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A new type of gaming platform
Yo! We’ve got another interview for you today, but this time it’s a tiny bit different. VoxPop Games is a peer-to-peer game distribution and development platform with a difference. The platform aims to empower both indie devs and streamers by giving them a chunk of their future income upfront, allowing them to stop worrying about the bills and instead concentrate on making quality content.
We came across the platform while researching our last interview with Lilith’s Child Game Studios (their fantastic game The Light will lead you HOME is available on their Storefront now)) and we were thoroughly impressed with the idea behind it. So we spoke to Charles Yu (founder and CEO) and Marc Anthony Rodriguez (co-founder and COO) to give us the lowdown on how it all works.
First of all, tell us a bit about yourselves, how you got involved in the games industry and any other projects you've been involved in before.
CY: My dream was always to be an indie dev of course, and I worked on a couple projects that went onto itch.io and the app store. This was all well and good back when I was a student, but as I reached graduation, I hit a problem: advertising. I never had much money to advertise my projects, and so without an existing online audience, they went nowhere. I tried giving free copies to influencers, but they were all worried about keeping their own channels afloat, and weren’t about to do me a favor. I was just about ready to give up.
That’s when I thought to myself: wouldn’t it be great if there was a platform that could use my future earnings to help me advertise, now?
MR: I started by career back in 2005, fresh out of college with Rockstar Games as a Game Analyst, part of the Production & Quality Assurance teams. Working on every major release, GTA, RDR, Warriors, Bully, up until 2010, where I moved to San Francisco to work to expand the Capcom USA Product Development and Content Analysis team.
I worked between Osaka, JPN & San Mateo offices to expand Western Development and ensure that all products that came out of the Capcom Vancouver Offices were catered to American gamer wants & needs, while also serving as a bridge to the Japanese mainline games from Osaka’s Dev house. I was a part of that team until 2015, then made my way to launch the MMORPG centric, Arc Games platform from Perfect World Entertainment, moving back to NYC to hop into Video streaming with MLBAM, launching HBONOW, WWE Network, and evolving into launching Disney Plus.
I met Charles via my indie gaming consulting agency GrummelWrks, in 2019 and became COO & Co-Founder of VoxPop Games, Inc., New York State’s first & only, profit sharing independent games distribution & development platform, Brooklyn born and ready to disrupt the status quo.
VoxPop Games is an incredible idea; can you summarize what it is in your own words?
CY: VoxPop allows indie devs, who often have very little money in-pocket, to use their future revenue to drive marketing.
The way it works is simple – a users get a link which shows other people the games that they are recommending. This link can go anywhere a Patreon or a Ko-Fi can. Whenever somebody buys a game under your recommendation, you get a developer-set percentage of the sale. Developers can even give specific percentages to specific users as a negotiating tool to engage streamers and YouTubers. (Something like: “Hey most people get 5% of my game each sale, but if you stream my game, I’ll give you 20%!”)
A profit-sharing model has many more applications than just affiliate marketing though! We have many plans for how we can extend this model in the future. For example, developers can use it to easily find collaborators to help them work on a project, and pay them by a percentage of the sale. Alternatively, it can be applied to crowdfunding, with backers taking some equity in the project. In all cases, dividends can be paid automatically to all parties upon the completion of each sale.
MR: VoxPop is the “voice of the people” it is a new technology, storefront, community that is catered to enhance the voice of the smaller creative. The truly independent creator, whether it is game developer, content creator, live video streamer, or just general user, there is a place for everyone on our platform.
How did the team form and where did the idea come from?
CY: As I stated earlier, prior to VoxPop, I was working for a venture capital firm called DHVC. Although the firm had a lot of areas of focus, I was on the blockchain investment team.
Primarily, I was reviewing whitepapers for new ERC-20 tokens, as well as attending their pitches going to events. It was very common element to the new tokens was affiliate structures. When user brought their friends on-board, they could profit. These pump-and dump tokens were basically ponzi schemes and they used their affiliate structure soley as a way to inflate the value of their coin before selling out. The entire value of the coin game from these early investors, which also made any tokens paid as incentives ultimately worthless.
Still, it was my first exposure to profit-sharing models, and while the Pump-and-Dump practice was ethnically dubious, I realized that with some modification, applying a profit-sharing model to gaming could help other indie devs with the pain points I experienced. Instead of selling false-promises like the ponzi schemes that were rocking the crypto-world, we could do it all with real money and a real commodity: video games.
Originally, VoxPop was going to be a blockchain company too, but we realized that when you’re actually trying to build something real, the technology just holds the model back. Not only is building and maintaining a blockchain platform significantly more expensive, the positives are basically negligible when you’re working with real money. The blockchain ledger is ultimately unnecessary to make an affiliate system possible, and the gaming community was growing more and more crypto-skeptical. The model is strong enough to succeed without any gimmicks!
MR: This is truly Charles’ ideation soup to nuts, the idea was just so transformative, I knew I wanted to be a part of the build-up and roll-out. I have always felt there was a deepening gap in what gamers are being fed from huge publishers & storefronts, and where the true creatives inhabit. The space & community that VoxPop has cultivated in such a short time, is truly remarkable. A worldwide brand that envelopes all cultures & backgrounds of gaming, sharing in one voice of wanting to enjoy awesome, memorable, and worthwhile experiences. I have placed my fingerprints on what VoxPop has evolved into, but at its core we are still the place where developers have the best chance to be heard.
Could you tell us some success stories from indie games or streamers that started with you guys?
MR: There are quite a few successes from striking a deal with the ABLEGAMERS foundation to having a partnership with our “Made For” title WEAPONEER. Working to partner with newly established developer SpaceMicroscope studios to have SWORDCAR have an exclusive version only found on our Storefront, and for them to sign with Rogue Games for publishing. To having tournament streaming from content creatives from UK, Belgium, NYC & France simulcasting on our channels last year with KnockOut Party. The main thread of success seems to be that once the flywheel hits our platform is built and positioned with growth in mind. The next viral sensation in indie gaming will spring not from the Early Access’ of the world, but more so from the curated and cultivated community that VoxPop supports.
What is your vision for the platform?
CY: As I said above, A profit-sharing model has many more applications than just advertising!
For example, developers can use it to easily find collaborators to help them work on a project, and pay them by a percentage of the sale. Alternatively, it can be applied to crowdfunding, with backers taking some equity in the project. In all cases, dividends can be paid automatically to all parties upon the completion of each sale, reducing the burden and the cost of getting new games off the ground.
Ultimately, we want to become the one-stop-shop for all developers and gamers with an independent spirit. Big studios make great games, but they are stagnant. With so much money on the line, they avoid risks like the plague. Marginalized voices are never heard, unless the political winds shift just enough to make them marketable. New ideas are never shown, unless smaller, more enterprising creators pave the way first.
We want to make room all these silenced voices to be heard again, because only they have the power to push the medium forward.
MR: The vision has not changed since our protype to Beta release, we want to grow expand and are prepping to become the place for indie creatives. Expanding the team is always priority but without unnecessary bloat or oversight. The community drives the attention and clout for our brand & distribution platform, so cultivating more trust with as many people as possible is key. Having the partnerships that we have with trusted Publishers & new upstart Developers (post-Covid era) is something to be proud of, Streaming personalities & content creatives already see what we have to offer and utilizing our platform offerings like a ko-fi or Patreon is ready-made for those looking for new revenue opportunities with more freedom and time to create.
Do you have anything exciting happening in the short term? What are your next steps?
CY: We’re putting together a $5M fund for indie games!
We’re calling it the “VoxPop Fund.” The core idea is to microfund developers to help them put their MVP together, then linking with our other development and publishing partners to get them finished. We’re hoping the fund can be a real force for good. Bigger studios pass by any and all new ideas – we’re going to root around and find the hidden gems.
Right now, we’re still fundraising and laying the groundwork. Our first closing was modest, but the fund already has it’s first beneficiary! It’s working title is REMNANT: Beyond Gray Death. This Vampire Survivor inspired exploration shooter is actually a spiritual successor to a game that’s already on our platform – The Gray Death. Sign up for VoxPop now and you can download it for free to get a look at the creator’s other work.
MR: Next steps & Coming Soon news can always be found via our Social Channels, the core items are always getting the word out about our platform to as many users as possible, gamers, industry vets, content creatives, streamers, all are welcomed. We will want to tease a few items here so please be on the lookout over the next few weeks for major announcements with our core “Made For” Exclusives and gearing up for some exciting reveals of “Developer & Streamer Spotlights”. Please be sure to sign-up & WISHLIST (smash the heart icon) via the VoxPop Web Store & our Client App.
What types or genres of games do you see most on the platform?
CY: I think you’d be hard pressed to define VoxPop by one single genre! We’re full of experimental spunk, coming in from all corners of the world. Truth be told, it would be easier to say what games we don’t have a lot of. (Yet!)
Online multiplayer is expensive to develop and maintain, so only a few games in our roster offer it. We’re working on getting more multiplayer games though – including the first beneficiary of the aforementioned VoxPop fund: REMNANT, a Vampire Survivors inspired exploration bullet-hell. Remnant will feature online co-op play, planned to release as a free update after the game itself.
MR: We have a wide selection of everything in terms of Game loop from Art House to Triple-I styled publisher titles. The most trafficked games and high purchase rate seem to be Indie Action Adventure, single player horror styled games, lo-fi jump scares for meme material and solid player feedback titles that you can return to.
Finally, which games or figures in the industry have inspired you most?
CY: The first game that really got me thinking about the potential games had to communicate ideas was an old flash game, called “Everyday the Same Dream.”
The premise is that the same is a time loop. The hero wakes up, gets dressed for work, gets stuck in traffic, sits down at the office, then wakes up in bed again. As long as the player plays it like a side scrolling adventure game – just advancing and interacting with everything – it will keep looping over and over. To break the loop, the player needs to do unconventional things.
One of those things is walking left.
It sounds so obvious in retrospect, but playing it as a kid, in my first 5 or so loops I never even thought about doing that. In every side scroller I’d ever played, you walked to the right – it was a genre convention. EDtSD even primes you to think about it in those terms by starting you on the left side of the screen and making the exit to your room on the right.
The moment when I realized I just had to walk left made me reflect on all the previous games I played, and how they set my expectations for what was possible. Had I not been a gamer, walking left might have been one of the first things I tried. This game made me realize that there was a hidden language in video games, and that designers could take advantage of those conventions to convey a message. It was the first time I seriously thought about becoming a game designer myself.
Everyday the Same Dream was designed by Paolo Pedercini.
MR: I have said this in multiple interviews, podcasts & alluded to in my TEDX talk that the most influential title in my life is Super Punch-Out for the SNES. It combines music rhythm timed based combat with over-the-top art styles and is directly responsible for my hiring at Rockstar Games. When Rockstar’s grouping of 200 interview candidates in 2005 were asked “what is your favorite game” during the interview process, everyone pretty much stated, “well of course GTA, HALO, et al (insert big budget game name here)” and I went the most viable route, the baseline truth.
That game made me fall in love with games as a transformative art form that is unmatched by any other media, it made me want to work in the video game industry and it became a beacon of hope for my full career, that I can always return to. The game that shares similar DNA is “Guardians of Lodino Forest” the “Made For VoxPop Games” edition only on our platform, this is a game loop that I can return to for years and years and always find something new in it’s simplicity. I want to have this kind of artistic expression be at the forefront of every developer that signs with us, in knowing we will do our most to get your game to as many open minded and game hungry person out there.
Thanks so much to Charles and Marc for giving us such an in-depth insight to their platform. We highly recommend you head here to download it and check out some of the games on offer.
Also, if you’d like to support our work, I recently started a ko-fi page to try and help us raise funds to get to EGX London in September. Any support would be greatly appreciated. You can also join us on Twitter, Discord and in the comments below to get involved with the discussion.