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Voodoo Academy: Training the New Generation of Hyper-Casual Developers

Voodoo's Stanislas Marchand shared how Voodoo Academy's program trains hyper-casual game developers "in a matter of weeks", told us about the program's online training platform, and spoke about the pros and cons of online and offline teaching.

Introduction

Hello! My name is Stanislas Marchand and I work at Voodoo in Paris as a Business Development Lead in the publishing team. I joined Voodoo in the fall of 2021, after spending five years in strategy consulting at Roland Berger in Morocco and France. Throughout my career, I’ve worked on some exciting projects in mobile gaming and beyond, including creating a public agency to promote digital development in Morocco and defining the strategy of a leading French industrial player. 

At Voodoo, I am in charge of recruiting the studios we work with and I oversee the new Voodoo Academy program. Since joining Voodoo, it's been great to share in the company’s success as it continues to develop and publish industry-leading experiences, hitting the 6 billion downloads milestone in February and more recently announcing that we have the third most downloads ever on the App Store. It’s an exciting time to work at Voodoo and with the launch of the Voodoo Academy, I’m eager to see us reach even greater heights throughout the year. 

Voodoo Academy

Voodoo Academy is a program dedicated to game developers that are newcomers to the hyper-casual gaming industry, often students or fresh graduates. We give them access to a training platform where we have compiled hours of essential knowledge on the hyper-casual gaming industry, and we support them in their first steps with financial support, direct coaching from our publishing team, and regular live sessions. 

We created the Voodoo Academy to provide support to young, aspiring developers and studios to help them break through the barriers and challenges that many hyper-casual studios face. It’s well-known that finding the right mindset and methodology can be a significant barrier to entry in this industry, which can be tough for newcomers to overcome. The Voodoo Academy provides students with access to expert knowledge so that in a matter of weeks they can learn what would otherwise take months or even years to digest.

Hyper-casual gaming is crucial to Voodoo. While we publish exciting casual games and apps, hyper-casual is the natural entry gate for new developers wishing to enter our industry. That’s why it is the main focus for now of the Voodoo Academy.

The Learning Program

We designed the program based on feedback from studios that followed this journey prior to the creation of the program. They told us that Voodoo's regular live streams helped them greatly, but they couldn't give them all the answers to the questions a new developer could have about its games, the methodology that they should follow, and the tools they need to use. 

Participants in the Voodoo Academy will receive top-quality advice from industry experts, including hitmaker studios such as OHM Games or Blue Monkey studio. That kind of knowledge and methodology sharing is very unusual in our industry.

On top of this unique content, new developers are coached by our publishing team in the ideation and the game-building phases and have access to our publishing platform where they can test their games for free and get metrics to indicate the potential of their game.

With all these tools and under our guidance, we believe Voodoo Academy students will be fully equipped to fast track towards making a hyper-casual hit and replicate the success of some of our best studios such as Blue Monkey, which achieved their first hit game after 9 months.

Online Training Platform

The Voodoo Academy online training platform features numerous courses for entrants to complete, with new ones uploaded on a regular basis. The learnings are organized as 20 minutes of comprehensive courses, split into short and snackable modules, with very clear and practical learnings for each module. The learnings of the courses are typically validated by multiple-choice quizzes. 

Learners are free to take the time they need to complete the courses on the platform. We ask them to complete at least a first learning path, compiling the most critical courses, before being able to access their publishing platform, where they will be able to test their first games.

The most important part of the program actually begins once they have completed this learning path on the platform. At this step, we interact on a regular basis with them, through one-on-ones and live streams, to guide their ideation towards their first prototypes, and help them achieve a "minimum viable product" that follows the guidelines of hyper-casual games. 

For the learners, it is a one-year journey, which should result in high-performing studios, of which we expect a significant number will achieve hit games. During this year, the learners receive prizes of up to $3,000 for hitting specific milestones, for example testing their first game.

Teaching Online and Offline

There are pros and cons of both teaching online and offline. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all been forced to adapt, learn, work and communicate with each other virtually during these unprecedented times.

Although it’s been shown that remote working is fine for digesting small amounts of information, in-depth collaboration and immersion have been difficult to achieve virtually. We are working in great detail to try and engage as much as possible with the students, by leveraging multiple channels of communication.

On the other hand, scaling an offline program is of course much more difficult, and we aim to train as many new studios as possible with the Voodoo Academy program.

We have thus decided to combine both options: while the Voodoo Academy is a fully online program, we are creating local Voodoo Academy hubs, where students are placed for 4 months in the office of an experienced studio. The first Voodoo Academy hub is in Serbia and it is made in partnership with Tummy Games, the studio behind the hit game, Slice It All!.

Voodoo Academy's Roadmap

With over 500 sign-ups so far to the Voodoo Academy, our roadmap is focused on upskilling and training these students to help them make high-quality games. We will also be working on reaching more people with this program, notably by reinforcing our relationships with gaming schools and creating new local hubs. Our objective for Voodoo Academy going forward is to enable the next wave of hyper-casual hits. 

Stanislas Marchand, Business Development Lead at Voodoo

Interview conducted by Ana Kessler

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