A Cautionary Tale

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1997

Contributor Mary Miller-Furesh speaks with professional games developer, Mike Cann, about Mr Nibbles and his run in with Google.


I came across Mike’s blog last year. I liked his writing style and was really taken with his games Mr Nibbles and Mr Nibbles Forever. Who can resist such a cute hamster? I pitched at Startup Weekend Perth #7 and Mike was the first to join my team. When I realised who Mike was we knew this was going to go well. Good ole Perth.

Mr Nibbles
//SN: Mike, its great sitting down with you again. What’s been happening?

In May, Mr Nibbles Forever launched in the Steam Store. We were frustrated with the difficulty getting noticed in the mobile game arena. It’s completely saturated. 600 games are launched every day. It’s really hard to get noticed. We realised we needed better marketing. We decided to seek out a game publisher. From them we learnt we needed to launch our games on PC. They also set up user groups for us and the feedback we got from those sessions has been well worth it.

//SN: Tell me a little about Credit Redeemer and what happened there

I started working on a side project – an Android app that lets you convert unused Google credit into cash. I did a check soon after and saw there were three other competitors but I kept on it. In the spirit of the Lean Startup and Startup Weekend I wanted to ship it quickly. BUT, three days after I launched the Android app I received an email from Google notifying me that my developer account was being terminated. I was completely blindsided.
Turns out I’d already had a strike from Google which I hadn’t fully realised. Two years ago I got an email about an OpenSSL vulnerability in the AirSDK – it stemmed from a Hackathon project, Ectoplasm, which I mistakenly thought wouldn’t be a problem.
With this latest directive from Google I quickly launched an appeal but was not able to get my side heard. It was a difficult period and highly frustrating. As a games developer, losing access to Android is 50 per cent of the market. A seemingly innocuous error or two led to a considerable halt in my Indie gaming career.

//SN: Mike, what’s the situation now?

Well, I haven’t been able to have my case examined by Google. I am banned from having games or apps on Google Play. Over the last few months I have had time to reflect on my next steps. I have been working on games for over ten years. To be honest, its been a lot of effort for not a lot of return.

//SN: What’s your plan for next six months?

I really enjoy working on exciting projects at a fast pace. For me that’s the appeal of Hackathon’s.
I’m taking time to understand the market and find the next big thing. Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence really interest me – clearly this is where the jobs of the future will stem from.

//SN: What lessons can you share with us in the process to date?

The resources industry in WA is huge and although they have billion dollar budgets, trying to modernise the industry with disruptive technologies is a very difficult process. From my talks with various industry insiders I get the sense that it’s an industry that is very slow to move which often stems from lack of understanding of startups and processes that aren’t geared to innovation.
Currently, entering the resources sector industry with a startup seems like a really tough uphill battle but with the recent downturn and with competitions like Unearthed there is a hope that things may slowly be changing.

//SN: If you had to give one tip, what would it be?

Think really hard and do your research before you start to code. So many times I have started a project and gotten many weeks or months down the line before realising that there is no market for the product, from there its very easy to fall into the Sunk Cost Fallacy.

//SN: Mike, thank you so much for your time.

My pleasure.