In case you had been to take a look at the Instagram web page for the Sokpop Collective, you’d in all probability have a tough time determining what it truly does. It’s filled with pictures of 4 younger Dutch guys posing in varied Instagram-friendly areas; trying oh-so-casual in entrance of a rusted storage door, throwing up peace indicators and severe faces whereas using a carousel. It doesn’t assist that the group not solely appears the a part of a boy band, however describes itself as such.
However beneath its goofy exterior, Sokpop is definitely one of the modern teams working in video video games. Smaller, experimental video games have hardly ever been financially viable, at the same time as their affect on the business will be important. They’re usually too brief or bizarre to promote a lot, however will be filled with creative concepts that ultimately make their manner into bigger video games. The 20-somethings at Sokpop have discovered a novel answer: utilizing Patreon as a recreation subscription service that permits them to be prolific and inventive, whereas nonetheless making some cash.
“On the finish of final 12 months we had been like, ‘Wow, we launched 26 video games. How did that occur?’” says Sokpop member Tijmen Tio. “However we by no means actually give it some thought like that. Every recreation is its personal factor.”
Sokpop isn’t a typical recreation studio; the truth is, it’s not a studio in any respect. The members describe themselves as a collective, the place they cut up all of the work and cash equally. “We have now much more freedom inside the collective,” says member Ruben Naus. “There’s no boss or something. You’re virtually like a solo recreation maker, however with the help of different folks.” The quartet first met in 2014 by means of the sport jam scene of their hometown of Utrecht, and ultimately began considering of how they may work collectively.
They shaped the collective, and gained some notoriety on Twitter after posting loads of GIFs of unusual and colourful physics-based video games. However turning that right into a enterprise proved difficult. They tried making an album of video games, and providing tutorials for aspiring builders, however neither enterprise was very profitable. Every member was good at making enjoyable video games in a short time, which needed to be value one thing, they figured. Ultimately they determined to check out Patreon as a kind of journal subscription for video games.
Although it’s a gaggle, all the video games that come out of Sokpop are created individually. The members have a system in place: each two months, every of them has to make a recreation, leading to a brand new launch roughly each two weeks. There are at present near 1,000 folks paying $three a month to play them, and the video games are additionally bought for $three a bit on Itch.io. The entire cash from subscriptions and gross sales is then divided equally among the many group.
The handfuls of video games launched over 2018 are an eclectic bunch. Aran Koning channeled his love of biking into skidlocked, a recreation in regards to the risks of navigating busy metropolis streets on a motorcycle. Tom van den Boogaart created kart youngsters, a parallel-dimension Mario Kart for 2 gamers with cute vehicles and wobbly physics. The entire video games are purposely small in scope, often centered on a single gameplay mechanic and providing an expertise that lasts round an hour. They’re the sorts of video games for which it may be laborious to discover a business residence. Some show to be comparatively massive hits: Tio’s technique recreation simmiland has grossed greater than $10,000 and was ultimately expanded into a bigger launch on Steam.
The Patreon schedule implies that the group isn’t centered solely on the subscription video games. Every member spends round 4 weeks engaged on a Patreon recreation, after which has one other 4 weeks to deal with different initiatives earlier than their flip comes up once more. This helps alleviate among the stress that comes from releasing so many video games so rapidly. “Making a recreation each two months is tremendous enjoyable, however it’s additionally fairly straining,” says Koning. “It’s good to have an even bigger undertaking.”
Patreon can usually function an optimum testing floor for concepts. The video games are virtually like a type of market analysis, a demo to see if gamers are considering an thought earlier than the creator commits to spending extra time fleshing it out into one thing bigger. That’s what occurred with simmiland; Tio initially thought it wasn’t a very good recreation, however it proved to be among the many hottest issues he’s ever made. That response made it simpler to determine to dedicate the time mandatory for a larger-scale launch.
The group says that it’s seemed round, however hasn’t discovered an alternate subscription service that might ease its dependency on Patreon, if the necessity arises. On the identical time, a part of what makes the dynamic work is that they’re not solely centered on anyone factor; there’s the subscription, recreation gross sales, private initiatives, in addition to varied freelance jobs to assist pay the payments. (The collective can also be exploring the thought of working with recreation publishers sooner or later.) However Patreon is an integral a part of that. Whereas Sokpop hasn’t had any main points with the service up to now, they notice that, not less than for now, it’s an vital avenue. “We type of must put up with their stuff a bit bit,” Koning says of Patreon. “You at all times put your eggs in a basket.”
Whereas they’ve a strong schedule in place, the realities of recreation improvement imply that video games are generally late. Fortunately, Sokpop appears to have fostered a particularly pleasant and understanding neighborhood; on the uncommon event when a recreation misses its deadline, there haven’t been any points. “We postpone a launch generally, and that’s at all times been high-quality,” says Tio. This forgiving angle has additionally made it simpler for the group to keep away from burnout, even with such a demanding schedule. It’s one thing the members say they’ve gotten higher with the extra they’ve been in a position to refine their course of. “I like making video games,” says Koning, “however I additionally like weekends.”
In simply over a 12 months, Sokpop has managed to create a brand new mannequin for experimental video games, one which makes use of new platforms like Patreon to strive bizarre issues, but additionally doesn’t trigger dependency on anyone income. Alongside the best way Sokpop has cultivated a really particular model and character, one which has solely elevated its rising, if modest, recognition. The boy band schtick began out as a joke, however has since turn out to be a straightforward shorthand for the collective. They even have their particular person roles: Boogaart is the quiet one, Tio is described because the dad, and Naus is the candy one.
“I’m the blonde one,” says Koning. “That’s my character.”