Guest: Josh Loveridge, Stratton Studios
Website: Welcome to Stratton Studios
On today’s exciting episode, we’re privileged to feature Josh Loveridge, an extraordinary talent who’s trailblazing new paths in the gaming and tech industry. Recognized as the “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” by the All-Ireland Business Foundation, Josh has demonstrated his remarkable ability to conquer the multifaceted landscape of business and technology. As the respected Managing Director of both Stratton Studios and Loveridge Digital, his career trajectory has been fueled by his fervor for game development. His robust portfolio, enriched by successful collaborations with AAA game studios and Fortune 500 companies, attests to his accomplishments in the industry.
00:00 Intro Welcome to the Player Engage podcast, where we dive into the biggest challenges, technologies, trends, and best practices for creating unforgettable player experiences. Player Engage is brought to you as a collaboration between Keyword Studios and HelpShift.
00:14 Josh Loveridge Here is your host, Greg Posner. Welcome to the Player Engage podcast. Today we’re joined by Josh Loveridge, the esteemed managing director of Strand Studios and Loveridge Digital. With over seven years in game development, marketing, and creative sectors, Josh’s expertise extends to Web3, blockchain, business, and software development. Throughout his career, he’s honed his skill in collaboration with AAA Gaming Studios, Fortune 500 companies, and SMEs. His depth of knowledge in software engineering and business growth management has enabled him to successfully steer projects of various scale. Known for exceeding expectations and his innovative approach to business growth, Josh’s contribution to any development project is invaluable. Adding to his already impressive resume, he was recognized as the Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the All Ireland Business Foundation, acknowledging his entrepreneurial prowess and dedication to the field. Josh, super excited to have you here. Welcome to the show. Did I mess anything up? Anything else you want to add about your background, who you are?
01:15 Greg Posner No, I think that summarizes it pretty well.
01:19 Josh Loveridge I think the only thing is just a dude who loves work. He just loves work. Josh and I connected a lot earlier in this. We talked about a lot of great content, which I want to talk about again today. I think he has a lot of experience despite his young age. He is a master at his craft, and I think you’ll understand that by the end of this episode. I listened to a podcast that you were on in 2021, and you mentioned that you love games, but you no longer actually play games. You played them a lot while you were younger. I get it. Once you start reaching for your passions, it becomes work if it’s a job. It’s still fun, but you don’t want to actually play the games every day. Is that still the case?
02:01 Greg Posner Are you not playing any games, or do you still dabble these days in any types of games? I think we have the honor to be brand custodians for a number of really solid IPs that I would play in my off time anyway. I suppose we get to do a lot of tests and a lot of quality assurance. That’s my new way of playing games, going through the XOR and TRC pipeline and figuring out all the nuances of the software we’re developing. I still get a chance. I think any game dev would be lying if they said they didn’t give Tears of the Kingdom a go. I think it was a great technological feat. I still get a little bit in there, but most of my days consisted of helping other people
02:50 Josh Loveridge bring their visions to fruition. How much can you tell our audience about Stratton Studios and Loverage Digital? Most likely, people may not know those names, but what are the studios that you do assist? What do you do?
03:06 Greg Posner How do you interact with your customers? This is a great question because we intentionally don’t talk a lot about ourselves. There’s a very specific reason for that. I suppose our core value as a company is we provide value behind the scenes and we are the puppeteers behind a lot of the projects that we’re all playing and enjoying every day. Our target client base is all A to AAA companies, game engines, and generally game sizes of the $2 million plus range. That’s typically who we like to work with and who we are targeting. Big teams, big projects, big goals, big visions. We come in and Stratton’s biggest service offering and what we’re really pushing forward is we help solve horny technical problems that are really difficult to solve otherwise. Our team consists of veteran engineers that really have a spark for difficult problems, everything ranging from complex middleware solutions all the way down to physics engine stuff, custom engine, jazz, all that type of stuff. All the stuff where you get into game dev and you’re like, oh, this is going to be
04:26 Josh Loveridge a nightmare, that’s probably right up our alley. People love that. We’re a part of a BPO now ourselves as keywords and we jump into all these projects when they need some assistance. You get to wear different color goggles when you’re coming from the outside. When you’re looking at it, when games are made, people fall in love with their projects and they may not be able to see some bugs or some issues or some gameplay defects. But then when you bring in some outside parties, you can look at it from a different view and different perspective and offer some best practices. I think that’s a smart way to look at it because then you get that feedback on how game development’s going and what we can alter, what we can fix. I think that’s essential.
05:02 Greg Posner 100%. Yeah. I think the core thing too is oftentimes when you’re stuck in the trees, you can’t see the forest, you really can’t. I think it resonates to that point in that sometimes it just does take that external help to be able to get the product over the line. I think too as well, there’s a certain scale in game development where not everyone operates under pressure well. Some people thrive under it and some people crumble. Our team is guys who love that sort of thing. They love when it’s the midnight hour and a game needs to launch in five hours and there’s a game-breaking bug that needs to get sorted. That’s what excites us. I think that from our perspective, the reason we’ve been able to, I suppose, breach into the market and penetrate so well is because of our consumer-centric approach. We treat everyone’s project like it’s our own. We really do become brand custodians and we bring everything back to kind of three pillars as a company, which is the consumer-centricity, the trust and the brand custodianship. They’re the three things that we really try to live every day by. By doing that, it’s enabled us to really, I suppose, become true partners with our clients,
06:23 Josh Loveridge which is super cool. I want to stay on this topic, but also rewind it a bit. If I asked you, Josh, five to 10 years ago, how do you plan on getting started? You have these AAA companies calling you and people out there may not realize that the Microsoft, the Electronic Arts, the Activision, the world are reaching out to these smaller studios and these smaller companies for help and gaming. How do you even prepare yourself to say, all right, I’m going to go help Activision? I’m just going to pull a name here. Is it intimidating? How do you approach it? How do you even… I don’t even have the proper word aspep. How do you approach that?
07:00 Greg Posner This is an interesting topic and this is one that’s always… I’ve always had a different answer to it, so we’ll see what I come out with today. I think that this isn’t what we set out to do. Stratton Studios started doing our own original IP. That was what we did. We were, just like every other indie startup, we were an idea Xbox company, published a game on Xbox and done all that for a few years. But what we quickly realized was our real talent and our real nuance was solving the technical problems, building middleware solutions for console. And really, that’s what we love. That’s what excited us. That’s what really got us our blood pumping. And so we kind of fell into it. And then what happened was we developed these tools and we’d be talking on developer specific forums for the hardware pieces that there is. And then there’d be guys from different companies, bigger companies being like, hey, that’s really useful. Can we have a chat? You know, we have that problem. And you’ve solved it. And then what ended up happening was people started to license our tooling and that kind of snowballed from there. We started doing consultancy and then we were like, okay, this is our niche. This is it. This is what we’re… This is our thing. And yeah, we’ve just been doing it ever since and kind of really trying to push ahead and really, I suppose, understand game developers’ pain points at scale because there’s two different, I suppose, there’s tons of different ecosystems within game development. And the problems that AAA developers have and AA developers, A developers is much different to indie developers. Total different problem set, total different skill set required. Ultimately, we’ve become very adept at adopting that kind of AAA mindset of really being able to push product out and hit time budgets, all the core things that you have to hit when
08:58 Josh Loveridge you’re operating at that level of scale. It’s an interesting point, right? I imagine the larger the company, the less agile they could be, meaning that they can’t just start playing with new tools and planting new processes, whereas the complete opposite for indies where they can do whatever they want, but maybe too much freedom causes some issues. Are there some, let’s talk about indies or SMEs, right? Are there some common issues that you see time and time again that you would make recommendations to for any company thinking about starting making games?
09:24 Greg Posner Like, hey, be on the lookout for this or? One of the biggest things that I’ve always seen is, and this is the biggest problem at the indie scale, I’ve always thought is a lot of projects get started but never get finished. And that ultimately is the core. And that doesn’t happen as much in AAA because obviously, you know, money becomes invested and then, you know, it becomes much harder to pull out of things. But it still does happen. And on the indie scale, it’s projects not finishing. And ultimately, that always comes down to really ultimately business process. When you’re making a game, you have to look at it like a well-oiled machine. If you’re not oiling your machine, it’s not going to run well. You know, you need to have core operating processes for your own, for your own self, for your own staff, and you need to follow those. Standard operating procedures are something that act as your light in the darkness and are that kind of pillar that you can grab onto when it often seems that, you know, there’s all else is all else hope is lost, you know. And I think that if you stick to the process that you set out for yourself and work through that process, you will find yourself being able to deliver a product time and time again, on time, on budget, not facing development hell, not getting stuck in a row and being able to really push forward. And that’s the biggest thing that I think that game devs suffer from is that issue. And the reason that happens is because game devs oftentimes, they’re creatives, you know, they’re creative people. They, you know, they talk about different things and they do different things. But yeah, it’s that’s really the core issue is lack of process. You have to run your game company like a business. Unfortunately, while it’s a passion and we all have great love for what we do, it’s still core business process and, you know, having all these things in place is something and a pillar that often is missed out and is one of the core things that I’ve noticed between
11:15 Josh Loveridge a successful gaming company and one that strives and last and one that doesn’t. So I want to call it about a different game because based on that, right, there’s as of yesterday, right, this is when we’re filming, they launched the game, the Gollum game, right, which is getting, which is receiving weird feedback even before the game launched, right. And as a developer, do you see like, why not make a pivot at that point? Are you too vested into that project? Clearly, same thing with like a redfall, right? Like people can see these issues. Are you just too vested too deep into the project at that point to pivot or or what goes on there?
11:53 Greg Posner I think games like the game and any game that suffers from these sort of issues, it is never one core thing that causes that problem. It is a cascade of small issues that eventually pile up. And then before you know it, your face with a mountain to climb. And that’s ultimately what happens. But the reason I think that a lot of this doesn’t get spotted in, I suppose, development and before the product launches and being able to pivot and anticipate all these things coming across is ultimately because people get stuck in the creative process. They get so stuck. They’re looking at the same product for years and years and years. And then oftentimes they can’t see the simple things. And it takes someone else to come in and say, hey, guys, this is the completely wrong way to be doing this. Let’s pivot. Let’s look at doing it this way. This is not only going to save time, it’s going to make the player synergy loop much more intrinsic, much more obvious, and it’s going to facilitate a much happier player base. And I think that’s what it takes. It really does. You know, and it’s a tricky problem to solve. It really is. And, you know, oftentimes it’s the fact of not having external help and not actually getting experts in to be able to help with that sort of thing. Because oftentimes people don’t think they need it. And oftentimes I always say this. And it’s funny when people think they don’t need help, they usually do.
13:18 Josh Loveridge You know, they say ignorance is bliss, right? So sometimes you don’t want to hear hear that story. Let’s let’s take a different question here and talk about yourself. Right. First of all, amazing. Congratulations on being the Young Entrepreneur of the Year. That’s amazing. And I bet you, you and your whole family must be super proud of that. Can you tell us a little bit about your origin story? Right. Again, you mentioned you were a gamer. Was there a specific game that got you interested in this? And how did you get to young Josh growing up to where you are now?
13:50 Greg Posner Yeah, I was always that I was always a completionist. That’s the easiest way to describe me in games. I was always one of them dudes. You know, my favorite games growing up were the likes of World of Warcraft. You know, early days, classic. Well, you know, really, I suppose I was on them dudes. It was like a gold farmer, you know, really pushing forward, grinding out everything you could do, knocking every nook and cranny, you know, really enjoying games like Crash Bandicoot, Banjo Kazooie, the golden age of gaming, collect the Tom platformer games were my jam. I loved them as well as the kind of the live service side of things. And so I played them for years, you know, and ultimately I was at a point. I think it was around 14, 15, where I was like, OK. You know, life has a funny way of kind of, I suppose, teaching you hard lessons. And I quickly realized growing up that you’ve got two choices in life. You’ve either going to make someone else’s dream a reality or you’re going to make your own. And I made the decision. I was like, OK. How do I solve? I literally thought about this like a game. I was like, right, if I’m trying to beat this level of life, how do I do it? You know, and I was like, well, there’s only one way. I do know how to do these things. And that’s get grinding. That’s to go into the forest and start killing some boars. That’s literally it. That’s literally it. So I treated it like a game. And I was like, right. Well, I love making games. I know this. So let’s do it. And then what happened was so I originally started game development because I had a love for the love for the end product. But then when I started, I fell in love with the process. I fell in love with the solving of the problems because ultimately, that’s what you’re doing in games. You’re solving problems. You’re getting that door from Russia and you’re really, you know, you’re building your own story. But I found great love in building my own journey and really going through the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations, you know, the hard problems, the highest, the lowest, all of it. I loved it. And I was like, so I started that quite young and I just kept doing it. You know, I just kept making games, failing fast, failing hard, really going at it. And then before I knew it, you know, we had launched the game on Xbox. And then I was like, oh, OK, this is where how did this happen? You know, and then I kind of, yeah, just been always really sticking down to the core process of doing the right thing and doing my best and everything that we can do. And then I had the great opportunity to build an awesome team around me. And, you know, there’s like really it takes a village to do what we’re doing. It really does. And, you know, I think that I was very lucky to find some core people within the business, such as Kyle and all the guys and being able to really, you know, hone me and the team to be able to push forward and really, I suppose, be successful in what we’re doing. But yeah, it just started out with a love for games. And then before I knew it, it cascaded into, yeah,
16:50 Josh Loveridge strapping what it is today. I love the fact that you look at the whole process as a game. And that makes sense, right? I mean, it’s no different than a puzzle solver game. It’s no different than trying to understand the island of mist and trying to unlock the secret. Like it takes an understanding of how does this work? How does this service connect to this service and make this work? And even since being in video games, learning all the different back end processes, it’s a fun thing to do. So that’s an amazing way to look at it. And I love it. And you mentioned this, and I think this helps, right? You’re nonstop. You love the craft. You’re honing it. Right. You you’ve talked about grind and how you don’t make others do it, but it’s something that you love to do and you want to do. Right. And I think there’s difference between forcing others to do it and just doing it if it’s something that you love to do. So knowing that, are there are there new frontiers that you take a look at? I know you’re a big fan of Web 3. You’re a big fan of that technology. But are there other frontiers that you’re seeing in the horizon
17:41 Greg Posner that excite you on the gaming side? Oh, right now we’re in a technological revolution. That’s great. I love it. I love it. I love when nobody really knows what we’re doing with new tech stacks. And, you know, someone has to figure it out. And, you know, so obviously Web 3 is a big component. I’ve been an avid, I suppose, and pusher of that the last few years. And main reason being is I think it’s a really cool tech stack. I think it has a use case. And have we seen what that will be used in games just yet? Not really. But I think there’s something there. And then obviously, AI, that’s the next big thing that everyone’s jumping down. And I love it, too. You know, and I was actually talking to a colleague about this yesterday, like the possibilities and the only word, the one word that comes to my mind when I look at the likes of AI and blockchain is transformational change. That’s really it. Like, if you think about it, in games, we used to have to craft every single lion of, you know, dialogue that we push in. Now we’re looking at a future where you could potentially feed in your whole like 10 lore books and then the dialogue will just work. It’s just beautiful. It’s going to. And what I and what I’ve been saying this to everyone, AI is not going to change the way we fundamentally make games. What is going to do, it is going to enable us to do them quicker, faster, higher quality and to better processes. And we are when AI really start to kick off with chat, GBT and everything, we had a big meeting internally. And as I said to everyone, because there was a big concern, you know, especially on like concept art, decide there was like, OK, is this mean we’re like, we’re done now sort of thing. And as I and as I said, no, the business isn’t going to change. It’s just going to enable us to do what we’re doing better. And that’s ultimately it. You know, the score, our core skill sets will change. And both that’s it. You know, what we’ve always done as a company is solve problems and we’re going to continue to solve problems. And I can guarantee you this new frontier that we’re diving into was going to bring new problems and I’m ready to solve them. And that’s the way we kind of, you know, and that’s the way I approach it. You know, but AI, blockchain and all those sorts of things, decentralized technology, all awesome, really cool, really fun. Another big ones, AR, VR, XR. That’s always something that I’ve been a big proponent of also, too. You know, I think it hasn’t had its limelight yet. And I think we’re still going to yet to see it, which is awesome.
20:12 Josh Loveridge It’s exciting. It’s a great time. Someone that loves technology. I agree with you on every every topic you just mentioned. My personal favorite is chat, GBT. But I want to talk a little more about metaverse with you on Web 3, because I’m not a true believer yet. I do think it will be something. Don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think we actually know at all what its final form is today. Right. Like I have my quest over there, which I use maybe once in once a month, there’s some games that I do enjoy, but I just it’s hard to pick up and use. So the question is, in your personal mind, I guess. This is a tough question to ask, right? It’s what do you imagine? What are you seeing as the next step for Web 3? Like, what’s holding it back? Right. There’s good games now. There’s Half Life, Alex says there’s tools out there, but not everyone has the helmet. Right. So so what’s the glasses? Right. What’s the issue holding it back? And what do you see as being the next step? And maybe you don’t know that. Right.
21:07 Greg Posner I think I actually think so as someone who’s really been engrossed in this the last couple of years and been talking with most of the key players and working with many of them. Ultimately, right now, we’re early. And that’s the thing. We’re early in the technology and the tech stack. We’re still trying to figure out how to actually work with this as a technology. That is really the facts of the matter, you know. And right now we are seeing early glimpses into what gaming could be. Like, I think the future everyone wants for metaverses and whatever that term we’re going to use is, you know, ready player, ready player one. That’s what people want. But is that going to ever come to fruition? Honestly, who knows? Who knows? But I think there is a middle ground that will be found. Listen, I look at I when I was just starting in the industry, mobile gaming was really starting to kick off. That was the thing, you know, and I see Metaverse, Web3, blockchain, AI, all like early games, early days of mobile gaming. Everyone didn’t really know if it was going to kick off. It was kind of like, are we going to do it? Aren’t we? And then what happened was a number of startups started. The likes of Rovio, the likes of Zynga and the next billion dollar companies were formed. That’s ultimately what happened. And I think that will happen again, because it always happens. With every technology, there is some company that will just do it well. And then we’re going to hit. And what we need to do as an industry is we need to not. We need to not put up barriers. We need to not build those walled gardens. And we need to say, here is the technology. Go create, because that’s what and that’s and this is one thing. And there’s a and I’m going to I’m going to steal a quote from from from one of my friends here. And it’s about democratizing game creation and development. That is really what we’re trying to do. And we need to provide the tools. If we provide the tools and nobody builds something with it, that transforms the industry. OK. But we provided the tools. We did not block, you know, the gate. We did not inhibit creativity, because the gaming has never been about creativity. Gaming has been about empowering players, empowering creators and building technology that can transform the world. And you can transform the world with technology if you put a barrier and say, that’s no good and that’s useless. So I have a very open mind to everything. Have we seen like the next metaverse? I honestly, I hate the term metaverse. I as I say this to our clients on a daily basis, I’m like, let’s stop talking about metaverses. Let’s let’s call them what they are. They’re MMORPG. We’ve been making these for a very long time. Let’s make a really good MMORPG that uses some of this tech and then let’s maybe start talking about a metaverse. But let’s you know, let’s stop trying to roam before we crawl. And I think that’s the core thing. But I think that we’re starting to make great strides in the industry as a whole. Listen, you know, two years ago, every single person you would talk to, you know, if you said like NFT metaverse, it was like, oh, good Lord, here we go. You know, and people would get into arguments of it. Whereas now we’re starting to see, you know, people are know it’s here. People know it’s here to stay. And it’s like, OK, well, show me something that’s actually good, which is a much it’s progress. Listen, it’s progress. And that’s all we need, you know. And I think that having an open mind to technology is something that as creators we have to have, you know, and we should be excited for it. It’s just like AI, like AI is in the limelight right now. Is AI going to go into a bit of a slump? Probably for a little bit. And then it’ll come back up. But the core thing is about all these technologies. They don’t just arrive out of nowhere. It’s years of hard work and engineering that’s been put into these solutions. And then they kick off. Like how long has OpenAI been around? Years. And they’ve been working hard. They they didn’t just come make chat GBT overnight. You know, it takes time. It takes a village. And, you know, it’s all about impairing the creators that are working on these things on a daily basis. And I think it’s a big thing, too, as well. As game developers, we oftentimes we oftentimes can get a little bit, I suppose, tribal with stuff. You know, that’s just it’s humans as a whole. It seems to be our nature. But, you know, ultimately, I always like to describe it like this to people. If you wouldn’t like someone, I suppose, like badmouthing your game or badmouthing your creativity, why do it to someone else? You know, and really be open minded, be open minded with technology. That’s the best way to be. And you’ll strive and do well. You know, I think that’s really my ethos with everything. And I think that’s the I think that’s the ethos of a lot of the bigger guys, too, is they want to have an open mind. They want to see they, you know, saying no to something is a quick way to miss out on the next big thing.
26:07 Josh Loveridge I want to take some of what you just said and start transforming this and to kind of the customer experience, because that’s what we do like to talk about in this show is right. If we take Web 3, I think right now we’re in this weird place because technology moves quick and there’s a lot of garbage that’s coming out, that’s creating on top of Web 3. And it’s confusing the market because you have a lot of young people. You have a lot of older people that don’t do the research. They just download games. Right. So my question to you is kind of when you work with some of the studios that you’re consulting with, right, and you’re taking in that user experience, you put thought into kind of how are users going to react to this? If we offer apes at a high cost of an NFT, we’re going to not have people being able to enter this game. How do you balance? Yeah.
26:56 Greg Posner I have a really interesting response to this. Web Web 3 as a whole, if I’m a player and I open up my game, I should not know. Listen, when we’re marketing games, we have never said, hey, listen, you know, Call of Duty is now using a SQL database. That’s not what we do. You know, you don’t see that at E3. It really isn’t. So we shouldn’t do it with blockchain. We really shouldn’t. It’s a back end scaling solution. That is what it is. It allows players to own their own assets. Great. We don’t need to shove it in their face and we don’t need to say, here, listen, here’s your magical NFT sort of thing. All it should be is, hey, listen, I open my I open Call of Duty. I unlock a new gun skin. I get to keep that gun skin. That’s it. That’s literally as far as the rabbit hole should go. It’s not about anything else. And it should be a seamless player experience. That’s my whole thing. The player, if the player knows it’s on blockchain, you’re doing it wrong. That’s that’s that’s really it. It’s about abstracting that technical difficulty and taking that away from the player and putting that in the background. And I think one of the best games that’s going to come out and I’ve seen a few of them in development, players aren’t even going to know they’re using blockchain. And then six months later, the company will come out and say, oh, yeah, by the way, we’re actually utilizing this in the background. And that is going to be the future of where this is all going. It’s all about taking that frustration away from the user, embed wallet solutions, all these different things, and just allowing players to do what they do best and that’s play games. No player wants to, you know, when they’re in the middle of a the synergy loop to have that broken and to have their gameplay interrupted by a big pop up saying scan your QR code, do X. Nobody wants that. That’s not fun. And, you know, anyone says it is is illicit. It’s not. It really isn’t, in my opinion. And I think it’s going to be about abstracting that technology away from the user. And that’s what we’ve done in gaming traditionally. Like, just think of it this way, through SSO, you know, in games, you used to have to sign in with an email and password. Now, if you open up Google Play Games and you’re opening a game on your phone, you automatically sign in with your Google account to 90 percent of them. That’s that’s it. That’s it’s about seamless user experience and not interrupting the game flow and synergy loop. And anything you do that takes away from that’s going to kill your retention rates, going to kill your DAU, your WAU, it’s going to kill everything. Your user acquisition, it’s going to hurt the game and the downpipe. And that has to be considered. And it’s going to hurt the player experience. And then the one thing people don’t think about on that sort of thing, too, is even a like a couple of pips on your user experience, you know, if that gets hit, that’s going to hurt your content moderation side of things, too. Players are going to become more vitriolic, more toxic. You’re going to have more issues to deal with. And then that downpipes your dev team. And once that hits your dev team, devs become unmotivated because people are talking bad about their game. You know, there’s a whole host of issues that become a downpipe. And this is like it’s like a virus that enters the system. And that a lot of that comes from the user experience. It comes from the player journey. If you give the players a really seamless experience,
30:13 Josh Loveridge they’re not going to have a lot to complain about. You know, I think that is so well said. I actually spoke to someone yesterday that we talked about the same thing, you know, with Web 2.0 and Facebook launched with MySpace launched. No one talked about, hey, we’re running Python and we’re running this. And to your point, Call of Duty, no one cares about a SQL server, right? No one cares about the technology. They care about the experience in the game itself. If you create a shit game on a blockchain, you still got a shit game. I mean, but but to your point, right, the less you know, the better for the end user. Right. Make it that seamless experience. Make a great experience and the player will keep on playing. It’s not about the technologies that you’re using. And I think that’s something that’s essential for people to understand.
30:55 Greg Posner Yeah. And I think that’s the mindset that a lot of these bigger companies are taking. What our clients are taking. They’re saying to us and the exact mindset they’re giving is, Josh, we’re not going to put out a product just because something’s hot right now. You know, we’re going to go through a process. A good game takes three, four years to make for our clients anyway, and because they’re much bigger scale projects, it takes three, four years to make. We’re going to take our three to four years. It will come out when it’s ready and when the gameplay loop is good and it’s synergistic and it’s going to empower players. That’s the core thing. I always bring it back to empowerment, because ultimately that’s what you have to do as a developer. You have to empower your users. Without your users, a game isn’t anything. It really isn’t.
31:37 Josh Loveridge So in a real world scenario, right, I think it was about a year ago, Ubisoft announced all their games were going to implement NFTs. All of a sudden, they got a ton of backlash from the community and they kind of rolled back on it. And it kind of went into the example you gave, where you hear about developers getting some news and they’re getting feedback from users and they’re getting they’re getting disappointed by that. In this scenario, right, when it comes to Ubisoft, are they actually listening to their audience, do you think? Or do you think it comes from also like consultants like yourself saying, hey, this may not be the best approach or is it a little of both?
32:10 Greg Posner I think it’s a level of both. I think it’s a multiple, you know, kind of streams that are coming in, you know, and I think oftentimes that, you know, oftentimes the concept and the reality is often different. Like, I think that was a bit of a step forward and that was a it was excitement. And it’s just like we’re seeing with AI right now. You know, many companies are diving in, they’re launching products that maybe aren’t as high quality as they could be because or that haven’t been well taught out. Because they haven’t spent enough time in the oven and it’s because they jump too quick. So I think it’s a mix of both. I think it’s a mix of both internal company culture that dictates a lot of that, and I think it’s consultancy. And then it’s also player, you know, retention rates like, you know, I imagine that played a big role in those decisions. And I think, you know, kind of one one one thing that, you know, a quote that I always like to hark back to is and I think it’s Tim Cook that said it was that, you know, most business models have focused on self-interest instead of user experience. And that’s the core thing, you know, because when business analysts often when a business analyst is running through his business numbers and his P&L for the year, oftentimes they there’s not a line item there for user experience. There really isn’t. So I think there’s a bit of a disconnect on that side. And it takes a what I like to call an interpreter in between to kind of bridge that gap and to be able to say, OK, here are our business goals. And here is what’s actually going to become a reality for us and bring us successful in the eyes of our users. You know, that’s really yeah, that’s really the thing. And I think it comes back to the whole thing, too. You know, it’s all about the usability and it’s about how people, you know, kind of use and understand things. It’s not about the technology. It really isn’t.
34:04 Josh Loveridge Could also be market research, right? Maybe they had no intention of actually doing it at all. They just wanted to see how the crowd reacted. And they almost look like heroes when they say, you know what? Never mind. We’re not going to do it. And all of a sudden sentiment goes up and everyone’s like, hey, they did something.
34:16 Greg Posner I’ll put it this way. They got a lot of press out of it.
34:20 Josh Loveridge News is news. You talked about in that same regards, right? You talked about the community becoming toxic. And we work with a lot of partners that help with trust and safety. And it’s a huge thing these days, right? Once something becomes toxic, your game can kind of be rude or ruined. Sorry. Right. What experience have you had with helping build or maintain a community? Is there anything in these? Yeah.
34:45 Greg Posner In this is. Yeah, this is a literary and this is something I’m heavily involved with, both in the gaming sector and in traditional kind of the Fortune 500 side. And, you know, I call it a commute. I call it the community care stack. That’s what I really call it. And I love to discuss that, you know, that’s everything from the likes of utilizing really core services like help shift, like to have integrating them into a good, you know, community care pipeline that then enables, you know, seamless, I suppose, content moderation at scale. And so when we’re consulting and that’s one thing I always say to when we consult with projects, that’s one of the things we discuss at the base level. I believe that community care and your community care stack should be in at your GD stage of your game development. I really do. That is part of everything that you do in your game is about because a big part and a big strategy of a lot of go to markets is, OK, how are we going to acquire users? Oftentimes, there’s the missing line item there of how are we going to keep them? That’s the thing. And how are we going to look after the ones and build, make them into brand champions? That’s a big thing I like to say is with your players, you have to give them the opportunity to become brand champions of your of your brand. One company that does this really well is Niantic. And, you know, and the way they approach that is unbelievably well. And they turn their players into brand champions. And they, you know, really do. And that’s something that I think not enough game does focus on. You know, you need to have a really solid and game that pipeline to be able to facilitate that. And that goes everything from having your client side solutions that will, you know, include like your profanity filters, your image recognition algorithms, your behavioral analysis, all that stuff that then feeds into services, you know, like to which will handle a lot of that off pipe and then integrate in the likes of help shift to be able to handle the customer support side of things, you know, in game chat support, taking and, you know, knowledge base management, all these sort of core things that you need and the core thing is and here’s a here’s a here’s something that, you know, a lot of a lot of people miss out on. A lot of people don’t think that community care is a big thing because it’s not a problem until it is one. And that’s the thing. And that’s what I always like to say. It’s not a problem until it is one. And it won’t cost you anything until it does. And then it becomes a massive issue. And before you know it, your game becomes ruined. Ultimately, because it’s very hard to pull back an audience that becomes toxic. It really is. And also, it’s very hard to pull back community culture in a games company once it’s been made. One example I like to give is CD Projekt Red. We all heard of the stories of what happened when Cyberpunk came out. It wasn’t good. The company culture hurt. And the reason the company culture hurt was because game devs were open. And like, think of it this way, if you were opening your phone at the start of every day and you just see a bunch of people bashing your work that you’ve spent years on, that’s not good. Are you going to be excited about going to the office to work on it? No, you’re going to be like, oh, this is a nightmare. And I think that all comes back to it. So the effect that not having a good community care stack has and how that integrates with your, you know, your moderation team, moderation dashboards, all these, you know, your community guidelines, reporting mechanisms, all these sorts of things is vital. It literally is the lifeline of your game, especially when we talk about games as a live service and games as a living entity, because that’s what you have to look at games nowadays. It’s not like the early days of gaming where, OK, you go gold master, you ship your game and it’s like, right, boys, we’re done. We’re sorted. You know, we can all celebrate now. Now games are a living entity that lives and breathes. And, you know, it’s just like anything else. If you don’t water the plant, it’s not going to grow.
38:49 Josh Loveridge You know. So a few things just to tell you what I what I heard there, right. A, start building your community as early as you possibly can. Having a community management, understanding community, listening to community is key and essential. Toxicity, once it begins, it’s going to be hard to back in, back out of it. Right. It’s going to be hard to control. So tame that beast before you can. I love the stack that you were talking about. Obviously, having the proper tools in place are important. You mentioned about the dev, not crunch per se, right. But again, toxicity in the marketplace. There’s one other point I wanted to bring up, but I can’t remember that now because I’m talking too much here. But I think everything you’re oh, you know what you were mentioning? You talked about user acquisition costs, which is extremely high for these games. But what’s more important, and this recently came out in the Unity Gaming report is is retention rate, like you’re saying. It’s amazing how quickly people go from opening the game once to twice to none. Right. All of a sudden, you it’s shocking when you actually see that graph. And it’s people don’t think about that. I think, hey, I got to acquire this user. I’m going to spend $15 on my user acquisition costs. And the next day they’re gone. It’s like, oh, my God, how did I not think about the retention side of things? So I think anyone listening, you had a lot of great nuggets in there, Josh. I think it’s a lot to digest and understand what makes the most sense.
40:08 Greg Posner And where do you where do you go from there? Yeah. And I think and I think here’s the thing. Here’s the thing. There is a lot to digest. This is a this is a kind of worms that it’s a rabbit hole that you can jump into. But I think the core thing is, and for anyone that’s getting started, has never even looked at this before, especially on the dev side. Look at tools like help shift. Look at tools like to have the services are there. Integrate them. That’s that’s like you don’t have to build this out yourself. You can. And I think once you get into really sort of and for a lot of our clients, they need a lot of custom solutions because they are handling a lot of player players. But, you know, there’s tools there to be used. So use them, you know, you don’t go. And here’s a point I like to make on this thing is you don’t go and build your own game engine. Most people don’t nowadays anyway, because why would you? So why would you do for your community care tools? Really? Why? You know, you got to really heavily consider that unless there’s a very good reason. Use the tools that are available. Speak to the experts that are working in this and have handled this at scale. And, you know, I think, yeah, the the guy is, you know, I help shift to have, you know, have that nailed down and like unity game and services as well. You know, integrating them all together with the likes of VVox and all these sorts of things is is amazing. And it will transform your game. And you just got to try it.
41:37 Josh Loveridge Yeah, we no matter what Sass company I ever worked for, right, including help shift, our biggest competitor was always companies trying to do it themselves. And it’s like your specialty is making games or in a previous company, your specialty was cosmetics or something this right. Like stick to your specialty and let us help you. Our specialty is right. If you’re going to help, if you’re going to try and build your own support tool, that means you’re taking people off your core game to build a support. Like focus on your specialty. And I think people want to do it all themselves. Right. And sometimes you got to trust the experts in what they what they can do.
42:10 Greg Posner Yeah, 100 percent. And I think and this is another thing that I like to say, you know, doing it yourself internally might seem more might might somehow seem more economical at first until you do it wrong. And then you need to get it redone again anyway. And then it ends up costing you more. That’s literally the core thing. You know, and I think that’s oftentimes people look at the numbers rather than looking at the actual end impact. And to be honest with you, services like, you know, help shift into it. It’s not like, you know, they’re crazy, crazy expensive. They’re very economical for a game stack. Like, you know, especially when you consider developer costs and how long these stuff take to build, you know, it takes time. You know, it really does. And so, yeah, I think it’s just it is one of those things, though. People just want to do things themselves. And I think that’s a that’s a hard lesson.
43:02 Josh Loveridge Some people have to learn. Yeah, sometimes you got to fail following your fate. Like you said, you mentioned earlier this episode. Try it. If you fail, fail fast. Just know like you should try anything you want. Just if you’re going to fail, fail fast. That should be the key that you understand. Yeah, 100 percent. So I’m going to say what I’m witnessing in the industry right now. I’d like you to either correct me or kind of build upon it is that we are going into a much more focused on your your top players, your key players and making sure that they remain engaged. So we’ve done things like we used to call them whales and some people still will. But now more people are referring to them as VIPs and they’re much more proper terminology, I guess, for your players. And it seems like it’s a positive move and it seems like we’re coming into a much more player focused realm because we want to know who the gamer is. Does that sound accurate? Would you would you build upon that? Is that true?
43:54 Greg Posner Yeah, yeah, 100 percent. I think that, you know, that the early wild terminology was definitely an interesting one. I always thought that was something that was going to get happened there pretty quickly, but I definitely agree. I definitely think that, you know, gaming in 20, 23 is much different than it was five years ago. And we are moving towards a much more player centric. But it’s like traditional business, you know, which is focus on consumer centricity and when you’re talking in the gaming context, it’s player centricity. And that that’s a really good term for it is player centricity, which is keeping your players centric to everything that you do. And that is really if you have that mindset, even when you’re developing your game, whether you’re moderating dashboards, whatever it is, as long as you keep the player at the center of everything that you do, you will strive and you will do well, because that’s what players want. Players want to become part of your company and your game’s journey. They want to become custodians of it. And some of them invest much more money in it, which are the VIPs, the ones who are the spenders. But also there is people that don’t spend heavy amounts, but are still your brand champions. And it’s important we don’t forget about those players also, you know, and I think that really having that player centric approach is something that is is key now in 2023 and companies that aren’t doing that are starting to struggle and they’re starting to see their player count drop. You know, there’s a lot of games right now that have their player counts just getting sucked out of them because they’re not looking after this sort of stuff. And ultimately, it is a hard lesson that sometimes people got to learn that, you know, gaming has changed and you got to change with it. It’s like adaptor, you know, adaptor dies sort of thing.
45:43 Josh Loveridge Yeah, I’m enjoying seeing this in the marketplace, because it is as a player of games. I love gaming, right. It makes me feel like, hey, these companies know who I am. And it’s funny because we see we talk to our customers about the different types of segmentation they do. Right. And it used to just be VIP or silver or gold. But now we have influencer. We have brand brand advocate. Right. Like, like you said, it’s not about always spending the highest amount in game. It’s about talking about it’s about going over it and saying, hey, I just got this new card on Marvel Snap and I love it or I love this. Right. Like you’re building an audience for yourself and helping it bring to the game. So it’s important, I think, for companies understand money is great. Right. Never stop going after the money. But it’s also recognizing that user that’s helping bring in more players or make positive statements about the game.
46:32 Greg Posner 100% couldn’t agree more. And I think that that’s really it. Like, and I’m and this this is a funny story. Like, I remember early days among the projects we were working on, there was a player and that there was a player that was there and never spent really anything in the title. But what I always interested me because I’m always active in game discourse that we’re working on. And he always interested me because he was always there, always talking. What I actually we ended up in Blenton referral program in the game. What we found out was this player was one of the biggest referrers in the whole title. They talked to everyone about the title, but yet they didn’t spend. But the downtime at the downpipe LTV of that consumer was unbelievably high, higher than some of the even biggest VIPs. And that is also a VIP in my eyes. You know, someone who was going out, doing your hard work for you. The easiest way, you know, people by people. And if someone is talking really good about your product, you should be elevating them and helping them do that. Make them your brand champion. Give them the sword and shield to do that. And they will go out and become, you know, go to battle for you,
47:43 Josh Loveridge which is really, really awesome. Yeah. So so more all that one, right? Just it’s not just about the players that spend money. It’s the players that are out there fishing, hunting, finding more players for you and speaking positive, because they’re going to probably bring more value in the long term than maybe someone that spends five, ten bucks every few months in app. I know we’re coming to the top of the hour and I have so many more things I can talk to you about, but but I always like to end with the same type of question. And that is, are there any trends in the industry that are keeping you up at night?
48:13 Greg Posner Right now, right now, I think what keeps me up at night right now, honestly, is the amount of technological change and transformation that we’re going through right now. It is unbelievable. Everything is moving so quickly that I want to be ahead of it all. And that is keeping me up at night. I can definitely tell you that much. You know, there’s a lot of problems to be solved. But it’s almost like literally what we’re like right now internally is Pandora’s box been opened. And we want to we want to grab everything that’s inside of it and play with it. And, you know, and really see, OK, how can we change our customers business by by implementing this? How can we because our customers are coming to us and they’re saying, hey, listen, Josh, tell me what how can I use this? Should I even be looking at a should I be looking at block chain? Should I be looking at these sorts of tools or should we just go back to the way we’ve always done things? And then even like on other side of things like, you know, and this is quite of a sleeper one this year, like Unity Game and Services has launched like a heavy update to their stack this year with netcom. Multiply all these core things like a lot of these things have gone unnoticed. And it’s like that’s changing the way we do things in game. That’s another major provider that’s there. And it’s simplifying the game that pipeline. So it’s not just about these cool new technologies. It’s about the technologies we’re already using are getting better, faster and more economical, which is super awesome to see. Empowering developers to deliver what they love and enjoy, which is awesome.
49:50 Josh Loveridge There is not enough time in a day for for any of this, Josh. Kudos to you for being able to keep up on that and figure all that. So to finish this off, Josh, you’ve been an inspiration to me. And I know we never actually physically met, but I got to hear you talk at the community clubhouse that we hosted at GDC. And I always thought about being in gaming. And when I heard you talk, it’s what I imagined 10 year old Greg should have done or should have been motivated to do something that love gaming and hearing someone that did it and made it their own is it’s really amazing to me, I’d love for more kids to listen to something like this and understand that anyone can do this right. It’s not my biggest fear of going to gaming was I didn’t know how to code, but you don’t need to necessarily know how to code, especially these days with things like co-pilot and GitHub and these other tools that are available. It’s becoming easier and easier. So I really would highly recommend anyone that’s listening to this. Go find more content from Josh online. He speaks very well. There’s tons of that, there’s tons of YouTube videos, tons of tons of Spotify podcast, so I really do appreciate you coming on, Josh. This was such an exciting time for me, and I’m excited that you’re coming on to this. Is there anything else in general you want to share or plug or?
50:58 Greg Posner I think, yeah, I think the core thing for me and I always like to leave. I always like to leave on I always like to leave in a quote, a nice quote. And one quote that I’ve loved lately, I really have. And I’m a big man for quotes. You know, I I’m kind of one of them dudes where I’ll pace around and I’ll say to myself, I have to, I really will. And one thing that I’ve been talking to a lot of people getting into the industry lately and I’ve been saying to them is that if you believe you can, you’re halfway there, which is a powerful statement. And if you really break that down, if you believe that you can do this and you have the core vision and you’re willing to put in the hard work, you can achieve what you want. And that goes to about not only people starting in the industry, that’s someone who’s at the top of their career. Push harder, push faster, push quicker and you will get there. Don’t be afraid to fail because, you know, one thing that’s worse than failing is regretting that you didn’t try. And that’s a yeah, that’s something that I yeah, that’s a big one for me lately.
51:57 Josh Loveridge I love it. I will have a whole post it, the whole thing of post it. Not that I write quotes that I hear on so I could just quickly reference them. So, Josh, thank you again for for coming on today. For anyone that’s interested, we’ll have information about Josh, as well as Stratton Studios and Love Bridge Digital on our website. Thanks. And Josh, thanks for being on here and have a great day. You have a great day, too.