Four years ago, Traplight Games had just transitioned into a full-time work-for-hire studio after its first own IP had failed to garner any major success. Flash forward to a few months ago, and the studio has successfully raised $500,000 in a seed funding round and is now ready to soft launch its second IP in early 2015.
Founded in 2010 by ex-Universomo employees Riku Rakkola, Sami Kalliokoski, and Jari Paananen from Finland, Traplight Games initially released its first title, The Hero, in early 2010. The side scrolling superhero game never turned into the success the founding team had hoped for, and so the company quickly changed focus towards the world of work-for-hire they knew so well from their time at Universomo.
From 2010 to 2013 Traplight Games worked on several projects from large studios such as Supercell’s Boom Beach, for which Traplight delivered graphics, or Redlynx’s “1000 Heroz”, which was entirely developed by Traplight Games.
“Traplight was a fulltime workforhire company from 2010 to 2013, finishing multiple projects with companies such as Supercell, Redlynx and Tuokio.”, Traplight Games CEO, Riku Rakkola says to Nordic Game Bits.
While from the outside Traplight Games seemed like a pure work-for-hire studio during the three years from 2010 to 2013, a new IP was in fact slowly brewing behind the scenes. The idea was to make a game in which user-generated content would be the primary cornerstone. Something that has been done plenty of times before, but Traplight Games wanted to do it on mobile. And so, by mid 2013 after 3 years of considerations and planning, Traplight Games finally transitioned back into working full time on its own IP, “What on Earth!”.
The decision to wait three full years before going full time on the IP was not a specific strategic choice from Traplight Games, however, but rather a necessity. As many other developers experience as well, moving away from work-for-hire is a daunting move with huge financial risks involved. With work-for-hire jobs, you know that you will be paid every month, and focusing on your own IP therefore requires a huge leap of faith.
For Traplight Games, the decision to take that leap of faith was caused by the company losing a huge outsourcing client, Rakkola explains.
“Basically, it was a leap of faith from Traplight, as the company didn’t yet have funding to start working on What on Earth! at the beginning of 2013. When a big outsourcing client dropped out, Traplight had to practically choose between finding new outsourcing clients, or begin creating something of their own and it felt like a good time to go allin and choose the latter.”
The anticipations for “What on Earth!” are large, and even though Traplight now has a $500,000 funding to work off of, getting to this stage definitely wasn’t a child’s play.
It took Traplight Games 6 months to secure the funding and “During that time the core team worked with no pay, relying on the Finnish sisu (i.e. guts or willpower) and sharing the workload of dealing with the investors, all the while developing the game. After the funding was secured, the company was able to apply for Tekes’ grants and loans tailored for small ventures and startups. With the combined funding from East Wings, Finnvera and Tekes, Traplight was able to finish a demo for their product, with which they started to approach new investors in 2014.”, Rakkola says.
When asked for any advice to others who are now in the position that Traplight Games was a year ago, where they primarily did work-for-hire jobs, while secretly wanting to release their own IP, Rakkola had some encouraging words to share as well.
“It might not be the easiest thing to do, but sometimes it requires taking risks (and work with no pay) to get from one state of affairs to another. Traplight took a huge leap of faith when dropping their workforhire duties and concentrating on their own IP without funding. In the end it paid off, but it could have ended the other way too. Still, it usually pays off in one way or the other to try out your wings. If nothing else, it is a valuable learning experience for your next venture.”
The physics-based mobile racing game “What on Earth!” that Traplight Games is currently developing sees all tracks, challenges and tournaments created by the players, for the players. In the center of the game is an easy-to-use level editor, and players get to research new gadgets discovered from Earth, play and rate content created by others, and take part in tournaments and daily challenges. The game is scheduled for soft launch Q1 2015.