Saturday 21 October 2017

Irish-themed computer games set firm apart

Innovation: Left to right, Affinity Tech chief technical officer Gary Carr, Big Fish Games distributor Stephen Hegarty and Affinity Tech head of operations Mick Rochford
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

AFFINITY Tech is the brainchild of Gary Carr and Mick Rochford, both dads of four from Dublin. They came up with the idea for an Irish-themed computer games business after watching their kids go nuts over Facebook games like 'Candy Crush'. Gary spoke to Sarah McCabe about what it took to get their company up and running.

"We set up the company just over two years ago. We've been friends for a long time and both wanted to get away from the daily grind. Mick floated the idea and we decided to just go for it. We were self-employed before but work full-time on the business now.

My background is in software development so I handle the tech side – I built our prototype games platform myself, over an 18-month period where we didn't draw down a salary. We can develop multiple games on this one platform.

Our first game was aimed at kids but as we've built the business it's become clear that that market is pretty saturated. Our next game, 'Joe v Banker', is aimed at adults. It pits your average Joe against bankers and repossessors; lots of people, not just the Irish, can sympathise. Even Enda Kenny likes it – he played the game when he visited our offices at the Digital Hub.

We distributed our first game through a company called Big Fish Games. They are a huge, international platform where players can sample games for free and then pay to subscribe. We met them at the Irish Games Fleadh in Tipperary and they loved the product. That got our brand out there. But now we're ready to go it alone, and our next three games will be launched for smartphones and tablets as standalone products. After that we will look to build PC games and are even considering Xbox and Facebook.

The business has been mostly self-funded so far – which has been a challenge – but we have also been awarded an Innovation Voucher from Enterprise Ireland.

These offer €5,000 to help connect businesses and education institutes. It allowed us to hire three developers from DIT Kevin Street who are working with us over the summer. We've also taken on interns.

DIGITAL HUB

After building the business at home, we moved last year to Enterprise Ireland's Digital Hub in Thomas Street in Dublin.

It's a great place to develop a tech company. We're now in the process of moving again as the Docklands Innovation Park have given us office space for free.

The biggest challenge to getting this far was having to do absolutely everything ourselves, from marketing to product development to admin.

It's been a steep learning curve, but we are confident. Our first game has been downloaded more than 50,000 times. There are lots of game developers out there but no one is doing anything Irish-themed; it really sets us apart.

Irish Independent

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