Woody Addison

Woody Addison, rodeo game entrepreneur

The co-founder of SFC Rodeo Games tells us about converting a dream into a game with no prior industry experience.

By Anthony John Agnello • October 17, 2012

When standing in front of the game rack, the common complaint is that everything’s the same. Behold, yet another game about an ethnically neutral meathead shooting insurgents, psychos, and zombies. Game financier Woody Addison, the co-founder of independent publisher SFC Rodeo Games, got into the business just a few years back because he wanted an iPhone app for his favorite hobby: Heading and heeding a steer. The Kinect game Top Hand Rodeo Tour will bring Addison’s sport—team roping—and other rodeo staples to the Xbox 360 in November. The Gameological Society got Addison on the phone recently to talk about the how and why of bringing the rodeo home.

The Gameological Society: Tell me about your history with rodeo.

Woody Addison: I’m a team roper. Me and my partner are team ropers. Do you know what team roping is?

Gameological: The basics. I’ve seen a little bit of televised rodeo, and I’ve had some experiences at the New York State Fair.

Addison: Team roping is my only rodeo event. I’ve had horses for years and years, and my friends were always, “Hey, let’s rope! Let’s rope! Start roping, you gotta rope!” and it’s only been in the last several years that I got into it hard and heavy, and started competing. I wasn’t around it all my life. It’s probably been the last 15 years or so. My partner spent about nine years bull riding. We’re team roping partners, and that’s how we got into the whole video game thing, is through team roping. We wanted to build a team roping game.

Gameological: What hooked you?

Addison: It’s like golf, really addicting. The mechanics all seem so simple, but when you put all the variables together—being on the horse, running down the arena at 30 miles an hour, swinging a rope trying to catch a moving target—it looks so simple when you see the professionals do it. Just trying to get as good as they are, you get hooked. It’s one of those things.

Top Shot Rodeo Tour

Gameological: So team roping with your buddy is what drew you to make a video game. Tell me about the formation of your company SFC Rodeo, and that moment you decided to get into games.

Addison: I got an iPhone about three years ago, and we decided, “You know what? Let’s make a team roping app for the iPhone.” Neither of us have any background in video games, but people were making a bunch of money with apps, and we thought we could do that too. We could do something unique with what we like to do. Then we had the idea of taking the Wii, using the Wiimote, swinging it around like a rope, and using the nunchuck to steer the horse. That’s where the idea took off.

Gameological: What video games were you and your buddies playing when you finally decided, “Man, why isn’t there a rodeo game that we want to play?” What video games inspired you to make your own?

Addison: I don’t think any video games inspired us to build a rodeo video game. It was just when we realized we could use a motion controller, that’s when we said, “That’s good.” Because pushing buttons, rodeo isn’t fun. Once you immerse your body into it, and go through the real movements, then it becomes really fun. It makes it worth doing.

Top Shot Rodeo Tour

Gameological: What does a video game offer a rodeo fan? What’s the appeal of taking that into your living room rather than doing the real thing?

Addison: A lot of people don’t have access to the animals. A lot of people might live in a neighborhood and not have horses and cattle in the area. Kids want to be cowboys. It’s bringing that to somebody that may not have the ability to do it in real life, just like Call Of Duty or anything else. Most people aren’t going to go be a Navy SEAL, but it sure is fun to do it playing a game.

We’re going to have the rodeo fans by default, because there’s no other product out there. There’re 30 million people who go to a professional rodeo every year, and another 40 million who watch from home. So there’s a huge untapped market for the rodeo, and there’s not a product out there to give them a fantasy to go play rodeo after they get through watching on TV, watching the pros do it.

It needs to give them the motions and the feel that they’re really doing something, that they’re immersed in the game. That’s exactly what our game does. It lets them be involved. You can totally buy into the fantasy that you’re this cowboy working your way through the circuit—cowboy or cowgirl—working your way up to being top hand.

Gameological: Because of rodeo’s physicality, it makes sense to me that you would say, “Let’s not do buttons, let’s do Kinect.” At the same time, even with Kinect, there’s nothing there pushing back at you when you’re moving, unlike with a mechanical bull—that’s the historical link between rodeo and games. You go into a bar, you go into an arcade, here’s this thing you can ride. How do you give a Kinect game that physicality?

Addison: There is a push back, and it’s not a direct physical contact obviously, but the amount of difficulty that the game takes as it progresses through the different venues really does make you work it. You feel that. You feel that it’s not just going through the motions. You have to build skill and timing to work your way through the field, so in that sense you are getting feedback.

Gameological: What would you say have been the three biggest challenges to making a rodeo game since forming SFC?

Addison: Finding the right developer is probably the biggest one. Finding the right publisher has been another challenge. I don’t know that I have a third, those two really take center stage. Developer probably being the toughest one. We found a great developer in Panic Button.

Top Shot Rodeo Tour

Gameological: How did you find them?

Addison: We found them through looking through Kinect games that were put out in the market, and going through and talking to people, and interviewing people who had already built Kinect games. They’d done a Kinect game recently [Star Wars Kinect], and they were close to us.

Gameological: You said there are 70 million people into rodeo. That’s 70 million people out of the 350 million that live in the U.S. How do you build a rodeo game that educates that remaining 280 million people? How do you build something that tells people, “Hey, this is why rodeo is great?”

Addison: We built it so it would be fun, number one. We didn’t build a simulation; we built a game that’s as close to rodeo as you can get, but at the same time, is fun. It’s not just hardcore, in-your-face simulation. We’ve added some mini-game aspects to it to make it more accessible to some people—a shooting gallery game, speed roping with a twist on the old Stampede game for the Atari 2600. Everything isn’t exactly like rodeo.

Gameological: It’s funny, you said this isn’t a simulation, but at the same time you’re talking about how the great appeal of Tour is giving people access to these animals that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience. How do you balance that feeling of reality with that fun video game unreality?

Addison: There’s a whole outer ring of rodeo, right? A lot of stuff that’s considered hardcore—the traveling, the entry fee, the way of life, the injuries—all that kind of stuff doesn’t exist in this game. In that sense, that takes away from the hardcore simulation part of it. So that makes it more accessible, and more fun and more appealing.

Gameological: In your head, what’s the fantasy version of Tour? What is the version of this game that’s not bound by technology? What’s the perfect version of your game, if it’s not this one?

Addison: Ah, boy. If it’s not bound by technology, it’d be a 4D version of the game, where you’re getting wind and stuff blown on you. You get some of that pushback like you’re talking about. You’re getting some of the smells of the whole atmosphere of rodeo, whether it be the bulls and horses, or gunpowder smells.

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1,050 Responses to “Woody Addison, rodeo game entrepreneur”

  1. Ack_Ack says:

    I’m all for developers trying new things in video games, but jesus – this game couldn’t look any less interesting if it was a Reading Simulator.

    I’m glad they didn’t include the travelling, entry fees, etc.  My least favourite part of NHL 13 is when I have to drive to the airport, have my baggage checked.  And then what do you do on a plane for 3 hours? 

    • John Teti says:

      That part was odd. It has the whiff of ham-fisted media coaching — like Addison was counterproductively urged to reassure people that the game isn’t boring rather than allowed to tell people why he’s excited about it in the first place. But I don’t know; that’s just speculation.

      I played the game at a preview event recently, and in a 10-minute session I didn’t find it any better or worse than most other Kinect mini-game collections I’ve played. It did give me a good workout — it really makes you move. I can also confirm it does not simulate entry fees, not even once.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        Hrm, if we just go with comparing it to Kinect games, then it’s quite an understandable IP to develop. It only runs into a problem if we compare it to all games. 

  2. Bad Horse says:

    I’m all for new IPs and entrepreneurship, but this seriously sounds like a joke. It sounds like something Sifl & Olly would “review”, or that some lazy sitcom hack would put in as a B-plot.

  3. GhaleonQ says:

    Some say that S.N.K.’s greatest achievement is the Bakumatsu Romance/The Last Blade series.  Others can’t get over Metal Slug 3.  But what of Lasso, I say?  (It’s actually good, and was amazing in 1982.)

    While I’m skeptical of the subject of this really terrific interview, I WILL say that this is the type of thing gaming needs.  I don’t think this person or Guillermo Del Toro know how to create groundbreaking video games, but they are willing to look to atypical areas for mechanics, themes, and stories.  I’m sure this could easily make its money back. 

    I really hate how the interface looks like a bad Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater ripoff, though.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      Honestly this is pretty much exactly what I was thinking. Good on this guy for financing a video game about something he’s really into, and is different than other current games. As much as i’m uncomfortable about actual rodeos and the like, and as much as i will never play this game, I have to admire this kind of niche gaming stuff. 

  4. HobbesMkii says:

    When did the US get 350 million people? Am I crazy, or were the 2012 population estimates much lower than that?

    • Moonside_Malcontent says:

      Most recent stats put us at about 315 million (October 1st, 2012 US Dept. of Census)

      • HobbesMkii says:

        Yeah, so, rounding up by 35 million people seems more inaccurate than rounding down by 15 million.

        • Maudib says:

           35 million is a conservative estimate for the illegal immigrants and homeless population that also reside in the US.

        • HobbesMkii says:

           @Maudib:disqus I’m pretty sure the census estimate is an estimate of everyone in the United States, not just citizens with permanent residence. Actually, I know that for a fact; it’s why Census information is confidential.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

       immigrants from the future.

  5. Jason Reich says:

    I love that Addison thinks someone unfamiliar with the sport would look at rodeo and say, “Oh, the mechanics seem so simple.”