How to Start an Online Gaming Company


Given the advancement of graphical technology, mainstreaming and corporate consolidation, the video game business has become a competitive and high-risk industry by nature. Companies that produce single-player products can expect to spend millions of dollars and several years on a single project up to the release -- and probably beyond that point when taking patches and updates into account. Companies that specialize in online games must make an even greater investment, establishing a continuous support apparatus to keep an ongoing game attractive to customers.

Write a business plan that details the mission statement and types of online games that your company will specialize in, whether that means a specific genre, setting, gameplay feature or standard of quality that will be revisited in each project. The business plan is also the forum to discuss your model for product distribution -- via retail product or digital download -- the method of obtaining continued operating revenue and your long-term plan for business expansion. Apply for a certificate of incorporation and business license with your state, and register with your local chamber of commerce.

Gather a team of developers specializing in the areas of art, world design and programming. In addition to game programmers, you will need programmers who specialize in network communication to handle the online aspect of play. Compensate your team in accordance with state payroll requirements. Consult your team early and often in the development of each project.

Develop a game engine in-house, or purchase a license for an existing game engine from another company. If you shop for an existing engine, make large-scale network stability the top priority so that you don't find yourself stuck with a pretty but ill-functioning game 18 months down the line.

Establish dedicated servers for your players to log on to, and hire staff to handle technical support and customer support. Establish both phone numbers and email addresses at which support staff can be reached.

Establish a website on which you can provide project updates and news directly to visitors. Network with game magazines and news sites to generate buzz about your company and its projects. Tie all company promotion to your project of the moment, and always focus on what sets your project apart in the market.

Tips & Warnings

  • Most exclusively online games support their continued operation by charging a monthly subscription fee to players. However, you can make a game potentially more attractive to users by making it free to play, and gathering revenue from in-game advertising or by charging real money for in-game items. The advertising model largely replaces your billing support staff with an advertising sales team, and also requires you to garner interest from advertising clients.
  • You can reduce overhead costs by farming out your servers to third-party operators under a franchise agreement. You'll lose direct control over technical support, but your company will be able to spare more resources for new projects.

Related Searches


  • "Game Design: The Art and Business of Creating Games;" Andre LaMothe; 2002
  • "Producing Games: From Business and Budgets to Creativity and Design;" D.S. Cohen and Sergio A. Bustamante II; 2009
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