In 2007, the arrival of the iPhone changed casual gaming, rapidly expanding the audience and changing the way that games were developed. Suddenly there were no boundaries, and success could be unlimited. Oli says, “The iPhone catapulted the opportunities to make money from gaming. If a 59 pence game got 100,000 downloads, it would make £59,000. So I thought, let’s leave and give it a go – and I set up Neon Play.”
Knowing that he didn’t have a technical bone in his body, “I’m more of an ideas guy”, Oli put an ad out with a recruiter for a business partner. After sifting through hundreds of CVs of unsuitable applicants, he found only one appropriate match. The applicant, Mark Allen, had just spent five years working in the States for a large console company, but was ready to come back to the UK.
When Oli got in contact, Mark had already been offered a position on a large salary with very large games company; yet he managed to persuade him of his long term vision at Neon Play, and the potential of the company. To this day, Oli still appreciates Mark’s partnership: “I really don’t know what we would be doing or where the company would be today, if Mark had not replied to that job ad.”
Oli went on a holiday with a blank notebook, and came back with over 100 ideas for games. On returning, they looked at the notebook and with the World Cup coming up in 2010, they decided to make a football game. Neither had made a mobile app before, but they got to work in Oli’s kitchen and hired freelancers to do the 2D and 3D artwork and soon they had their first app, Flick Football.
Neon Play employed social sharing mechanics into their games from the start, but they knew that it wouldn’t be enough to make an impact, so they looked for a launch partner with a reputable name. They found one in the casual games giant Miniclip and shortly after its launch, Flick Football secured a spot in the top 5 of the paid app store charts. Topping Angry Birds at one point, its success gave them the capital to take on two employees and get their first office.
Oli stresses that a mobile app business has its advantages when it comes to financials: “The money is transferred by Apple and Google every month, there’s no chasing invoices, and with a digital company, there’s no stock and no distribution costs.”
At the moment Neon Play are in the middle of building a high-quality freemium game which Oli hopes will make serious waves in the app stores. The market has developed since Oli started out and today the freemium games with depth, such as Clash of Clans and Candy Crush, are the ones that keep people playing for long periods of time. Despite these changes, Neon Play has managed to adapt and still competes with the giants.
Today, they have over half a million followers across Facebook and Twitter and some exceptionally successful games in their portfolio. Fifteen have over a million downloads and in total they have over 53 million downloads, a huge achievement for such a small company.
Four years on, Oli has found he succeeded in his initial quest to make his work more enjoyable, even after the initial excitement wore off. “It’s really important to work to live rather than live to work. If you find a job you really enjoy, you will enjoy life more. I know everyone says it but you only live once, and it’s true..it’s so true.”