By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Have you ever been stuck in an airport waiting area without anything to do? You’ve already read USA Today, caught-up on your email, and responded to all of the voice mails. What’s next?
If everything goes as planned, you may soon have the opportunity to play a new game on your mobile device featuring a “cool, fun, rock climbing lizard” that goes by the name of Lem.
The concept for “Lem’s Wall” is the brainchild of Scott Ewing, President and Chief Executive Officer of Oak Ridge-based Venture Incite, Inc., who saw the opportunity to fill a niche with what he calls “old style, good, fun games.”
The 20-year U.S. Navy veteran joined with Scott Williams, an alum of IBM, to launch Lookdown Media, LLC this past September as a digital entertainment and interactive software developer.
For Ewing, it’s a way to combine the technical expertise that he gained in the Navy with his more recent work performing technology due diligence and facilitating technology-based new product development for Venture Incite and a lifelong passion for storytelling and interesting games.
“I’ve spent my professional life involved in ‘left brain’ activities,” he explains. Those included aviation, space operations and telecommunications during his Navy career as well as later stints in financial services and real estate market analysis.
“I also grew up in a creative home (where my) father was an architect and my mother was a talented amateur painter,” Ewing said, adding that one of his majors in college was English, hence the interest in storytelling.
“And like most of us, I love good games,” he adds.
In a recent interview with teknovation.biz, Ewing explained that he and Williams asked a simple question: “Can we create a game?” Their answer was obviously “yes.” The second question was tougher: “Is there a business there?” They believe the answer is also “yes,” based on the way they are approaching the concept.
For one, Ewing cites the explosion in mobile devices worldwide and projections that the gaming industry will more than double from 2013 revenue of $3.5 billion to $7.5 billion by 2015. Games on handheld devices will also soon own 50 percent of the market.
Another distinguishing feature of Lookdown Media’s strategy is to refrain from becoming one of those gaming companies with a big studio and the resulting high overhead costs.
“We don’t believe you have to have million dollar graphics, just interesting games,” Ewing says. “We will be an indie game developer.”
An example of its lower cost strategy is how Lookdown found its programmers. The company literally placed a “Help Wanted” ad on oDesk and found Poland-based Mood Up Labs. After several Skype sessions, Ewing said they were convinced that Mood Up Labs could meet the needs.
Another important component of the Lookdown Media strategy is to refrain from producing what Ewing describes as “shoot ‘em up games.” He says the average age of those playing games on mobile devices is 30 years old, and there are more women players than men.
In spite of that fact, Ewing believes that “women are grossly underserved” by current games.
“We have an alpha version that we are playing with,” he said, adding. “We will have a play testable version (later) in 2014.”
Ewing says their goal is to develop small, simple, inexpensive games for the casual user who might have 20 minutes of available time. He says likely users are those who play Solitaire or Tetris.
Once the game is available commercially, Lookdown Media will have to convince people to use it. Ewing says that 90 percent of new games get little traction, but he does not seem too concerned.
“We’re confident of our business model,” he says. “We’re learning as we go, but it’s a lot of fun.”