games?
Von Caneghem: If you look at what games are currently successful on mobile, it’s primarily RPG and strategy games which are exactly the genres of games where I’ve had the most success. I’ve had experience making games with control schemes similar to touch—for example, Might & Magic 3, 4, and 5 as well as the Heroes of Might & Magic games could be played with only a mouse.
The most successful mobile games have server-based online components and are services similar to my online focused projects in the MMO space. Even the team sizes and overall game complexity remind me of the early days of PC games. It’s exciting to work on faster paced projects with smaller teams and more iteration again.
Why launch VCME as both a mobile game maker and publisher? It's not uncommon to see experienced hands found new mobile studios, but rarely do they set out to be publishers too.
My experience with games as a service has many parallels to how synonymous publishing and developing are in the mobile games marketplace today. As the mobile space continues to evolve and consumer expectations rise, the budgets for games will increase, the demand for games as services will rise, and marketing clout will become very important. As that continues, developers will need to keep developing meaningful and direct relationships with their players while also fulfilling typical publishing needs.
The mobile game market appears dangerously overcrowded, and new challengers seem to face significant challenges in getting their games discovered. Does that line up with your own outlook?
I’ve been hearing how crowded the market is since the day I started the first Might & Magic. I firmly believe quality products get noticed. This is not to say that marketing isn’t important, but without a great product there’s only so much marketing alone can do. As for the mobile space, as gamers we look at the number of titles and conclude the space is crowded, but when you step back and consider the incredible number of devices in circulation, how fast the mobile market is still growing, and what installed base that represents it’s clear there is a lot of room for new products.