Jump, an on-demand game subscription service with indie games at the forefront, launches today. The launch lineup has more than 60 games including The End Is Nigh from Ed McMillen and Tyler Glaiel, Ittle Dew, Beholder, Lyne, and 6180 to the Moon. Perhaps, the most interesting playable game is Stunt Runner from Kermdinger Studios. Originally, in development for PlayStation Vita and Steam, Stunt Runner was never released since the team could not find funding to market their game. This inspired Anthony Palma, CEO of Jump, to create a system like Netflix, but for games. Siliconera spoke with Palma and Mike Fischer, an advisor to Jump and former CEO of Square Enix USA, about creating the service.
Before creating Jump, you were an indie game developer. Can you tell us about your game?
Anthony Palma, CEO of Jump: We founded the company back in 2012 as an indie studio. The game was called Stunt Runner and it launches [today] on Jump, so it’s kind of like a double launch. Stunt Runner is almost like a Rube Goldberg machine building game. You are this washed up stuntman guy, Smash Johnson, and he wants to revive his career. You would start every level at a certain point and have to get him to another point, but it wasn’t a platformer so you didn’t control him. You would put down a bunch of objects like a trampoline or a jet pack and then when you yell “action” he would run through the scene and hit the objects you placed until he got to the end.
We started building that, but we quickly realized being an indie dev was going to be extremely difficult. This was around when Steam Greenlight launched and when we were getting ready to launch ourselves. We got through the Greenlight process, but the major issues were we didn’t have a marketing budget and we knew couldn’t push it out there. It was a good game, it was fun, but it wasn’t going to be a hit seller. We weren’t going to make our money back by the estimates we put out. That’s when we decided to get other jobs and pivot elsewhere. We always wanted to do something in the indie space, but we realized it was going to be difficult to pull off.
Mike Fischer, Advisor: That game is so fun. And I would have never picked up that game on my own. It’s a crazy mix of puzzler and parkour. The last time I had a game that felt like this was the original Prince of Persia with a sense of humor all of its own.
As a former developer, how does Jump benefit developers?
With Jump, we want them to have an additional revenue stream. We not trying to bring games to Jump instead of premium sales, but we want them to come after premium sales so they have all of the sales they can get out of purchases and then bring their game to Jump almost like bringing a movie to Netflix or HBO after it leaves the theaters. That revenue stream doesn’t exist right now and we want to create that for developers.
How does Jump pick games?
AP: We have three objective qualifications. The first is has it won any awards – IGF, Indiecade, anything along those lines. The second is if it’s highly rated – 7 out of 10 on Steam or Metacritic and the third is if it is a runaway seller. If it sold a million copies regardless of the other two, it’s a game people wanted to play. It’s an objective way to put a line in the sand and say this is the kind of quality of game we want on the platform. Curation is really important given how much content is out there and the frustration with Steam users with how much shovelware is out there.
Jump will launch with around 60 games. What are your plans for future titles?
AP: We’re going to continue to add to our line up with 10 games a month, but we’re not going to overwhelm it. I think it’s important to add games linearly so indie devs aren’t getting buried when they come to the service. We want the quality of the games to be important over than the quantity. The average game, I’d say is ten bucks on Steam. What I like to say is for ten bucks a month you can get 10 games on our platform and even if you only like one of them it’s still the same price you would pay on Steam or another platform. We want to look for quality which is a big challenge these days for users. We’ll curate on your behalf and as we get more user data we’ll feed you games based on what you like to play in the past.
Will Jump only have indie games?
AP: Our technology doesn’t limit us to any particular type of game. This includes all retro games. This includes mid-tier to high-tier AAA games. All of that can be done through the technology we use and as we expand to new platforms and devices which we’ll also be announcing over the next six to twelve months it’s going to open opportunities for all kinds of different content. While we’re launching on desktop with indie games as our exclusives and indies will always be the focus as we grow, we are actively looking at other types of content right now. We’ll have more to talk about three to six months on that front. Indies are going to be the biggest part of what we’re doing because it’s where there is a lot of innovation happens in gameplay, style, and art. We want to make sure they are at the forefront and not getting buried.
What problems do indie developers face now that they didn’t face five years ago?
AP: I think even premium games, especially on desktop or Steam, are struggling just as much as free to play games on mobile now. I think the market is incredibly saturated. It’s really hard to poke through. I saw a statistic the other day where 1,300 games launched on Steam since Steam Direct launched in May. That’s insane! The biggest challenge they face is discoverability. It’s very hard to get your game found. It’s hard to get the attention of media now, the traditional press is changing, and even the way people approach streamers and YouTubers is changing. We know it’s an ever adapting market, but even high level developers are not able to breakthrough the way their original games could five years ago.
MF: I’ve been pretty busily involved as an advisor and investor into a couple of indie developer studios. I started down this path after my time at Epic Games. There have been a couple of factors that have been driving a renaissance in games and I’m certainly not the first person to make this observation. On one hand, you have the ability to use game engines like Unreal or Unity to develop games. Both from an economic standpoint, because the licensing structure for those engines are really indie friendly, and from a technology standpoint it allows small teams to make games that would require many more people in the past. Combined with not having a big retail distribution system or to manufacture disks and new modes of distribution. Steam was a big driver, then there was Humble Bundle and now there is Jump.
It’s easier to make a game, it’s easier to distribute a game, and with social media you don’t need millions of dollars to market. As a publisher at a number of different companies, I can’t tell you how many games there were that I wanted to green light, but I wasn’t able to because a product WalMart would take or Target would distribute or would be mass market enough for a TV campaign. What I love now is Jump allows games like that to be discovered.
There is a proliferation of indie games out there because people see those opportunities and are taking advantage of them. There is an issue about discoverability and I think something like Jump makes that easier because you have the opportunity to try lots of games yourself without having to buy it or potentially return it. You can think of it like snacking on a lot of foods before you buy it.
What advice would you give to indie developers today?
AP: The biggest thing to focus on is to try to understand as much of the business as you can before you launch a game. It’s not just making a good game. You have to understand your marketing channels, your audience, the right time to launch and working with a PR agency. It goes so much farther than making a game now. I still think premium sales are viable across a lot of devices, console and Steam included, it just about getting discovered and that comes from understanding everything outside the game itself.