He was in 6th or 7th grade when he got his first Playstation, and Ravi Mantena went to the extreme of playing 12 hours a day. Now, he dedicates himself to his startup game studio, 9 Tail Studios, turning his passion into his career.
Ravi went to an engineering college, but it never sat right with him. In the end, he went to Singapore to study the gaming industry, because there were few opportunities for that kind of study in India. He worked 7 years as a game designed, including a year as a studio head.
While he was earning a lot as a game designer – and now is making less than half of that – he felt constrained creatively. The studio he worked at developed games based on Bollywood films, and so there wasn’t a lot of flexibility in doing what he wanted.
Ravi compares being a game designer to being a movie director – responsibilities include coming up with the stories, in-game monetization ideas, play strategies, and balancing of gameplay, among other things. It doesn’t involve the programming but provides the concept of the game and how it should be carried out.
From that position, he moved on to become a studio head at a company that produced casino-related games. As studio head, he oversaw the team that would produce the game, including artists and developers. His intention there was to learn the industry more thoroughly, and a year to the day after starting, he submitted his resignation with the intent of starting his own company. He quit in late December 2014 and started his company in February 2015.
Of course, leaving the security of another business meant, as it does with most entrepreneurs, a steep pay cut. Most of the revenue that 9 Tail Studios is making is invested back in the company, but at the same time, Ravi and his co-founder have been able to expand to a team of twelve people.
One of the biggest challenges that Ravi has faced is in creating revenue while also trying to create the games he wants to make. 9 Tail Studios has had to accept clients from outside – both for games and other development projects – to be able to have income. At the same time, this means they haven’t been able to focus as much as Ravi would like on building their own game ideas.
One of the projects he did was for a movie ticketing app. He saw the app and was convinced it could be greatly improved. With his team, they developed a new app – then presented it to the company, who fortunately were impressed and decided to hire him. It was a great risk – the investment of an entire month of time for Ravi and his staff – but at least it paid off in the end.
Still, money was an issue. Ravi and his partner each went through 15 lakhs of savings, and they went through three months with no clients. Toward the end of 2015, they started looking for funding and were fortunate enough to meet someone at a national gaming conference.
One of their big selling points was that they had made a connection with a gaming show in Korea, which has a huge audience. Through a simple tweet, Ravi was able to get a response and eventually an agreement that they’d help promote his upcoming game, “Guardians of the Dark”.
This game will be a mobile app, using the ideas of League of Legends and DOTA, but designed for 5 minutes of play, rather than 45, as it would be on a PC. Expected release will be in March of 2017.
Ravi has maintained his passion as a gamer even while working in the industry, although he limits himself to 1-2 hours a day of playing, and tries to play all new titles and learn from them. Among his favorites at the moment are World of Warcraft: Legion and Overwatch.
In the meantime, he’s also worked with his sister to set up a US business called Froto. It’s a photo-developing site, where users can upload photos and they’ll be printed and mailed for free. The income is generated through ads and coupons printed on the back of the photos. It has about 8000 users so far through social media promotion and word of mouth. Ravi says that at this point, it’s actually going better than 9 Tail Studios.
Advice for People Who Want to Make Games
- Never work on a game that you’d personally like to play; make a game that caters to a larger audience
Email: ravi [at] 9tailstudios [dot]com