Interview with James Simpson, owner of GoldFire Studio

Please note this interview took place in 2012. Some of the answers may be out of date.

Hello James Simpson, please introduce yourself. How old are you? What do you do on the internet?

Hi, I'm James (obviously), 35 years old and the CEO of GoldFire Studios. We are a small web game studio based out of Oklahoma City that had its roots in virtual pet games.​

You used to the be the owner of, which was a virtual pet game. How long did you own it before you sold it?

Yes, Venetopia was the 2nd virtual pet game, well really the 2nd game of any kind I had made after SchooglePets (which was an awful disaster, but what else can you expect from a 13-year-old that has no idea what he's doing). It is hard to believe, but that was close to 10 years ago. I want to say I owned it for around 6-8 months before I sold it, but I can't say for sure.​

What made you decide to sell Venetopia? Was it because of personal reasons? Also, who were your main competitors when you ran Venetopia?

Venetopia was quite successful at the time, and I learned a lot building the site and the community. However, I was very interested in a lot of different kinds of games. So, it was really a combination of getting excited about a new game idea I had and a buyer randomly contacting me. I never pursued a buyer, it just sort of happened. If I remember right, it was MonoPets, and they were the ones that actually bought Venetopia originally.​

You also owned a top listing site/gaming site called Apexwebgaming - was this your first site? You sold it correct? How much did it sell for?

Yes, Apex Web Gaming was actually the first website I ever made. It was actually pretty interesting because the first version of the site didn't even have a domain name, it was just one of the many free hosting sites back int he day. I eventually sold a $20 ad for a game called Space Federation which allowed me to buy and grow it into one of the largest top game directories for quite some time. Yes, I sold it a few years back when I got myself into a situation where I needed cash. Since it was my first site, it had a lot of sentimental value, so it was tough to let it go. The buyer didn't want me to disclose the price, but it was in the low $xx,xxx range.​

After your days of running Venetopia and Apexwebgaming, what did you start doing after?

I made a lot of different kinds of entertainment and gaming sites throughout high school and college. Some of the more notable ones would include the fanboy fueled NexGen Wars, Eternal Kingdoms,, Apex Gaming Ads, Leet Media, and PokerRPG/BC Wars (which I still run). Most of these I just ended up selling because they didn't hold my interest long enough, but by the end of college I started figuring out what I really wanted to do and I've been building that with GoldFire Studios for about the last year or so.​

In your days of running those sites, how much revenue were you making?

Revenue really varied quite a bit, but generally through high school and early in college I would generate revenues in the mid-to-high $x,xxx range.​

How old were you when you created Venetopia? How about Apexwebgaming?

I was 13 when I first created Apex Web Gaming and I just turned 14 when I started working on Venetopia.​

What are some things you could tell an upcoming pet site owner? Is it easy to run a pet site, or is it hard? If you could say something to help pet site owners, what would it be?

Well, I've been out of the loop as far as pet sites go for quite a long time now, so I'm sure the landscape has changed pretty dramatically. But, my experience running many different types of games has been fairly steady. It certainly isn't easy, but if you truly enjoy doing it, then it isn't hard either. It can be very rewarding if you put quality time into it, and the friends you make in the process are invaluable. As far as specifics go, it is the same with any type of game. Don't use pre-made scripts, don't just copy what all of the other pet sites are doing. There are thousands of other games just like yours, so do something to stand out, and make sure you reward your most loyal players, as they will be your best marketers.​

Are you an Apple fan or a Microsoft fan?

All through high school I was an avid Microsoft fan, but since then I've been Apple all the way. I've got a Macbook Pro, an iPad 3, and an iPhone 5. However, I do love my Xbox 360.​

What other sites do you run these days?

PokerRPG, BC Wars, GoldFire Network, and an unannounced one that will be revealed in the coming weeks.​

Tell us about your company, GoldFire Studios - what are some of your main focuses? How long has the company been running?

Technically GoldFire Studios has been running since I started Venetopia, but it was officially founded in 2008. Over the last year we have really worked on getting a solid focus, and that is on cutting-edge browser-based games using HTML5 technologies. We built the GoldFire Network as a means to make community and real-time gameplay our focus moving forward.​

What are some of your favorite hobbies? What do you do for fun?

Other than working on my business and playing video games, I'm a big sports fan. I never miss an Oklahoma Sooners or Dallas Cowboys football game. I also especially never miss my hometown Oklahoma City Thunder, and in fact I became a season ticket holder this year (after a year on the waiting list). I also enjoy going out to the court and playing pickup basketball when I get a chance. I haven't had a lot of time for this lately, but camping and exploring the outdoors is another hobby of mine.​

You're a coder, designer and artist, right? Did you find it hard to learn all these things?

Yes, though as my business has expanded and I've added more people to the team, I've started to let other people take over some of those roles. From very early on, much earlier than I even had a computer, I've been painting, so I think art and design came pretty naturally. Coding took quite a bit longer to get the hang of, but I learned very quickly through all the mistakes I made early on with SchooglePets.​

What do you think has been your worst business mistake ever? Any good business decisions you could to tell us about?

Worst business mistake would be losing focus. I constantly am getting new ideas for businesses and games, which can be very distracting for what you are trying to work towards and can lead to setbacks if you don't stay focused. For example, I started work on BC Wars much too early while PokerRPG was still growing, and it really damaged the PokerRPG community. That is one reason why I've worked hard to completely overhaul my business over the last year and get a clear focus.​

What are your favorite means of communication? Phone calls? Texting? Twitter? Facebook?

I'm on my phone quite a bit, but probably texting more than calling (unless within a business context of course). I've started to prefer Twitter over Facebook recently (I'm @GoldFireStudios).​

Do you think social networking is the future for communicating on pet sites?

Communication and community are one of the things we are putting a lot of work and thought into at GoldFire Studios, and we aren't focusing solely on social network for a reason. Social networking will definitely continue to play a major role, but it will never be the sole means of communication.​

This concludes our interview with James. Thank you for your time. Are there any questions from our members?​