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VoxPop Games, which runs an game store for indies, announced a fund to support indie game development. It also named former Rockstar Games developer Jeronimo Barrera as chairman of its advisory board.
VoxPop hopes to disrupt the gaming market by creating systems for smaller content creators to prop up one another with peer-to-peer marketing and ad monetization.
Barrera brings two decades of experience as vice president of game development at Rockstar Games, where he helped build the company from its inception to an industry powerhouse. Barrera has a successful consulting agency with clients both in the indie and triple-A gaming space.
Charles Yu, cofounder and CEO of VoxPop Games, said in an interview with GamesBeat that it’s great to have advice from an industry legend like Barrera, who worked on everything from Red Dead Redemption to Grand Theft Auto. Barrera said he liked the potential of VoxPop, which is starting as a store but can move on to be so much more.
“What I see VoxPop is doing is an incredibly original idea,” said Barrera,in an interview with GamesBeat. “It’s not just a platform for selling games. It’s a platform for content creators to connect with developers, and basically share profits. They help them sell games at a level where the barrier to entry is very small. Right. At a time when news about getting rich quickly by jumping on this or that and selling tokens is popular, this is a really transparent and very simple idea.”
The VoxPop Games platform also announced the creation of a game fund designed to help spur
indie game development. With the creation of the fund, VoxPop Games hopes to go one step
further and provide direct funding to independently developed games with interesting concepts.
“VoxPop is an idea really born out of my desire to be an independent developer,” said Yu. “I realized how hard it was to get my games made, get them produced, get them out there. And VoxPop is a group of people who love games and know how hard it is to make them. The Vox Pop platform that is live now in beta contains tools that are designed to ease the pain that independent developers face.”
Games made in partnership with the VoxPop fund will be sold exclusively on the VoxPop platform for a time on release together with the games developed in-house in the future. The first game in the fund’s portfolio will be revealed at a later date.
A new distribution platform
VoxPop Games is a new game distribution and development platform, and it uses a peer-to-peer games
marketplace with a profit-sharing business model.
VoxPop primarily caters to independent developers who may not have the marketing budget to pursue traditional advertising as a model.
“Charles and Marc, along with the entire VoxPop team, have built a very impressive indie games
platform in only a couple years,” said Barrera. “It’s difficult to enter such a demanding sector but their vision convinced me that there is an evolution happening that will bring in traditional and new business models that can help more developers, content creators and gamers interact in progressive and positive ways not available anywhere else.”
Developers can promise a share of their profits to those who recommend their games, allowing them to drive their own affiliate marketing campaigns. Influencers who sign onto VoxPop get a link which directs users to their recommended games. This link can go anywhere a Patreon or Ko-Fi link might and offers an additional path to monetization from users who might otherwise be unwilling to donate for content.
“People can support the content that they love and the content creators that they love,” Yu said.
Barrera added, “Right now, it’s a platform for selling games. But what we have planned for the future using this technology is really going to change the way games can be made. So that’s something we’re going to talk about in the future. It’s part of the strategy.”
Yu said the profit-sharing business model allows the company to assist in multiple ways across the lifespan of the game’s development. The goal is to bring in all sides of the games ecosystem, whether they be game creators, or content creators, and really make a cohesive ecosystem where they can support each other.
The company first started in 2019, but real development began about midway through 2020, in the midst of the pandemic. It accelerated in 2021 when the company joined the F50 Elevate accelerator. The store has been live since March in beta form. The company hopes to formally launch in early 2023.
Asked why it was a long gestation, Yu said he spent a lot of time looking at different ecommerce models and blockchain gaming projects. He decided that blockchain technology — while it was extremely hot and lucrative — was unnecessary and expensive for a good indie platform.
“I do believe there’s going to be a killer NFT app at some point. You know, but our strengths are working with what’s available now,” Yu said.
He also said that crypto faces barriers to mass adoption, as not many people have adopted crypto or know how to use crypto wallets.
“So we sort of scrapped that idea and we entered the F50 Elevate accelerator, got some capital and labor, and we build the proptotype platform with the help of contractors,” Yu said. “The project went through a couple different stages of revision. I was in the process of building out a proof of concept that I could pitch around and show everybody.”
Yu said it was a common practice for smaller indies to approach streamers and YouTubers and offer them a percentage of sales if they would showcase a game. But that requires complicated trust relationships where each party has to do the right thing. It’s a difficult accounting burden to track.
“A system like VoxPop can really alleviate a lot of those troubles. It can serve as a trusted middleman that just automates the process. And it allows developers to use some of their future income to market themselves when they don’t necessarily have that money in their pocket at the start of the campaign,” said Yu. “It’s very transparent. It’s very visible. Every game you go on a page you see the exact percentage that developers are given. And you can see all the games they recommend, how much they stand to earn off of it, all of that stuff. And so consumers know what to trust.”
These features are operational in the store now. But the store is still going through user interface iterations. The platform already has more than 300 PC games.
In the future, the company will move into investing in developers, in exchange for a timed exclusivity on the platform.
At the moment, the store isn’t doing as much curation as might be possible. It is verifying the quality and functions of the games, but soon the company will launch its own VoxPop seal for games.
VoxPop now has five full-time employees as well as additional contractors advisers such as Barrera.
Barrera has been helping develop indie games for the past four years.
“There isn’t anything else like this out there,” he said. “And this helps solve a lot of problems that smaller developers have, trying to get their games out. We’re not trying to compete against anybody. I’m very excited for it and very happy to be here with these guys.”
Barrera had a reputation as a tough boss at Rockstar Games, and he faced serious allegations while working there. He declined to comment on Rockstar for the most part.
Barrera serves as the creative director at Rocket Ride Games and he also does consulting work. As he learned more about the platform, Barrera saw how it could be used in future games. As for the two decades he spent at Rockstar Games, he said it was “the greatest experience of my life.”
“I was looking ahead and I wanted to do something different and learn new things,” he said. “This industry is amazing because you’re constantly learning, and there are always new ways to go about doing things. And so I felt that I had a greater opportunity going into the indie space, as opposed to sticking around and working on more big triple-A games. It was just the time for change.”
Barrera said he is aware of the economic downturn and how that has changed the environment for games, but he thinks VoxPop has a good value proposition that is very straightforward. Indie games are still becoming viral hits, and VoxPop has been set up to support such games, he said.
“There is a sweet spot here that VoxPop is filling while all this other noise is happening,” he said. “These guys have been quietly working on this platform and it’s ready to go.”
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