Trio animated about viewing habits of young

Studio Powwow’s founders recognise how important internet and mobile devices are in the way the young consume entertainment

Studio Powwow is a games and animation studio set up in late 2012 by Stephen Kelly, Eoghan Dalton and Richard Glynn in response to the changing viewing habits of young audiences.

“The internet and mobile devices have become an increasing part of the way young people consume entertainment,” Kelly says. “Our studio’s focus is on creating entertainment brands across multiple media platforms, such as mobile games, online videos and TV. In the industry this is called transmedia.

“A lot of other brands such as Rovio’s Angry Birds and Cartoon Networks’ Adventure Time, have developed into transmedia brands but they were not necessarily developed to work across different mediums from the beginning,” Kelly adds.

“Our first product, ShipAntics, has been developed with multiple different media platforms in mind from conception. We are developing storylines and characters that are intertwined and cross over games, online video and TV.”

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ShipAntics is aimed at a global audience of six- to eight-year-old boys and girls and was originally conceived as an idea for a TV show. However, the partners quickly realised that it would also work well as a mobile game.

“We were inspired by other cartoon shows and games such as Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and old Lucas Arts adventure games,” Kelly says. “We decided to develop a game first because the barriers to entry, costs and development times are lower and there are fewer gatekeepers looking for their cut. We also wanted to retain as much of the IP and rights within the company as possible.”

The first episode of ShipAntics, which Kelly describes as “a series of fun-filled episodic puzzle adventure games”, came out in July of last year on iOS and the second part was released in November. In January 2015, the first two episodes were released on Android. Kelly says that by going mobile first, the company engaged its audience directly and was able to establish its brand much faster than if it had started with a TV show.

The company has since released a number of videos on YouTube to continue the ShipAntics storyline and there are plans for more episodes. However, at the moment the company's focus is on ramping up the development of ShipAntics for TV.

“We found that the mobile market for games has become extremely crowded and that there is a lot of competition, especially in the kids’ space,” Kelly says. “We have partnered with another Irish children’s app developer, StoryToys, to publish and promote ShipAntics to help mitigate this. Our next step is to get the TV show ready and we are one of the projects short listed to pitch our idea at a major European forum for animated TV projects in September.”

Studio Powwow employs its three founders full-time and up to 10 people on a part-time basis depending on the work in hand.

The founders all come from animation backgrounds and worked on projects together as students before setting up their company and participating in the National Digital Research Centre’s (NDRC) 2012 LaunchPad accelerator programme for high potential business start-ups.

While all three multitask, Glynn mainly looks after the business and production side of the operation while Kelly and Dalton are more on the creative side.

Kelly estimates that even with bootstrapping the business every step of the way it has cost about €200,000 to bring ShipAntics this far and this figure does not include the huge amount of the time put in by the founders.

The money to support the project has come from a number of sources including the NDRC, a loan from the Irish Film Board and €50,000 from Enterprise Ireland under its competitive start funding. The company also generates income by working on projects for other people.

– OLIVE KEOGH