Dropping out of high school and setting up shop in your parents’ garage is a cliché many kids dreaming of developing the next killer app or game have followed. Few have succeeded. But the creative minds behind ODD Games, South Australian brothers Terry and David O’Donaghue, knew that to get out of the garage and into the big time they needed a plan.
Big brother Terry dropped out of high school at 16 and began working for local gaming companies. In his mid 20s he found himself in sales and by 25, he had learned enough to know that to be a success required him to work hard, ask questions and keep it real.
"I'm not a gamer,” says Terry. “I don't come from a big gaming background I just saw the business opportunity and went with it.”
Part of his plan was to convince his brother David, who also left school at a young age and was working as a programmer in the transport sector, to join him in the garage.
"I had to convince my brother to come on board and get it to a hobby stage where we were working from my garage two days a week,” says Terry. “I managed to convince him probably after four months of ringing and calling and asking him.”
Pulling together old hardware they kept the system cool in the scorching South Australian summer by shrink-wrapping it to an evaporative air-conditioner. Through the winter they stuffed rugs above the garage doors.
They played around with a few concepts until they settled on their first game title Monster Truck Destruction.
“Every kid likes monster trucks don't they? What’s not to like about monster trucks?” says Terry. “The opportunity was there in a niche market to make a monster truck game and I knew it was going to be good for the app store."
While they knew they had a good idea they also knew they needed a sound business model to make it viable.
So David sought out a mentor and found Graeme Kenelly through a South Australian government sponsored service.
Kenelly was semi-retired from a career that included General Manager of Australian telco Telstra. After spending years of working with startups he saw straight away the potential of ODD Games.
“I was actually quite impressed with David,” reflects Kennelly. “ He’d been self taught, basically didn’t finish school but he is a very capable young guy.”
Kennelly took their game idea and put it through an intensive business development program called Mega to set up the business plan, sort out the financials and have some long-term plans.
At the end of the program the O’Donaghue brothers sent a call out for a like-minded partner to formalise their business. Ben Marsh heard that call.
“They were very passionate about the (prototype) they had built, they had a very strong vision about what they wanted to achieve,” said Marsh. “I admired straight away the passion and commitment and the amount of fire they had internally.”
With Marsh they registered the company ODD Games in early 2012 and set about testing their prototype in the market.
After posting their game on a monster truck website seeking feedback from the fans they were approached by a monster truck sales representative. He suggested they explore licensing opportunities with actual monster trucks, so they did. Monster truck company Big Foot came on board first followed by another six bringing 30 licenses to the game. By November 2013 they were ready to launch.
Chillingo, the publisher of hit game Angry Birds, is their publisher on the iOS platform, and they are available for PC’s on Google Play and are self-published for Android on Amazon.
In seven months Monster Truck Destruction have surpassed 10 million downloads of its free game.
"While Monster Truck Destruction is a free game there are micro transactions within it that allow users to purchase upgrades within the game," says David. "The revenue from these transactions has allowed us to generate a profit each year. Considering most new startups take three years to generate a profit we are in a strong financial position that has allowed us to grow and expand."
The gameplay of Monster Truck Destruction sounds quite simple - you start off with a small amount of money to buy a monster truck. You then progress your way through the game by drag racing and participating in freestyle events, upgrading your monster truck as you go. In-app purchases allow you to upgrade as well.
What keeps gamers coming back is a unique element ODD Games has created called the ‘physics of fun’.
“A lot of people take to Monster Truck Destruction because of the physics, its damage,” says Terry. “We think it is close to what we think monster trucks would be like in real life and people really appreciate that.”
This system, created by David, means that when the truck hits a wall or object, the speed and angle of impact determines the level of damage to the truck.
“Then accordingly the truck will demonstrate how much damage has been attributed based upon that amount of force that was applied,” explains Marsh.
“You play games on mobile now (and) if you hit a wall you bounce off. It’s fairly archaic, it's fairly unrealistic.”
According to Marsh this development in their game gives them an edge in the marketplace. However that is not the only niche they have.
"Our philosophy is basically trying to bring over console quality in to mobile devices,” he adds.
“(We) create unique gaming experiences that represent what people want to see in games. There are a lot of games that get released out there that are casual or will miss the mark or will not pay homage to the sport or to the brands represented."
But if you ask their mentor what he believes their strength is it is a much more personal answer.
“They really work hard, that's their number one strength, it is hard work,” says Kennelly. “A lot of start ups just think they can just do it but they work a lot.”
Kennelly says they also know to ask for help.
“If they ever get in a sticky situation or don’t know about something they'll ask. They’ll ask questions they'll ring me up and out of the blue and say what should we do about this?” he says. “For the first few months they pretty much did exactly what I told them to do which is pretty unusual in mentoring, most people just argue with you a lot.”
Since their inception two years ago the company has grown to six employees and they are looking for more staff artists and programmers.
“We’ve definitely got a strong pipeline of titles for the next three years and we'll be looking to expand shortly by recruiting some more people to the team,” says Marsh.