Taking SOLID chances
Dajana Dimovska looks like a person in balance with herself. And she should be. KnapNok Games, the game developer company where she is CEO, has just released their latest game, Affordable Space Adventures, to critical acclaim across the globe. Reviewers from media outlets as big as The Guardian and Washington Post have been praising the game’s innovative use of the Wii U Gamepad controller, and the overall quality and fun of the game.
But some of the stepping stones that contributed to making Affordable Space Adventures such a big success might not have happened, had KnapNok Games not been a part of the SOLID program. A program hosted by Interactive Denmark aimed at Danish companies in the business of creating interactive content. A program tailored to help them deal with some of the challenges that they are facing, as they emerge from the startup phase of their existance and become more consolidated.
In KnapNok’s case this both meant, that they could sit down and get some strategic things in order, that they had been meaning to do for a long time, but also that they could allow themselves to take a couple of chances. Do things that they might not otherwise have done, had it not been for the participation in the SOLID program.
Dajana tells that they were actually not even sure, if they should apply for SOLID or not. “As it always is, we were like ‘Oh my good, we are too busy for this, we don’t have the time’,” she explains. Especially since the application process for SOLID is quite elaborated, as it actually functions as the first step of the program itself. KnapNok wasn’t entirely sure what the specific contents of the program was either, and feared that it would feature the pitching training normally reserved for the beginners in the business. “And you know ... we’re over that stage,” Dajana says. “But we found out that what SOLID is, is actually pretty awesome. But until you have tried it you won’t really know, what it’s about.”
But in the end, KnapNok took the plunge, applied for the program and got accepted into it. And after realizing the true nature of SOLID, KnapNok began taking advantage of the program in earnest.
The first major achievement that SOLID helped KnapNok realize was to take the first steps towards the first ever systematized, structured, and written HR policy of the company. “We had been thinking about this for a while, but we definitely would not have done it, if we had not been in this program,” Dajana says. Just working on the HR guide has already given Dajana and the rest of KnapNok some new insights. “It has also made us much more clear about, what our culture is internally.”
“Doing this as a part of the SOLID program allowed us to sit down and actually think about these things,” Dajana tells. “Because even if you think about these things, being in the program allowed us to get them on paper and really think through, who we really are.” And Dajana is completely unambigously positive about having done it.
But the SOLID program also allowed KnapNok to try and take a chance at some new opportunities that might not have been available without the resources included in the program. One of those chances was, to be a part of the Indie Megabooth at the Gamescom conference in Germany. An international push which would probably not have been possible, if it was to be funded by KnapNok’s own tight budget for Affordable Space Adventures.
“We probably couldn’t have done it without SOLID,” Dajana says. “It was just too much of a risk at the time. But I love the fact that we got the opportunity. ”She explains that while it can be hard to judge the exact results of the initiative, the visit to Germany did generate a considerable amount of stories, which allowed them to build an early international buzz around the game, and they got a lot of people to playtest the game. “So there was definately a lot of positive effects for Affordable Space Adventures in general,” Dajana says, summing up the results of the participation in Gamescom.
“Oh, and then there was the whole Japan trip!” - The other big chance that the SOLID program allowed them to take. The last two games, that KnapNok has released, have been available exclusively on the eShop - game console maker Nintendo’s digital storefront. And like it is the case with the App Store and Google Play for mobile platforms, getting a good placement on the storefront is crucial. So KnapNok really wanted to meet some of the Japanese Nintendo executives. Both to talk with the people responsible for the hardware they were using, but also to build a connection to them that could result in a better placement on the eShop.
There was only one problem. “You can’t really schedule a meeting in Japan,” Dajana says. ”You can’t just get an appointment in their calendar. It more like ‘Oh, let us know if you are in the country, and we’ll see if we can set something up’. So it might not be worth it paying for a trip, because you don’t know, if you will be able to get an appointment! And then it also very hard to say, what effect it will actually have to meet them there.”
But KnapNok still felt like something was missing. “We’re publishing games in Japan, and Affordable Space Adventures was going to be published in Japan as well, so it just felt like a kind of disconnect that we had never met any of the people responsible for that,” she says. So KnapNok had actually already taken the decision that they needed to go to Japan at some point. But when it became possible to fund the expedition through SOLID, it could be done right away, even coinciding with the Tokyo Game Show - the biggest games conference in Japan.
And luckily everything turned out perfect. With Dajana in the country, it suddenly became possible to meet some of the higher-ups in Nintendo, as well as other relevant contacts in Japan. “And SOLID basically reduced the time we would normally spend analyzing pros, cons and cost, and allowed us to say ‘Let’s just do it!’,” Dajana exclaims.
“And that is what the SOLID program is good at. If you have some good ideas, you can just do it, instead of struggling with moving money, time and resources around,” she concludes.
“And for every single chance you take, you learn something, and you get something. And in the long run, it will probably also mean a lot. So being a part of the program was definitely a good thing.”