Does making two games every two years sound challenging? How about two games every two months? How about…two games every two weeks? Meet Sokpop Collective, the Netherlands-based studio of four that’s been producing bite-sized gems twice a month since 2017. Sokpop Collective works around the clock to fulfill this development schedule for their Patreon subscribers, regularly producing fan favorites like Simmiland and the freshly released Pocket Watch. Amidst these intense expectations and deadlines, developer Tijmen Tio kindly indulged our questions about this radical business model and the way forward for the “videogame boyband from the future.”
|| What was it about game jams that ultimately led Sokpop Collective to reproduce the experience as a business model? Elsewhere it’s stated that game jams were how the four of you met and decided to collaborate. What was so compelling about those experiences, and why the name “Sokpop”?
Because of our experience doing game jams, we would make a lot of smaller games. However, outside of game jams we would rarely finish them. A friend of ours looked at our work and said “why don’t you just release all the unfinished small games you have.” This really made us think about how we could make a living off of making smaller games. We became good at making small games quickly, but never thought that we could just sell them!
As for why they are compelling: I think many creators will recognize the urge to make something very often. When you’re making a big game that takes a long time, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to make something else every now and then. So why not do only that?
We came up with the name Sokpop when we were hanging out one night and made up like 50 names that sounded funny to us. In an alternate universe we’re called Flipkids!
|| If you were to assign the classic boy-band personas to your team, who would be what? As a self-described “videogame boyband from the future,” you’re obligated to know who would be what were you called onstage. Furthermore, are there specific game-development styles or strengths that could be ascribed to each of you?
Haha, this has come up before. I remember some friends of ours tried to describe every one of us as such. Tom being the quiet one and Ruben being the kind one. They were divided by whether Aran or I is the bad one and which one of us is the Dad.
For game-development styles there aren’t very apparent strengths, but if we do have them it would be:
1. Tom, good at picking colors and doing sfx
2. Ruben, good at math type coding
3. Tijmen, good at (gameplay) design/theoretical design
4. Aran, good at very technical stuff
|| How has your use of Patreon evolved or stayed the same over the years? Patreon allows content creators to interact with their subscribers in a variety of ways, such as with blog posts, private messages, and different subscriber tiers. What have you learned about using Patreon to its fullest potential since 2017?
We had this idea to do a games subscription for a longer time but didn’t really have the means to set it up. Patreon was the ultimate solution to our problem. It’s simple, works well and the support team has been super helpful. I would recommend it to anyone! Itch.io even has integration for Patreon so you can give immediate access to your patrons.
|| Were you surprised (pleasantly or otherwise) by the results from your recent poll about pace on Patreon? In early January, you posted a poll asking Patreon subscribers about their preference regarding your pace of game completion. The options were one game a month, two games a month, and other. So far, the response has overwhelmingly been that people would prefer just one game a month. What are your thoughts on that?
We did anticipate that most people would be in favor of one game a month. We of course have our own incentives for this change, but it was also heavily influenced by what our patrons and other people have talked to us about. We’ve had a lot of requests to make bigger games and many patrons have told us that they couldn’t even keep up with the current pace!
It could potentially be a big change though, so we wanted to make sure that this is what most people want.
|| How has being based in the Netherlands influenced your game development? Are there aspects of Dutch culture that make their way into the games? Is the gaming community especially close-knit or active? Would you want to develop anywhere else if it was an option?
Growing up in the Netherlands is a big privilege for sure. It’s a bit different now, but college is very cheap here as opposed to in the US and there are a lot of student grants that gave us the freedom to learn and experiment.
The Dutch game industry isn’t super active, but we’ve had help and gained insights from many Dutch developers. I don’t think we would’ve wanted to start up in a different place.
|| What impressions were you left with after streaming all of your 75+ games in a row? Recently you treated Twitch viewers to an anniversary stream where you played every single one of your games. Did bingeing all of your titles leave you with any new insights into strengths or weaknesses in your catalog? Did you walk away with any new favorites or ideas?
We could really see how the games got a lot better on average! We didn’t really find out new things about the games though. One thing we did realize during the stream is that it would be cool to make more YouTube content or stream more often about how we made the games. Maybe a video like: top 5 shaders we made for our Patreon games.
|| You’ve been given infinite time and budget to develop one of your previous titles into a full-length experience—but you have to do so on a deserted island. Which game do you choose to work on, and what three games (your own or not) do you take with you to keep yourselves entertained in the meantime?
I can’t really speak for the others, but personally I would further develop Chatventures: an (M)MORPG that takes place in chat rooms! I would take Pokémon Red, Animal Crossing and Runescape.