This is our interview with David Martz, VP of Sales and Marketing for Muzzy Lane, a company we talked about earlier today.
ed: What challenging aspect of the industry is Muzzy Lane currently trying to tackle? In other words, why was the company designed?
What we are focused on is not trying to revolutionize learning. We want to make it more accessible. So many entrepreneurs say the system is broken, we are going to do it all from scratch. But we’re going to be practical. We are a digital game distribution company. We would rather keep things digital and cost effective and provide it for whoever wants it 24 hours a day seven days a week. We don’t love the traditional printed material, but it does serve a purpose, so let’s try not to disrupt that.
We are really about leveraging the gaming medium to provide differentiated learning, additional learning, call it what you will. We know that games teach and the question becomes what they teach and that is determined by how you design the game and what you build into it. People that play games, they learn by doing.
We are saying…can we use games to make the material not only more fun, but engaging and more accessible. What gaming unleashed is user centric control.
ed: What do you think education entrepreneurs need at this moment in the industry to be successful? Marketing? A good idea? A network?
Distribution. That’s an easy one. We have been at this for a while and we have experienced different methods of selling into this space. The whole buying channel is complex and dominated by legacy players. And legacy players are not necessarily interested in innovative approaches.
If you are [an entrepreneur] trying to make inroads, you can make the greatest product in the world but how do you get that from your hands into the hands of the teachers and students who need it? You can address that with marketing and capital, but those are the means to the end.
ed: What is the biggest expense for your company right now outside of human capital? Do you see that changing? And what factors would change that?
Our biggest expense is human capital. We invest all of our money in our game designers, our programmers, and our engineers.
We work with the retail distribution channel, we don’t want a build a huge direct sales source ourselves. We partner with Paradox and Impulse, those are the digital distribution outlets.
In the ed space, we often develop games for third parties, and they already have reach into the marketplace. Our core is our tech. We have a game engine and a platform for making and designing games. We will spend money on the business development side and with partners who want to build and design games and get those into consumer hands. It would be different if we were a single company making a single game, like a science game. But because we have a core tech base, we make things for other people, we don’t have to rely solely on product sales.
ed: If you could create an extension of your company and do something else in the education sector with it, what would it be and what consumer would you be looking to find?
One of the reasons we are happy with where we are today…we learned from our mistakes and we have adapted and changed course to what the market is telling us it needs, and that is digital distribution and designing games.
In terms of if we can do something different…when we built this web enabled games as a service environment it was clear to use there were legs for this tech in the consumer base. Instead of having an LMS-enabled game, you could have a Facebook or Twitter-enabled game. Once you web-enable that kind of experience, that really opens up the design. You can see that social connectedness that results from every time you do something in the game. That’s probably something we would explore a little bit more.
ed: Outside of the need for delivering a needed business offering, what sparked the idea for Muzzy Lane?
Leveraging the gaming medium to make education more accessible. But there was another problem and that was the publisher-developer relationship. The developer makes a one off game, and the publisher may not go back to the original developer for another version. There was a waste of the code base and making it once every time. That was a constant source of irritation.