Back when I started RakNet 5 years ago I was talking to a marketing guy. He something like “You’ll get a sale here and there, but to really be successful you have to approach the companies directly.” My reply was “That’s fine, but I want to add these features first before I start having big companies look at it.”
I didn’t even get a sale here and there, so maybe I was right, but I did go a bit overboard. Not until last week really did I sit down, ask myself “What feature should I add next to be more competitive?” and just couldn’t think of anything.
It’s time to switch to marketing, and hopefully this time it won’t take 5 years to reach my destination.
The first thing I can think to do is partnerships. 9 months ago the tech director at SOE told me if they didn’t already know me, they would have just used Quazal, because Quazal is a featured partner of Gamebryo. But the funny thing Gamebryo doesn’t have networking. The partnership is essentially an advertisement to look at Quazal if you need a networking solution. I’m not complaining, but pointing out the importance of partnerships and alliances. People will go with what they think works, and a featured partner is more likely to work than some library on the net you’ve never worked with before.
As much as I’d like to, I don’t have the connections or clout (yet) to get RakNet into Gamebryo. But where I do have a better chance is in the open source and small game community. If the competitor’s forums are any indication, RakNet is pretty much dominant in this market, even if it’s a market that doesn’t pay very well. But more users is always better, one can always monetize later.
Step 1: Ally more closely with Ogre 3D.
Ogre 3D is a great library not just for its features but because it has a massive userbase. Any forum post gets a response nearly immediately, and that is good not just for its own sake but the support level generated by that draws even more users. I’ve had a good relationship with that community from Galactic Melee so it’s a first draw to get more eyes looking at RakNet.
In that regard, yesterday I wrote a sample that uses Ogre 3D along with RakNet to demonstrate how to do graphical network interpolation code. The users seem to appreciate it. Some people in my own forum have been asking how to do what I did there so it solves two problems.
Step 2: Irrlicht
Irrlicht seems to be the next big graphics engine. I used it back when I was writing a web based shooter. I like it better than Ogre because the style reminds me more of RakNet. I contacted the author of Irrlicht, and he agreed to add RakNet to the toolset page if I were to do add native support, which I will do in a similar fashion. I’ll do this in the upcoming week
Step 3: Partner with smaller commercial game engines
Most game engines that I searched for already had networking. While I think a dedicated library like RakNet will be more advanced than what a game engine will offer as networking on the side, it’s probably a lost cause in most cases. However, I did find a few game engines that didn’t already have networking. Maybe none of my emails will get a response, but if they do this can be a good additional revenue stream as well as benefit for said game engine. This will require a lot more work since I’d actually be learning and supporting new engines, but is also a good opportunity.
Step 4: Pursue connections
(Coincidentally) I had lunch with a very well-connected friend today and he offered to help me get my foot in the door in several big opportunities. I won’t say what, since it may not pan out anyway, but it’s really great having friends to help you out or even just discuss ideas over.
The major money comes from friends and connections. Tip to the new guys: Never burn your bridges and make an effort to make friends with people. You never know who will help you out in the future, and of course you get to return the favor.
Anyway, I’m optimistic about the next 6 months. If RakNet can get a few big partners I think things can finally take off.