Building an Enduring Game Development Business #NotGDC

Since so many of us are instead attending the cheaper and easier to get to #NotGDC, I thought we should make a point of sharing our own advice with each other.

Write a blog post or create a video to share a quick tip. Tell us about a cool resource you found. Whatever you do, share it by using the #NotGDC hashtag.

Ernest Adams, author and game design consultant, recently shared an answer he gave to the question “What does it take to build an attractive business in the video gaming space that endures for many years?” on Quora.

Vision, flexibility, and ruthlessness.

Go read his full answer at the link above, in which he talks about what he saw happening at EA before it became the 800-pound gorilla of the game industry.

He contrasts EA with Zynga. When I attended GDC in 2011, I remember noticing all of the billboards advertising games, which isn’t something I was used to seeing in the Midwest. I remember seeing ads for Zynga and its games, and I imagined the amount of money it would take to do so. Zynga had an IPO that summer, and it was huge.

Soon, however, it fell hard. Zynga’s been cutting its workforce and lowering expectations, and last month it announced it was selling its very expensive headquarters in San Francisco.

Adams argues that Zynga was unable or unwilling to adapt to the market.

There is quite a bit written about what Zynga did wrong, but it didn’t really have much to fall back on when people started using Facebook on their phones more than their desktop environments.

Which is interesting because one of Zynga’s supposed reasons for success was that it applied “ghetto testing” to get market data that informed decisions about everything from what game mechanics to add to what virtual items to sell.

It rode one huge wave to success, and now it’s floundering.

EA, on the other hand, has many failures, but only because it sees many potential waves and tries to make sure it is in a position to ride them. If one wave crashes, it abandons it, and it can afford to because of all of the other waves it is successfully riding.

That adaptability is amazing when you think about how fast the industry changes and how many years it takes EA to publish a single game.

Now, as an indie game developer, EA might seem to be the exact opposite of what you want to model, but you don’t have to follow its business strategy. You might, however, learn a thing or two about making your indie game development business sustainable by learning from one of the largest successes in the industry.

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