Uri Marchand, CEO and Co-Founder of Overwolf – Interview Series
Uri Marchand, is the CEO and Co-Founder of Overwolf which is a guild for in-game creators, that empowers them to create, grow, and monetize in-game apps and mods. Built for creators by creators, Overwolf is uniting the in-game creator community, giving them everything they need to make a living doing what they love – developing truly awesome gaming experiences, that gamers and game developer benefit from.
When did you initially fall in love with gaming?
I’ve been playing games since I was about six years old, but the game that had the most impact on me in the early days was Dune2. I loved the mechanics of a real-time strategy (RTS) game, and spent countless hours playing.
When you initially started Overwolf in 2010 you had a big ambition to build apps for all gamers. Could you tell us about these early genesis days, such as what inspired you to launch Overwolf?
When we started, our aim was to build a swiss-army knife type software, with all the features we were missing while playing games. Our first features included in-game overlay apps for Skype, Facebook, game capture and even an in-game web browser. The key inspiration came from either the features we were missing or from existing products and use cases that we felt could be done a lot better if designed specifically for gamers.
At the end of 2013, you decided to pivot Overwolf towards creating a framework for others to develop on the Overwolf platform. What inspired this pivot?
As I just mentioned, we started as creators ourselves, building apps for the games we played. As creators, we understood all the difficulties third-party developers have around building apps for games, and we understood that we can’t build everything ourselves. So, we decided to pivot and build an open framework. Today, Overwolf is the guild for in-game creators. With over 30,000 creators and 12 million monthly active users, Overwolf is the all-in-one platform that enables creators to create, distribute, and monetize in-game apps and mods. We are on a mission to unite the in-game creator community and empower them to make a living doing what they love – developing truly awesome gaming creations.
Can you discuss how Overwolf enables developers to create, distribute, and monetize apps for existing games?
Third-party content around games, which includes apps, mods, or gaming websites has existed since the genesis of gaming. Passionate gamers who were also techies chimed in and helped in the creation of content for their favorite games. But, up until today, these creators were scattered, isolated, and out of the spotlight. Millions of gamers enjoy their creations, but they don’t get the credit or the compensation for it. They lack the advanced tools, the distribution, or the resources AAA developers already have.
Overwolf is changing that by being the all-in-one platform for in-game creators. Aside from the tech platform, Overwolf offers creators a lot of resources to get started and stay focused. Services like QA and testing by pro gamers, technical support, development resources, and marketing solutions, allow creators to solely focus on building the best app they can. In only a few weeks, creators are able to build and publish a high-quality app, share it with millions of gamers, and turn a hobby into a lucrative business. Once the app is up and running, there are two main monetization tools the creator can choose from: premium subscriptions and in-app ads.
For the first time, we’re seeing more and more in-game creators making a living from building apps for games, and thus creating a new profession – an in-game creator. This is similar to a YouTube, or a Twitch streamer, but instead of the creator being a very good gamer or entertainer, she’s a developer.
What are some of the notable apps that have been created on the Overwolf platform?
We have the honor of working with some extremely talented creators that work relentlessly to bring apps to gamers that will truly enhance their game experience. One of our top-rated apps is Porofessor which helps League of Legends players understand their match statistics, improve performance, and provide other key aspects of gameplay. The creator of this app actually began coding when he was only eleven years old, making games for his family and friends.
Tracker Network’s R6 Tracker app is also one of the most popular Rainbow Six Siege apps on Overwolf. The CEO of Tracker Network was able to turn his gaming websites into in-game apps and scale incredibly fast. He went from a one-man show to a company with a team of five employees and over 2.5 million registered users across the most popular game titles like Valorant, Apex Legends, Fortnite, and Rainbow Six Siege.
Another is TFTactics which helps players make winning strategy choices in Teamfight Tactics, with suggested builds, item references, and even a match analysis system to help players self-review and improve.
What type of apps/games are generally more popular?
While we can’t share commercial details, download numbers are public and often reflect the most successful apps. Some of the most popular are Porofessor, Facecheck, R6Tracker, TFTactics, Outplayed, Fuze.tv, R6Tab, Firestone, Heartharena, and more. The apps that are most popular tend to align with the game titles that are played widely so apps for League of Legends, Teamfight Tactics, Dota 2, and Rainbow Six Siege.
Overwolf partnered with Intel to create a fund to empower developers to create apps on the Overwolf platform. What are the things that you look for when reviewing applications?
When we review applications we are mainly looking for an idea we’d be excited about as gamers, and for a product-team fit. We want to make sure that the team that’s going to take the challenge has everything they need to succeed.
Since the launch, we’ve invested $3M out of the $7M and we generate about $1.5 for every dollar invested and have incredible success stories like Amit Tsur who was a lone-wolf developer that single-handedly created the app DotaPlus, one of Overwolf’s most successful DOTA 2 apps with over 400,000 downloads. The Fund allowed him to quit his dev position at a prominent tech company and to make a career out of his passion.
The fund grants between $10K and $150K to each approved creator, depending on their needs and the potential value of their app or mod.
What are some traits that make some developers more successful on the platform than others?
Creators who create from true passion, with a real love of the game and a culture of iteration based on community feedback usually succeed more than others.
Creators who are not only willing to listen to feedback but request it frequently are always more successful than those who don’t take fan feedback into consideration. The most successful creators take the recommendations from fans, iterate on their apps, and constantly have a pulse on what others are saying. In return, the market rewards them with more downloads, more shares, and more positive mentions.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about Overwolf?
The top 25% of in-game creators on Overwolf are pulling in more than $30,000 a month, and a few are even poised to make more than $1 million this year. As a whole, Overwolf is on track to pay out $10 million to its creators in the coming year. We are proud to be able to offer in-game app creators and mod authors legitimate ways to turn their passion into a profitable profession. We’re here for the long run and would love to serve as many creators as we can.
Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit Overwolf.
Graeme Winder, Founder of MeloQuest – Interview Series
Graeme Winder is the Founder of MeloQuest, the company behind the world’s first role-playing game, Keys & Kingdoms, that trains real musical skills and abilities in a whole new way. Joining the journey along the way, was the former CCO of Activision Blizzard and creator of Guitar Hero, Brian Hodous.
When did you first fall in love with gaming?
I’ll never forget the day when the original Nintendo system came out and I begged and pleaded with my mom to get it for me. Well, that next Christmas, Santa delivered! That was the beginning of my epic journey into gaming.
You also have a deep passion for music. Could you share with us how you discovered that music would play such an important role in your life?
I knew from a very early age that music moved me deeply. I also knew that I was horrible at learning music through reading, and yet, I could play just about anything I heard. This disconnect that I felt, and the challenges that would come with it, would prove to be the foundation of creating the innovation in the method that we implement today.
What are some of the current limitations with how we currently teach music?
The biggest limitation I see in music education is that the most important piece to the learning process is being left out of the equation… this piece is the student themselves. We all carry a tremendous amount of musical experience inside of us because we listen to or are exposed to music almost every day of our lives. This incredible wealth of experience is almost always overlooked or left out of more traditional learning environments. At MeloQuest, we believe it is the key to unlocking a person’s true musical power!
When did you initially come across the concept of using games to teach music?
After my first attempt at this failed, I had to take a long look in the mirror and realize that the edtech software we had built just wasn’t entertaining enough for our audience. We knew the method was powerful, but the product execution was poor. So after hitting the reset button, I decided to flip the product model upside down and create an amazingly fun game first—and then bake our secret sauce into it.
Could you tell us about the world’s first role-playing game that trains real music skills Keys & Kingdoms. What’s the storyline in this game?
It’s really an amazing storyline that Leviathan Games developed. You start off in your own virtual room much like your room in the real world. Suddenly, there is a rip through space and time and a portal to another fantasy world emerges. This world is under constant threat of the ‘waste’ and only those with musical powers can save them. The overarching theme is not good vs. evil, but rather forces of creation vs. forces of destruction. I love the philosophical message here to the players that says that things you pour your energy and effort into (like music learning) will prosper and grow. However, things you neglect and put off will eventually crumble to dust.
How does the game optimize how children learn music?
We have built something very close to AI called the Adaptive Learning Engine. The game constantly monitors the success/fail rates of everything the player engages with in the game and it does this independently throughout five unique verticals. What all this means is simply the game will quickly meet you where you are at, whether a complete beginner or seasoned pro, and develop your unique abilities at your pace.
How much replay value is there in this game. How much time can children be expected to play?
Well, just like music itself, we hope the journey never really ends. Personally, I hope children get used to logging in everyday and playing songs to chase away the waste. New content, songs and challenges are updated every few weeks. One of the sticky points in the game is that if you do not log in regularly, your island world will slowly be devoured by the waste. Also, as we all know, repetition with songs and learning are very important in building up skills quickly and efficiently. The game uses many well-known RPG tricks to keep engaging the players over and over.
What type of games will MeloQuest be working on in the future?
As excited as we are now with Keys & Kingdoms, the future looks even more amazing! We have plans ready to go to bring in multiplayer (imagine battling with your friends and it feels like band practice!) and other instruments outside of the keyboard. The fun in learning music will certainly never end!
Is there anything else that you want to share about Keys & Kingdoms or Meloquest?
I’m just so humbled and proud of the incredible team that has joined me on this amazing journey. These are extremely talented individuals who all collectively believe in shaping a better world through the power of music. I couldn’t be more blessed to do what I do everyday!
Thank you for the interview. Readers who wish to learn more about the game should visit the Keys & Kingdoms website.
George Gomez, Chief Creative Officer at STERN Pinball – Interview Series
George Gomez, is the Chief Creative Officer at STERN Pinball. He has worked on some of the most iconic pinball games in the world including The Lord of the Rings, Batman the Dark Knight, Playboy, and The Sopranos.
George has worked on the team that created the Tron video game and headed the team that created Spy Hunter., George has made a name by designing some of the most popular pinball games in the world including The Lord of the Rings, Batman the Dark Knight, Playboy, and The Sopranos.
You’ve had an extensive career having worked at Bally, Williams, Stern Pinball, and numerous other companies. What are some of your career highlights?
I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to spend my career creating video games, toys and pinball machines. Each of those opportunities taught me a lot and helped me refine my design skills. It brings me great joy that my work from the 80’s, games like TRON and Spy Hunter, are still revered and considered significant. After those first 7 years at Midway, I went on to invent toys at Marvin Glass & Associates, to this day the most successful independent toy invention studio in the world and I feel honored that I was allowed to work and learn amongst such elite designers.
In many ways, that was my graduate school in design. I invented toys like Tonka’s Splash Darts, Galoob’s Crash-N-Bash, vehicles for Voltron and a bunch of other stuff. After MG&A, I designed novelty games and from that time I’m most proud of Hawk Avenger by Bromely; mostly because I had to do so much of it all by myself. From my time designing at Williams Electronics, I would say that Monster Bash and Pinball 2000 are definitely highlights; although I also see that Johnny Mnemonic and NBA Fastbreak, especially the linked version, have an avid cult following today.
After Williams I returned to Midway Games and managed the NBA Ballers Xbox and PlayStation franchise for many years; it was that experience, that taught me about managing large software engineering projects and dealing with retail driven licensing, product deadlines and big budgets.
My relationship with STERN pinball began as a consultant designer working on games from the outside. During that time I’m most proud of games like Lord of The Rings, The Sopranos and Batman The Dark Knight. In my current roll as Chief Creative Officer for Stern Pinball, I’m really most proud of having created the premier pinball design studio in the world. I love the energy and diverse personalities in the studio. We have a great combination of talent, experience and energy, they are truly the best in the world at what they do.
When did you first fall in love with pinball?
Most designers are drawn to pinball by a love of the game. In my case, the initial appeal was the challenge of designing such a large and complex toy, and the love affair happened later as a function of the work. So while I can say that I liked pinball before I designed it, I didn’t come to it with a great passion for the game. Once in it, I can tell you that it wasn’t long before it got in my blood; it has forever transformed so much of me.
You’ve worked on some iconic pinball machines such as Batman, Transformers, The Beatles, & Deadpool. Are there any specific pinball games that you helped create which you feel have stood the test of time?
As I mentioned above, I think games like Johnny Mnemonic, NBA Fastbreak, Monster Bash, Lord of the Rings, The Sopranos are still loved and played. In more recent times I think games like Batman 66 and Deadpool will still be played and preserved with passion in 20 years’ time.
Pinball is one of those game types which is difficult to pinpoint what makes a specific game fun, exciting and has replay value. What do you personally feel sets a game apart from the pack?
I think it begins with creating a cohesive experience, where all of the diverse elements that make up a modern pinball machine are seamlessly integrated. First you need interesting ball dynamics that give the player the satisfaction of control while at the same time challenging him to maintain that same control. It’s a pretty strange control interface; buttons and flippers. The reality is that it’s just a “ball and bat” game, like baseball or tennis, where you need to train your mind’s eye to deal with the speed and movement of the ball.
Like all games, the feedback elements to the player, such as the physical state changes and playfield device transformations, presentation events in the video display, light events on the playfield and sound events are all key. An inherent part of any game is communicating game states and player success thru progression goals and scoring; this begins with game rules that a player can grasp. A pinball machine has to first entertain within the context of the first and most crucial rule in the game, which is keep the ball in play. If you don’t keep the ball in play; you’re out of the game. Every other rule and game progression goal is built on that. I think humor plays a great role in the feedback loop of a game, if a player is laughing, he’s enjoying your game. To that end, I’m very proud of what we did with Deadpool, because I think it nails all of these elements.
It seems that over the past decade pinball games are experiencing a resurgence. What do you believe is behind this boom?
It’s a unique and very physical game experience that can be very social. Our company rose out of the ashes of the recession of ’08 with a pretty clear focus on: “What do we look like in 10 years?” “What do we want to be?” Quickly followed by: “How do we get there?” I don’t think the resurgence is all something that just happened; I think we played a pivotal role.
What is it about the mechanical functions of pinball that makes it appealing compared to the ever-expanding options of modern gaming such as esports and VR?
I think that trying to control the essence of the game within the context of the natural physics of our world makes it a unique experience. The games’ randomness is a function of gravity, not a random number generator and your progression is not based on a scripted set of outcomes.
What is the Stern Insider all-access membership and what does it offer gamers?
Today the program gives players access to unique behind the scenes content; things like first looks, designer interviews, “making of” content and lots of perspective on the company’s thinking and strategy. The evolution of the program is designed to bring even more interesting stuff in the future.
How popular are the Stern Pro Circuit tournaments and what should players expect from them?
Pro Circuit is a tournament series carefully curated to enhance and extend the interaction with the games in the best possible environment. It will continue to grow and evolve; in some ways it is an “E” sport. It has all of the makings of blockbuster entertainment because it brings together many of the hobby’s celebrities, enthusiasts and the best players in the world.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about Stern Pinball?
I hope that the audience realizes that we are also consumers of our own product. Every year we buy these games with our own money and to that end we are very much making the games we want to play. Within the company we have some of the top ranked players in the world, including the current number 1 and a couple of guys that “on any given Sunday” could be number 1. We bring that love of the game and focused passion to the company and the product. We are thrilled and thankful for every owner, player, operator, dealer and distributor of the games. Stay in, stay safe, play pinball!
Thank for the great interview, I played many of these games while growing so this was a great nostalgia moment. Readers who wish to learn more should visit STERN Pinball.