The games industry is an exciting, creative, and fast moving industry, and of course, that’s why some of us chose to work in it. However, that is not to say it doesn’t come with many challenges. It is an extremely competitive market, and it can be difficult to balance creativity and innovation with profit. DeltaDNA spoke with the CEO of four pioneering and industry-leading games companies including Paradox International, NativeX, Angry Mob Games and Playspace, to share their insider advice on how to build and sustain a successful company in the games industry.
Passion at the heart
Bogdan Iliesiu, CEO of Angry Mob Games, a mobile games development company, thinks that you should always work on projects the whole team loves: “It ensures that they’re passionate about what they’re doing, keeps them productive and means that they deliver an excellent product. It’s also a good idea to continuously aim high while focusing on what your team’s strengths are. Don’t just follow top 20 success stories, and hope to get there with your next game. Find your audience and deliver what they truly want to play.”
Involve developers and designers in strategy
“Choose and set a clear vision for your company and your games”, says Petra Takeva, VP Marketing at Paradox Interactive, the leading global publisher of PC-based strategy games. “If you want to achieve great things, it’s important that you set out your objectives from the beginning. Setting out your vision clearly will inform your strategy and will guide the whole team to keep them on track. What’s the reason you are creating the game, what do you aim to achieve? Make sure your vision for your company and your games are aligned.”
She continues: “Integrate your business model thinking with game design. Most game developers are driven by a passion to create, however this means that the business of making games can be overlooked. It’s important to fuel passion with a solid business model that considers revenue streams, growth and longevity. Your business model should cover how your company intends to create value, and this needs to remain at the forefront of game design – make sure your team are aware of your business model and understand where value is created. This should filter down the organization so that everyone understands and buys into the model. Keeping game developers and designers out of the loop is a mistake and will reflect in the success of your finished game.”
Always look upon data insight as a constructive force to get developers on-board. “Get developers excited about the numbers! The best way to get your team to buy in to your business model is to involve them in the numbers. This doesn’t just have to be revenue, profit and sales figures: game analytics can provide a wealth of insight into how players are interacting with the game. Developers can use this data to inform their decision making and learn which elements work and which don’t.”
Agility and adaptability
“Know your business and your competition. By knowing the industry and the players, it helps you to identify best practices and possible areas of opportunity”, says Rob Weber, co-founder and CEO of NativeX, the leading native mobile ad technology for games. “Innovation often is easier to tap into when you have a solid understanding of the playing field. How well you know your business and competition is very evident when you start exploring App Store Optimization as you will quickly start to get a sense for how competitive, certain game categories and keywords are, in the app stores.
“Be agile. This is a fast moving industry where companies are often required to quickly pivot on strategy, technology, and the needs of your audience in order to stay in the game. NativeX has pivoted multiple times. We were among the very first mobile ad tech companies to provide a mobile offerwall solution for games, and as the market matured, we expanded and enhanced our native ad formats for games.”
Most importantly he believes you should be curious and proactive: “Curious people ask questions that start with ‘how,’ what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, and ‘why’. When you are inquisitive, you are teachable, have a desire to learn, and are present in the moment. Curious teams seek out a wide variety of options for product innovations, solutions to problems and market positioning. A team locked only in what is correct can tend to miss opportunities. Being proactive means that your team members are empowered to make decisions and aren’t paralyzed when they are not given specific assignments. Matt Hall, who co-designed the mega indie hit Crossy Road, suggests imagining your game is being designed for a specific individual user.
Don’t forget the culture
Alfonso Villar Chicharro, CEO & Co-founder at Playspace.com, a mobile & social gaming company, thinks the focus should be on planning and prioritizing. “When doing marketing research, don’t miss out the cost – per acquisition, market and platform. Most developers only see market potential without thinking of which platform to focus on, or if they can afford the acquisition budget for the release of the game. Instead they should concentrate on one game initially and look at the retention. It could take several iterations over months until they improve the funnel, but they shouldn’t wait too long – if they don’t see good retention numbers or payers, they shouldn’t be scared to kill the game and move on to another.”
Alfonso says that there should be more of a focus on what the culture and working approach needs to be: “Sometimes we can forget what the industry is about. We create games. So we need to continue to focus, and nurture, creativity and originality. Talent and team motivation are essential when developing and publishing games, and we need to continue to celebrate any great achievement, even if it is small, and explain to all the team why a feature or a game did not work as expected. Look into the ways in which you determine what makes you different, and ensure that it stays the centre of attention.”
So there you have it, successful CEO insight on games industry success factors. They have touched upon many ideas, however with one common thread – promotion and advancement of creativity, profit and retention. Hopefully utilizing some of these points can help to achieve success in this highly competitive and innovative industry.
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