Game Developers: The Argument for Taming the Business Side

Your typical game developer has mixed feelings about business types. In the way a mongoose feels about a cobra.

It's something in the DNA of most game developers. They're instinctively repelled by talk of Brooks Brothers, ties and addressable markets. Many game developers wear their ignorance of business issues as a badge of honor. To be a "suit" is a bad thing. But there's actually a pretty good case for every dyed-in-the-world game developer to master the game of business.

You do actually work in a business. 
At the end of the day, games are a commercial art. They need to make money if you want to put food on the table. No matter how cool the game you're making, if you can't answer the fundamental questions of business - who is this for and how are you going to get it to them? - then you're finished before you started.

You can get a promotion. 
You can definitely rise in the ranks without much business sense. But if you want to get into the highest reaches, you need the business know-how. The key to the executive suit at most big companies requires a sound grounding in business issues.

You can start your own company.
If you have dreams of ever running your own video game company, better bone up on business. It's pure fantasy to believe that you can run a game company with just a keen game idea and a hopeful attitude. Or, to put it more bluntly, it's a recipe for at best having your dreams shattered and at worst, becoming the "Prison Buddy" of someone more business savvy than you.

You learn the language and it starts to make sense. 
Or more sense. Really, discussing ROI and CCR with CPAs is no more annoying than talking TCPIP and SQL with DBAs - it's just a different set of jargon and vocabulary (ones that most game developers just aren't comfortable with). Granted, there's a fine line between jargon and gibberish. When your choice of words is meant to obfuscate rather than clarify, you've crossed over into Dilbert Land.

You discover suits aren't such soulless, money-grubbing ice weasels.  
Or as much as you thought. And really, don't we all just want to get along?

But here's the caveat for game devs who learn business - it's important not to lose sight of your main purpose. To make an entertaining product. It's our job to give our customers the fun. And it's a fine line between understanding business and being completely and cynically driven by business. (I regard you Mark Pincus with a dubious and squinty eye)

So is a video game designer who understands business an unholy abomination that makes Sharktopus look like a sound piece of biology?

Maybe, but let's face it - in the world of business, you're swimming with sharks. And if you gotta swim with sharks - there are advantages to being the big fish:

- Sean Dugan would like to proactively touch base with an outside-the-box paradigm shifting solution vis-a-vis this game dev-suit challenge.  

Image: Thorinside


  1. Well, that would certainly help clear up the doubled problem of game developers with no business sense partnering up and starting companies with business people who know nothing about the game industry.

  2. Actually, that would be a good topic - how amazing it is that there are business types who don't understand the product they are selling? It boggles my mind - I mean, I expect the executives at Proctor and Gamble brush their teeth and blow their noses! But it's all too common that game execs are far removed from the product.

    Yeah, I think this is definitely a good topic to cover! Thanks Bob! ;)