Gary Burchell of Fireblade software spoke to us recently about his journey in games development.
The company was set up by Gary after he left Climax Studios. He’d worked there for over 13 years on a variety of projects, including the much-acclaimed AAA game Assassin’s Creed Chronicles. Resigning from his executive role wasn’t a decision he’d taken lightly; in fact, he’d grappled with the idea of going it alone for a number of years before finally making the leap in January 2016.
In the crucial opening months of business, Gary diligently worked on the aspects of running a games development studio that don’t involve games development; research, learning about accountancy, marketing and competitive analysis. All this was vital work in laying the foundations for a successful and ongoing business.
The studio’s first game, Abandon Ship, has been a huge success in the indie market. Taking into account that Gary has always been a games developer, he rolled up his sleeves and tackled the hard work of marketing the game alone. He spent hours, days and months fine tuning the messaging and branding, generating content for social media, copy for news stories and compiling lists of press contacts in the hope that enough coverage would generate sufficient demand to make the game a success.
Abandon Ship is a single player PC game where you take command of a ship and her crew, exploring and engaging other vessels, Sea Forts and Monsters in tactical battles, all framed in an art style inspired by classic naval oil paintings. A short version of the game was released in Early Access on to Steam (an online video games store), a standard process whereby customers can purchase the game in an unfinished state, and add the full release of the game to their Wish Lists.
Fireblade’s marketing efforts paid off; they were added to a huge number of Wish Lists and as a result quickly made it to number 4 in the Steam Global Top Sellers chart, meaning that they were featured on the front page of the store. The visibility this afforded the game cannot be underestimated; the impact on Wish List figures as a direct result of the feature are staggering – total additions tripled overnight.
The company continues to work on the title, moving it ever closer to the final version. Gary firmly believes that as an indie company Fireblade should live within its means. He runs the company in a lean fashion, with a small number of full time staff and calls upon the expertise of freelancers as and when needed. He knows from past experience the perils that indie dev studios can face; scaling up too quickly because of some project success can ultimately result in a studio’s demise.
Support from the UK Games Fund allowed the team at Fireblade Software to fully realise their vision without any distractions of raising capital elsewhere, which is crucially important in a market that is unbelievably competitive. It allowed them to self-publish and create income far quicker than they would have been able to otherwise, putting them in a strong position for future projects.