Q&A with Alfie Rustom of Defend Nature Interactive
Worldwide, over 2.7 billion people play video games. Global citizens spend nearly $160 billion dollars and more than 150 billion hours on games annually. With 87% of gamers wanting to do good while playing – games if seen and approached as serious and trans-formative tools – could empower billions to contribute to urgently needed solutions.
Defend Nature Interactive is a purpose-driven game studio dedicated to tackling our greatest problems through interactive media. We are a seasoned team of visionary entrepreneurs, developers, and growth hackers. We leverage best-in-class partners to accelerate design, development, and growth.
Our first game, Bioman’s Forest Farm is a novel farming sim that empowers players to take constructive action against climate change; in both digital and real realities.
The design team includes senior lead designer for Zynga’s Farmville, and senior execs from Zynga, Scopely, Wooga, Popcap Games & Pogo Games.
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Why is now the right time for a family office to invest in Defend Nature Interactive’s mobile gaming studio?
Gaming is changing the entertainment landscape for billions of people. In 2019, gaming revenue grew larger than music and video revenue combined. Mobile games made up 60% of revenue for the global video game market generating $49 billion in revenue and a profit of $16.9 billion.
The current crisis has further amplified gaming’s steady market growth. Mobile gaming over the past 3 months has shown an increase of 62% in playtime and a 31% increase in in-app purchases. We saw a similar pattern after the 2008 financial crisis demonstrating gaming’s ability to deliver tremendous value relative to other forms of entertainment during a recession.
And, in a time when many people around the world are social-distancing, a game where you are part of a trusted community and can play with your friends have the highest likelihood to succeed and reward early investors.
For family offices looking to generate impact as well as profit what do you offer?
Purpose-driven games that allow millennial players to support causes that most matter to them is a compelling impact investment opportunity.
In a recent survey by Charity Aid Foundation, 87% of gamers state they want to do good while they play games. Moreover, the average US millennial gamer spends over $1,300 on games per year and donates around $500 per year to charities. These amounts are expected to increase as the group inherits over $68 trillion from their Baby Boomer parents by the year 2030.
Our first game, Bioman: Forest Farm, is a relaxing, social game designed for players who want to restore a polluted, burned-out forest into a biodiverse and bountiful food forest using regenerative farming methods. The game is set in the visionary science fantasy world of Bioman, an acclaimed green superhero property.
Fundraising campaigns will be in partnership with values-aligned climate and wildlife charities. They have the highest donor acquisition costs even though 1 in 5 millennials state climate & wildlife as their top issue.
Through the core game loop, players can plant real trees and keep track of their tree-planting ranking via leaderboards. They are further encouraged to join Co-Ops and enter tournaments in which the winning Co-Op gets to chose which charity will receive the tournament’s cash prize.
With the growing popularity of play2earn business models, the game will allow players to upload and sell their digital decorations/skins to other players. This allows dedicated gamers to monetize their creative talents through the game. The process is made transparent and secure using smart contracts built on blockchain.
Finally, once scale is achieved, we will partner with NGOs to promote regenerative victory gardens and provide opportunities for our community to come together safely and grow healthy, nutrient-rich food.
A new era of gaming for the purpose-driven generation.
What is the plan to complete the development and launch of your first game?
With gardening amongst millennials booming and regenerative farming gaining popularity as a natural way to capture carbon, Farming games was pinpointed as a gaming genre that is popular with target millennials and had game mechanics that could generate outsized profits and significant real-world impact.
We then used player data from the gaming industry, and interviews with passionate players of farming games to create detailed player personas. We further leveraged big-data analysis by a best-in-class vendor to select a feature set to maximize retention, monetization, and fun. This led to the creation of a detailed game-design document and exponential business strategy.
The next stage is to develop the lo-fi prototype and then iterate on the gameplay. Unlike movies, where the green-lit script rarely changes, a game’s “script” is continuously play-tested and updated based on player feedback during the development. This process of agile development dramatically increases the chances of a hit game.
It also helps that the former lead designer at Zynga and designer of Farmville (+$1 Billion in revenues) is our principal design consultant. As a bonus he is passionate and knowledgable about regenerative farming methods.
Once a fun, balanced game is ready, the game will be first launched in a territory where the cost of acquiring players is low. This will allow the game’s backend to be tested at scale and the game to be optimized for monetization/retention prior to the global launch. Given the theme/mission of the game, we will be able to use PR and generate word of mouth to drive the organic acquisition of players. The former head of Wooga publishing will lead marketing efforts.
To further increase organic acquisition, we have begun conversations with major brands interested in sponsoring the development of Bioman™ content/interactive experiences. A major campaign will generate millions of impressions prior to the game release.
Alfie Rustom of Defend Nature Interactive
ALFIE RUSTOM was born in the UK into a working-class Zoroastrian family. It was his avid interest in science that took him all the way to a full scholarship for doctoral studies in Physics at the University of St. Andrews.
Prior to completing the Ph.D., he decided to take up an opportunity in financial technology and spent the next 15 years traveling the globe building high performing teams and servicing some of the world’s largest financial institutions including World Bank, HSBC, Bank of New York, Industrial Commercial Bank of China.
After arriving in New York a few days prior to 9/11, he experienced the horror of ground zero at ground zero. Shortly after, he developed a passion for screenwriting from a screenwriter who was also the daughter of Bernard Pomerance legendary playwright of The Elephant Man.
Years later, he was based in Hong Kong running operations for a major software company when the global financial meltdown happened, it was then he realized that he had been unwittingly deploying weapons of mass financial destruction and put in a plan to redeem himself. The plan came to fruition in 2013, when he left financial services and dedicated himself to developing conscious and socially impactful media projects. Contact Alfie: