[MUD-Dev] R&D

Brian Bilek brian at darkalley.net
Tue Jun 4 20:37:20 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


Matt Mihaly wrote:
> On Mon, 3 Jun 2002, Brian Bilek wrote:

>> Why aren't more of the business executives in the industry more
>> knowledgeable, passionate, or otherwise have a better
>> understanding of games and gaming in general?  Is it that hard to
>> find someone with a business background who likes games?

> Well, why aren't hard-core gamers in the industry more
> knowledgeable, passionate, or otherwise have a better
> ounderstanding of the business of games, and business in general?

Because they are the customers.  They buy what they want to, and
while that knowledge or understanding might affect product choice,
it isn't a requirement.  I would argue that for the provider of a
product or service, the reverse is necessary (though perhaps
"passion" was misplaced here)...more thoughts below.

> (Actually, maybe they do, I really don't know. Just making a
> point.)

(me too ;)

> Games are a product/service developed through certain processes,
> and I don't really see why directing the business behind them
> necessarily requires a passion for games. A passion for the
> business of games, definitely.

Fair enough, point made - the executive in charge of a game company
needs no passion for the games themselves.  However, I think the
point is still salient - if we make an assumption (granted, a rather
large one) that the gentleman who originally stated that gaming
executives and marketing types lack an understanding of games and
gamers was correct in a general sense, does that not hurt their
ability to bring successful products to market?  I would think that
the successful marketing manager or product manager has an in-depth
understanding of their products and customers.

The strategic direction of business has to involve a core
understanding of the market - if the executives and the marketers
only understand revenue streams, expenses, and so on...in other
words, are solely focused on the financial aspect of the business, I
would argue that the business will not be truly successful.

I should have separated passion from understanding above, please
forgive my miscommunication.

> To make it easier to think about, consider a marketing
> executing. Why does he need to be passionate about games? It might
> help, but it may also cloud his judgement by letting an emotional
> attachment to the game get in the way of marketing it shamelessly.

> In the end, games are a product or service with certain costs,
> risks, processes, potential, and so on, and from that perspective,
> isn't fundamentally different from running other businesses.

Absolutely not, I agree.  See above - I apologize for mixing my
thoughts together.  It must have been from a lack of sleep :)

Here is the perception I have from my friends who work in the
industry: Often found in game companies, especially regarding
publishing houses that rely on outside developers, marketers and
business executives lack a true understanding of the product
concepts, and the customers they are selling to.  Business
decisions, from their point of view (granted, limited), seem to be
made solely based on the financials involved, without the
understanding of the product which would grant them true insight
into how the financial decisions affect the product and product
teams, in turn affecting the long-term financial viability of said
product.

On the other hand, another perception that I have is that the
industry, from the developer level at least, is extremely closed to
new blood (so to speak).  Outsiders are not welcome, and previous
game launch experience is necessary for one's resume not to meet an
untimely demise.

So, I have observed, based on assumptions yes, what I think is an
interesting dichotomy: It seems like at the 'business' level, there
is a lack of product understanding.  This is somewhat different that
a normal consumer product, given the complexity and the fact that
they are an entertainment product (and in the case of online games,
services).  Games aren't your standard off-the-shelf business
applications.  So from my point of view, it would help immensely if
the business people had a deep understanding of the products and the
consumers, in order to make strategic decisions that ensure the
long-term viability, and success, of the business.

But at the 'game development' level, the company seems to be
extremely closed to outside influence.  Due to the way most game
companies seem to hire, business experience means little here.  For
someone looking to make an 'in' into the industry, that person would
need to demonstrate a passion for games and some skill that is
useful at an entry level, since that is the only type of job
available to an 'outsider,' so to speak.  When hiring, game
companies seem to look for previous experience on successful game
launches above all else, and someone's education or experience
outside of the industry means practically nothing at all.

So, the perception I have is of an industry where the business types
know little about games, and those working on the games know little
about business.  Isn't this, in general, bad for the business and
for games?

If this perception is incorrect, I would enjoy having it shattered.

>> Perhaps a related question: With how incestuous the games
>> industry is, is it any wonder that the same mistakes are
>> continually made with respect to some of the practices mentioned
>> earlier in the thread?

> I'm not saying this is the case, but your comment suggests that
> the problem is maybe TOO many executives-from-the-gamers-ranks.

Again, I wasn't separating my thoughts properly.  My comments are
meant to suggest that based on my (probably flawed) perception of
the gaming industry as an outsider, that there are too many
executives who don't have a real understanding of their products,
and perhaps a lack of extensive business experience on the part of
developers and the management of development.

Your thoughts?

Cheers,

-Brian

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