Game Company Accelerator YetiZen Set to Release First Crop of Candidates to the Wild

YetiZen is a start-up accelerator dedicated exclusively to video game companies in the PC, mobile, social, and network download space. An accelerator is a company that educates or reorganizes an existing company or product and then connects it with sources of funding for long term growth. While we’ve seen one or two social game developers practice acceleration — notably Rocket Ninja Games and its relaunch of Wrestler: Unstoppable — YetiZen is the first platform-agnostic accelerator for games that we’ve ever heard of, taking in social, mobile, PC, and Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network indie game start-ups.

At present, the company boasts a network of venture capitalists, advisors and angel investors that include a lot of big names in the larger video games industry. Playdom investor Tim Chang of Norwest Venture Partners, for example, sits on YetiZen’s board of advisors along with Jeremy Liew, Managing Director at Lightspeed Venture Partners and several other established investors. Full disclosure: Inside Virtual Goods researcher and ISG contributor Charles Hudson also sits on the board.

YetiZen is set up as an intensive three-month program of workshops and networking events for groups of around 10 game companies ranging from game developers and game tools services to publishers and even platform creators. The accelerator is currently closing its first session and wrapping up candidate interviews for its second session, which begins in August. YetiZen plans to maintain a biannual session schedule.

Below, we interview CCO & Co-Founder Japheth Dillman (pictured) on what YetiZen looks for in a candidate and what it expects to see from the games space in the future as the Facebook and mobile markets become saturated.

Inside Social Games: Why is it that YetiZen focuses on all game companies except those targeting consoles?

Japheth Dillman: Console [development] is difficult to accelerate. For example, it takes maybe $20 million to make a successful title these days and if one out of four of them succeeds, that means you need to make a few of them to find success, which means you need $100 million. How in the hell are you going to find that from a VC today? It isn’t going to happen. So [console] is not even on our radar at all.

ISG: As a contrast, how much does it take to get a social or mobile game off the ground?

Dillman: A really, really good social game? Maybe $300,000. It really varies depending on the type of game, the genre, the platform. If you’re doing mobile, you could do a really good game for $80,000 to $120,000. If you’re doing social, it’s maybe double that. Of course, the higher your production values are… some social games now are costing up to half a million to roll out.

ISG: Do you look for startups that have a cross-platform strategy in place? Maybe a game already built in Unity or HTML5?

Dillman: Oh, yes. HTML5 is one of my favorite tools to use right now because it’s true cross platform, anything can use HTML5. Even smart televisions, which is probably the next wave. We actually have relationships with Sony, Panasonic, Pioneer, Samsung — and they all are desperate for game developers to come onto their platforms and make native games to their platform. They know if they come to market and others have it when they don’t, they’re going to fail. Right now there’s no game developers focusing on smart televisions. So we’ve been approached by a lot of them to find that as the next platform for development.

ISG: But you don’t create a cross-platform strategy for your startups? You only focus on providing education based on the product that the startup already has?