Question Time: Gerry Sakkas

Today's Question Time is with PlaySide CEO Gerry Sakkas, someone who has packed plenty into the first 25 years of his life. He's gone from working with EA at Visceral to starting up his own company, to getting a publishing deal with Chillingo for his company's first iOS title Catch the Ark. Today, you can ask him (almost) anything!

Gerry Sakkas is the CEO of PlaySide Studios, a development house in Melbourne made up of ex-EA Visceral team members. Its soon to be released title for iOS has also just scored a publishing deal with the biggest mobile publisher Chillingo.

At the age of 25 he is one of the youngest CEOs in Australia and he is as entrepreneurial as they come! With the launch of Catch the Ark this Christmas PlaySide may be on its way to become one of the major player in the Australian games industry.

Drop your questions in the comments below, and Gerry will get back to you!


Comments

    What's the scariest part of going independent?

      I think going independent has its positives and its negatives. The scariest thing about it is perhaps knowing that (for the first title at least) the entire studios is going to ride off of the success of the first title. That title needs to not only be the best you can possibly make it, but it needs to be the right product for the current climate of the marketplace you are delivering it too. Not only that, even if the game is amazing, you still need to flip a coin and hope that Angry Birds 2 or World of Warcraft iOS don't ship on the same day!

    Do you have any irrational fears and how could someone exploit them for the greatest financial gain?

      Sharks. I fear that one day they will find me and kill me. So I guess for now I can stay away from them by not entering their play house. But if someone can genetically engineer them to breathe and walk on land... Then we have a serious issue

    Seeing as the Apple Store is flooded with constant Temple Run clones, what makes you think Catch the Ark will be any different from the various fail attempts made by other studios?

      Thanks for this questions James. I agree with you whole heartedly. If I see anther agent dash, rail rush or pyramid run. I'm going to lose all faith in humanity.

      Aside from being endless. That's about as close as we are to temple run. Our game does as much as it can to distance itself from the competition.

      Catch The Ark is really about the characters and the story, I had that before I even knew what the game was yet. It's funny most people who play it actually compare it to Mario Kart, Diddy Kong Racing or Crash Bandicoot, so far no one has said it is like temple run. Which hopefully mean we have succeeded! Hopefully come December you can let me know :)

        Most people who actually play it compare it to Mario Kart or Diddy Kong Racing? I Would like to know who your internal testing team is because surely one can't compare two of the most fantastic RACING games to a "never ending" temple run-esque game that has "Characters" and "Stories" that essentially nobody really takes any notice of or actually has an interest in an iOS game.

        Whilst I applaud your work and efforts, I think that your RND Department / aspect, or whoever they may be, should have actually RND'd on Mobile Gaming.

          While I respect your reply. I also don't agree. As I said we have done everything in our game to ensure that it is nothing like temple run. I think you are better off waiting until you have actually played the game or at least seen a video to see what I mean.

            I think I agree with James on this one. As much as you try to can try to market the game as "not a Temple Run clone" at the end of the day the first key feature of the game is that it's an Endless Runner and this will be the point where you will lose the majority of your potential sales because the other features/mechanics that differentiate it don't seem to be as showcased as the fact that the game is an endless runner.

            All I know about this game is that "it's an Endless runner" with a difference (apparently). No where on your website or in any article does it elaborate on any feature past Endless runner, and if you have then I feel you've failed in marketing this game as the "Different endless runner" you're claiming it to be.

            Don't get me wrong, I am indeed interested but I feel your marketing may work against you rather than for you.

            One thing you'll need to learn as an independent developer is that generally the public makes some rather fantastic suggestions. Feel free to disagree all you like, opinions are never wrong.

            Whilst the game, as you say, may not be like temple run, it most certainly is nothing like a Multiplayer Racing Game as stated in your previous comments.

            You know why the most mindless quick and easy games are top of the charts in any mobile gaming app store? Because they are what they are, mindless quick pick up drop down 2 minute games. IF you believe having a Story and people will actually have some sort of connection to the Characters then you've not done your research.

            Let me ask you this, if you've played various mobile games that is, when was the last time you actually considered or remotely cared about a story or character in a mobile app game ?

            Even with the RPG's available, whether or not they are Story driven, or characters actually mean something, the way the market currently works doesn't suggest there is actually any real value in focusing on story other than replayability / gameplay / addictiveness of a game.

            Best of Luck.

    What level of sales would be considered necessary for the first release of an independent studio?

      This is a really good question! To be honest. My mind changes about this every single day. One thing I think everyone needs to u understand, is that 1 million sales isn't 1 million dollars. After Apple, the publisher, any extra government funding, tax.... Is paid back.... You would be lucky to buy a couple hot dogs at your local fish and chip shop. Haha no honestly a million sales would be a good starting point, it would be enough to keep the studio going / hire more people and make extra titles on the side. Anything less than a million and it starts to get tricky.

      Another thing you want to keep in mind is merchandising. We created catch the ark with a franchise and merchandising as a firm backbone for the entire game. From how the characters look, down to wether they have fingers so they can hold objects in other games or toys.

      Angry birds has probably made more money off their toys now than the ever did off the app. That's a very good position to be in! I would encourage everyone making a game to ask yourself how the game would look as a movie or a toy.

    Is it true you're incredibly good looking?

      Very !

    I have been following Catch the Ark for awhile and I feel that it has been hyped up quite alot. I can see there has been a fair amount of money injected into marketing. Do you feel that maybe too much might have gone into marketing and this might've detracted from the games production quality? Is there the fear that the game will be over hyped and will never meet the expectations of the public?

      Hey Trubio. To be 100% honest with you. We haven't spent a single cent on marketing at all! And we have only just got on board with chillingo as well. I think people have really just gotten behind the fact that we were from one of the studios that closed down in the great Australian Games industry closures of 2011 and we are doing something pro active and new instead of just moving overseas to find work.

      I agree sometimes too much hype is a bad thing. I think in this case we have really made a great game and hopefully it will be really well received, even more so than the hype leading up to it!

        That's good that you didn't spend a cent on marketing and all this press attention has come about organically.

        My suggestion is that it's probably been time for awhile now to put your money where your mouth is and release a video or allow the media a hands-on-preview to showcase on their site your game. If it is truly as incredible as you say it is then revealing aspects of the game early should not hurt it at all.

        Secondly, are you hoping to make an appearance at PAX Australia next year to showcase maybe the next project or plans for Playside Australia?

    What advice can you give to someone straight out of Uni, coming into the industry? What's the first step? Thanks!

      Finally a question that actually helps people! Liam I'm not going to lie to you, it's going to be really hard... There is an abundance of talent right now in the industry due to all the studios closing down and the fact that their aren't many jobs available for them. So any time there is a new job position available all 100 or so of them apply.

      Don't let that get you down though. Coming out of uni you are in a really good position to do an internship at a smaller studio and most of the time if you can impress them then when they need that role in the future you will be the first person they call.

      I am a big believer in talent. So if I can bring an intern into my studio that shows a considerable amount of talent and can work well with my staff then experience (for some roles) may not always be what I look for!

      Good luck Liam

    So you went from EA, to indie, to now working with EA again (Chillingo). You must like those guys :P

      Haha. EA will always be a part of me and it will always be where I learnt the majority of my skills as a designer. They really looked after us when we shut down so I have a lot of respect for them because of that.

      As for chillingo so far they have been an amazing team to work with!

    Have you always had an entrepreneurial instinct or is it something that you have learned and developed over the course of your career?

      I think it's something i always had in me. But I think the Australian games industry conditioned me to think more about what I wanted to get out of this whole experience. Was it to make games for other people for my whole life? Or was it to make things I wanted to make? Everyone would obviously choose the secondary option. But finding funding and getting a business running is one of the hardest things on earth. It's about getting the right team around you to make it all worth it!

    This guy needs to get a grip his picture just shows his arrogance. The game is crap as and is a carbon copy of Temple Run as much as he says it is not. Peace Wankkas

    Gerry,
    how did you make all the animations for Icy Ropes? i am a 14 year old programmer and want to know how you did that... is there source code or can i have some?
    thanks
    email me at: [email protected]

Join the discussion!