The Risk Taker: ClutchPlay CEO Amy Dallas

Developer Stories

March 1, 2015


min read

This is the first installment in our Game Changers series, which spotlights the real heroes of the mobile gaming community ? indie developers. Read on for tips and insights from small studios that are scoring big wins in the industry.In 2012, Amy Dallas made a daring leap: She ditched her stable gig as a producer of the Sims franchise at EA and moved to Portland, where she co-founded her own independent studio, ClutchPlay, along with three engineers. ClutchPlay?s first game, Little Chomp, debuted to great critical success and its latest release, Skullduggery!, was selected as an Editor's Choice game in Apple's App Store. We caught up with the ClutchPlay CEO to learn more about the biggest challenges she's faced as an indie game developer and the marketing lessons she's learned on the fly.What makes your games special?One of the things we wanted to do as an indie studio was to focus on making unique experiences. We?ve taken a different approach by [starting with] a recognized type of game play on mobile and applying it to a different genre in a unique way. Our latest game, Skullduggery!, is a great example. When we started that game, we knew we wanted to make a platformer, but as we began to prototype it, we realized that the control scheme (which like most mobile platformers started out as a virtual joystick) didn't feel satisfying on a touchscreen device. That lead us to try different things, including taking the physics-based slingshot mechanic, made famous in Angry Birds, and using that as our control scheme. That's when we knew we were on to something. Suddenly the game felt really twitchy and fast and a whole lot more interesting. We're really pleased with the result. I describe it as if Angry Birds and Super Mario [were thrown] into a demented blender. It?s different. It?s unexpected.What's the most exciting challenge you?ve faced since going out on your own?The most exciting challenge has also been the scariest: going from a corporate environment where we just had to make a good game to the indie world where we not only had to make a good game, but we also had to market it. We?ve had to let the world know about us. We?ve had to establish ourselves as a credible company that makes cool stuff. And we didn't know how to do that.So how'd you figure it out?As indie developers, we've learned that you need to build excitement around your game well before it comes out. If you start trying to market your game when you launch it ? it?s already too late. Once a game is live, nobody really cares about it (unless something spectacular happens like some celebrity starts playing your game). You need to start marketing your game months in advance of actually putting it out there. This was a lesson we absolutely learned the hard way.Your partners are all engineers. Does that mean you're very data-driven?Definitely. One of the reasons we released Skullduggery! as free-to-play and ad-supported on Android, for example, is due to the the analytics we saw on our first game. Although that game only cost a dollar, analytics showed that for every one person who would pay us that dollar, over 140 people would pirate the game. That?s an amazing statistic, and it basically made the decision for us in the Android version.What excites you the most about the future of mobile gaming?On the one hand, there?s a lot to be excited about. But there?s also a lot that?s really scary about mobile ... it?s such a difficult market to survive and thrive in. But the thing that?s scary about it is also the thing that?s really great ? it?s constantly growing and changing. The devices are changing. The gaming platforms are changing. The customer bases are changing. I think it?s cool that things are always evolving.Quick facts about Amy:

  • The game I?m secretly addicted to right now is Puppet Punch. Perfect for those moments when you just want to punch the crap out of a puppet because we've all been there, right?
  • My mobile device of choice is my iPad because it's just a better gaming experience.
  • I get inspiration from my business partners, who are all quirky and funny and weird.
  • My professional idol or superhero is Sarah Koenig from This American Life and Serial. I want to be her when I grow up.
  • If I had an actual super power I would choose mind-reading because I always want to know what makes people tick.