Now That You're Done Firing Everyone...

 Pages 1 2 3 NEXT
 

Now That You're Done Firing Everyone...

Shamus Young gives some handy pointers for saving your game company from financial disaster.

Read Full Article

Well Shamus, if you don't like it, then remember: there are five million ways to kill a C.E.O.

Also, how come your articles are always so much better than everyone else'?

Can't agree enough about the graphics race, although I've been saying it for years. Trouble is, I do quite like these new games with their fancy graphics. Batman was particularly good looking.

However, The Witcher showed what you can do with an existing engine to create a great game. It's also much better looking than other Aurora games I can think of.

wow, when you first embrace a word you go all the way don't you, in that paragraph alone the word causal was there more than anyplace else, ive seen popcap reviews with less use of the word.

and i really liked the idea of lowering the price of games instead of increasing it, once gaming goes democratic you have my vote good sir.

oh and in case you needed proof of art style before graphically realism, zeno clash and machinarium where two of the best looking games of 09 (in my opinion, don't yell at me, please)

Another thing I think contributed to a lot of failing studios over the last two years was the absolute glut of MMO offerings. It seemed that after the success of WoW everybody was trying to get in on the subscription model. I understand why, ActiBlizz can basically run their entire business on the WoW revenues alone, but I think the biggest problem that the other MMOs ran into was that there were just too darn many of them trying to grab the other potential MMO players out their that they starved each other.

I have a feeling the "buying other companies"-bit is more about acquiring licenses, copyrights, proprietary tools, et cetera than the actual company itself. If they did nothing else with the company, and just had people pay them for licensing permissions they could make their investment back.

That's supposed to be the underlying logic, doesn't mean they still don't do stupid things.

Sorry, but when your advice is more or less "Stop being stupid!" then the chances of anyone actually following it are....slim at best.

The "good graphics" becoming more expensive and untenable in the long run is something I've been thinking about. What happens when games stop where they are? For PC games, I imagine it could give video card companies a very hard time once gamers realize that they don't need the top of the line card for ANYTHING. Or it could spike the sales in midline cards, since everybody knows they'll be good for a while. (I kind of doubt it. But game development absolutely drives most of the market for video processing technology.)

I can't help but think that competition for beautiful graphics between games will prevent from stopping the advancement of graphics altogether. Maybe the gaming studios will decide that casual gamers don't need good graphics though, and move in that direction.

Shamus, I love your columns. When I read that EA was firing 1500 people, then spending $300 million on buying a casual game company, I thought that was the dumbest thing I've ever seen. Gorram morons.

Andy_Panthro:
Can't agree enough about the graphics race, although I've been saying it for years. Trouble is, I do quite like these new games with their fancy graphics. Batman was particularly good looking.

However, The Witcher showed what you can do with an existing engine to create a great game. It's also much better looking than other Aurora games I can think of.

And there is the one he missed. Stop making new engines for every game. Jesus if they work use them. I promise only a select few will notice or even care.

Good article and I agree. The problem is that all the corporate suits just want money these days and they think pushing the boundaries of graphics is the bees-knees. Ill admit it plays a part. But, if you sacrifice everything else in terms of gameplay just so you bring us something that 'looks good'? Its just sad.

Also..casual gamers!!!! *FOAM!*

Shamus Young:
Lower your prices.

Really. Just try it. Put a new game out for $30 instead of $60 and see if you don't sell enough units to make up the difference. You are not the only industry with money troubles. Things are tough all over. Lots of people are broke. Wouldn't it be better to sell customers your game at half price than to sell them nothing at all for the full price?

That's a great idea, but:

Shamus Young:
Modern Warfare 2

Yeah. See, this is the best selling game of all time and it's the one game that was priced 60$ instead of 50$.
The only way consumers can dictate market prices is with their purchase decisions. Everyone hates Bobby Kotick for saying games should be more expensive instead of less and yet, everyone and their mum goes out and buys the more expensive game.

In his place, what would go through my mind is "Cool, they really like paying more! Any shred of humanity I had that made me slightly doubt my decision has been proven wrong!".

Shamus, there's a reason you're writing articles on a gaming website and not running these companies. You are cursed by the blight of logical, intelligent thinking.

If we could get a few people like you in there, perhaps gaming would resemble a working industry, and less a wild Tasmanian devil orgy with cats flying all over the place.

Mr.Tea:

Yeah. See, this is the best selling game of all time and it's the one game that was priced 60$ instead of 50$.

The marketing for that game was pretty shrewd in the UK - first they get everyone whipped up into a lather about selling it for a mind-bogglingly inflated 55, and on the day of release most of the major outlets slashed the price to approximately 25, which is about what you'd expect to pay for a fairly new second hand game. As far as first week sales go, it's unlikely that particular stunt didn't make any difference to the sales figures.

I advocate use of part-time gamers instead of casual. It's a much more suitable description, to me.

Anyways

Mr.Tea:

Shamus Young:
Lower your prices.

Really. Just try it. Put a new game out for $30 instead of $60 and see if you don't sell enough units to make up the difference. You are not the only industry with money troubles. Things are tough all over. Lots of people are broke. Wouldn't it be better to sell customers your game at half price than to sell them nothing at all for the full price?

That's a great idea, but:

Shamus Young:
Modern Warfare 2

Yeah. See, this is the best selling game of all time and it's the one game that was priced 60$ instead of 50$.
The only way consumers can dictate market prices is with their purchase decisions. Everyone hates Bobby Kotick for saying games should be more expensive instead of less and yet, everyone and their mum goes out and buys the more expensive game.

In his place, what would go through my mind is "Cool, they really like paying more! Any shred of humanity I had that made me slightly doubt my decision has been proven wrong!".

Yeah, pretty much what Mr. Tea said. Though there is a reason I refuse to buy new Activision games ever again.

I still am oblivious as to why Modern Warfare 2 was so successful. Yes, I get it, it sold enough copies to buy a small country. However having seen it in action made me wonder if the sales were justified, or question the customers' taste.

Mr.Tea:

Shamus Young:
Lower your prices.

Really. Just try it. Put a new game out for $30 instead of $60 and see if you don't sell enough units to make up the difference. You are not the only industry with money troubles. Things are tough all over. Lots of people are broke. Wouldn't it be better to sell customers your game at half price than to sell them nothing at all for the full price?

That's a great idea, but:

Shamus Young:
Modern Warfare 2

Yeah. See, this is the best selling game of all time and it's the one game that was priced 60$ instead of 50$.
The only way consumers can dictate market prices is with their purchase decisions. Everyone hates Bobby Kotick for saying games should be more expensive instead of less and yet, everyone and their mum goes out and buys the more expensive game.

In his place, what would go through my mind is "Cool, they really like paying more! Any shred of humanity I had that made me slightly doubt my decision has been proven wrong!".

True, but the really intelligent ones would hopefully realise that MW2 is an exception to the usual rule. MW2 is an established brand that speaks of polish, quality and in terms of hours invested into the game not too bad value for money. And the hype about it helped as well.

Most games aren't like that. Most games need to drop in price. I'd happily buy more games if I could get them for 10 instead of 25. Case in point: Serious Sam HD, on Steam 6.11, wouldn't have brought it but it was under 7!

Great article as always, one of the main highlights of my week. I liked the one about lowering the prices, although I guess you could say that's maybe a little too obvious (I mean, who doesn't want cheaper games?). I really don't understand why they hired all those other people in the first place. Once they've finished with one project, why not put them on another one? They are actually making, you know, more games, aren't they? Saying they hired too many to begin with just doesn't cut it; that would be one of the worst examples of bad company financing I've ever seen.

Executive 1: We've just started some new games and we need more people to make them. You'll have full access to the company assets. Employ as many people as you can find.

Executive 2: What are we going to do with them once the games are finished?

Executive 1: ...

Executive 2: ... ah yes. Of course. How silly of me.

They buy the game companies for the original ideas that they came up with so they can sit on them while they trundle out the same crap year after year, only pulling out these ideas when someone else releases a game with an idea very similar to the one they essentially paid $300 million for.

Alot of game and software companies make most of the workers sign project contracts, they are hired for as long as it takes to make the game.

I agree about the graphics, before new graphics engines were released every 6 weeks, companies licensed out existing engines and found new and improved ways of making old dogs do new tricks.

Shamus:

My thoughts might not be correct but they are the same ones I've had since the beginning.

I do not think that the gaming industry *IS* in trouble because a lot of reports I've seen have talked about this as a multi-billion dollar industry that was raking in huge piles of cash. A report at odds with the "oh noes, we're in trouble, we must lay people off" messages we're getting.

The question thus occurs as to why people would be getting laid off. The answer to that is pretty simplistic. Less employees means more money. Not to mention that a lot of it comes down to WHO you lay off. If you lay people off that were hired under a contract that costs you a lot to keep them on in terms of raises, benefits, etc... you don't have to pay those things. In return hiring new employees lets you start them out at the bottom of the salary charts so to speak. Consider you can promise lavish long-term benefits packages and such if you don't plan for anyone except for a select few to actually collect them.

I think EA for example is lying about it's lack of profitability. Really, I'm not buying it. Maybe they might not have hit their "projected growth" which to their big wigs is the same thing as losing money, but for the rest of us it's not even close. They probably bought a casual games company to broaden their market (as you mentioned), without nessicarly sacrificing their other areas anymore than they planned to begin with. The current recession just provides a conveinently deep cloak under which to hide the dagger they intended for their employees all along.

Continuously cycling people is currently a popular corperate trick as well. Right now with everyone laying off, a pool of skilled games industry workers is created. The various game companies can hire new people with skills from their old jobs at an entry level, and then dump them in a few years back into the pool and get someone else. The end result is experienced employees to do their job, at newbie wages. Some industries have coordinated things like that intentionally at the top, and given the way how they have coordinated for price increases already I wouldn't put it past them. Start looking for a trend where EA picks up former employees from other companies, and other companies have projects being done by former EA employees.

Also some of these companies sort of deserve what they got. Funcom for example seemed to perpetuate a giant like/scam on the MMORPG community via Age Of Conan, promising things that while possible they apparently had no intention of keeping. That game would have been incredible if it had what they said it was going to have even a few months before release. Given their investment I'd believe they are in trouble for real, and honestly I can't say they don't deserve it.

Because i have little time, i will make this short.

I can tell you one game that did well for the graphics part, yet failed on pricing.
Halo:ODST

They used the Halo 3 engine, which saved a fair bit of time in the production of the game, but priced it quite highly.
The fact that people were keen enough (in reviews, Xplay was an example) to say that the halo 3 engine was showing its age.

Does that really matter? It looked nice then, it looks nice now. At least Bungie didn't slap on a extra year to 18 months to make the game because of the development in new graphics.

Same with Valve.
They use a Modified version of the Half Life 2 engine for left4dead 1 and 2, and some critics have the guts to call out on this 'flaw'. When in fact, it helps speed up the time it takes to create the games. Hell, i think it helped with the early creation of left4dead 2. *

Really, i prefer more games with similar engines, than less with different engines. It would add the amount of games (quality ones) that are on the market.

*Though in this comment, i do not wish to refer to HL2 E3. That has little excuse.

Hit the nail on the head with cheap games, I think THAT is why they are selling so well.

Take the Christmas Sale that Steam had recently, I can only speak for my own experiences but I WENT CRAZY!! Seriously, I looked back over my receipts and I spent over TWO HUNDRED POUNDS STERLING on games, more than I had spent in the past 3 years combined on Steam!

I hope Steam considers their amazing sale a success.

I have to say I can usually never afford to buy a game new at full launch price, I do play a LOT of games but I don't have all that much disposable income, 40 for a new game is too much for what is not going to be much more than 10 hours of entertainment and is a big gamble on a game that I may very well not like.

And it is getting to that point in this generation that $60 is too much for a single game, it made sense back in 2006/2007 when it was all very "next gen" but I think the booming pre-owned market says as much about how most gamers simply can't afford the original selling price, so Gamespot and its ilk run their little racket of buying for $15 and selling for $40 they are raking in the profits and the publishers don't get a penny from resales.

It sucks that it takes more balls to reduce the price point than to fire thousands of your own employees.

But who will lead the way. Perhaps Valve has shown if they ever publish their sales in relation to the recent Holiday sale.

really firing people is more of an accounting tool then anything else. Its a way for a company to tell wallstreet "look at the money we just saved by not having to pay these ppl"

This is a fairly frightening thing to be reading. I'm in my second year of a three year game development degree, and this is shedding a pretty harsh light on my getting a job after I finish. Even if the recession ends, and companies do start hiring again for new projects, there's going to be so much competition from people with games already under their belt, that getting a job is going to be a pretty slim chance.

I hope that they take your fine advice on board Shamus, otherwise, I might have a grim future ahead of me.

Inconsistancies Arise:
Because i have little time, i will make this short.

I can tell you one game that did well for the graphics part, yet failed on pricing.
Halo:ODST

They used the Halo 3 engine, which saved a fair bit of time in the production of the game, but priced it quite highly.
The fact that people were keen enough (in reviews, Xplay was an example) to say that the halo 3 engine was showing its age.

Does that really matter? It looked nice then, it looks nice now. At least Bungie didn't slap on a extra year to 18 months to make the game because of the development in new graphics.

Same with Valve.
They use a Modified version of the Half Life 2 engine for left4dead 1 and 2, and some critics have the guts to call out on this 'flaw'. When in fact, it helps speed up the time it takes to create the games. Hell, i think it helped with the early creation of left4dead 2. *

Really, i prefer more games with similar engines, than less with different engines. It would add the amount of games (quality ones) that are on the market.

*Though in this comment, i do not wish to refer to HL2 E3. That has little excuse.

art style over graphics=tf2. Yeah love how valve uses the same stable, quite modable, engine for multiple of there games with great results.

All of these points of evil (and I do agree they are evils) can be connected to form a picture. That picture is of a stock prospectus and a non-gamer holding it demanding value for their investment.

In other words, if you want to fix the worst parts of what you are complaining about, in my opinion, you must abolish stock holders or at the very least their profit motive. Good luck with that, I'm with you whenever there's a plan.

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: Now That You're Done Firing Everyone...

Shamus Young gives some handy pointers for saving your game company from financial disaster.

Read Full Article

I've wondered about slashing prices myself, especially after graduating and having trouble landing a job. GameFly is my best way to play new games unless I can find them for cheap, and the only games priced around $20 or less I've either already played or really don't want to. Seeing them at smaller prices would get me buying more games at launch, and I'm sure others feel the same way.

One thing that sort of goes hand in hand with your mention of graphics is the mere ambition of some studios. There are a lot of games with great concepts that are simply way too ambitious for their own good. Shooting games that just don't cut it, are bland or even bad because they tried to make an absolutely huge game to compete with AAA-titles. It's hard to find small studios pushing the envelope so you can only rely on the huge studios with massive budgets.

While there are some exceptions (regardless of what you feel of Brutal Legend, the game's polish and quality is top notch for a game that's for the most part from a small studio, and same goes with Batman: Arkham Asylum), I feel Shadow Complex, Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, Penny Arcade: On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness and Castle Crashers are key Xbox Live examples of small studios making excellent games without huge budgets. Sure Shadow Complex has the largest budget of the three, but all three are fun and proved to have a market.

Plus, I have no clue how much it would cost to develop any of those three games, but if you only sold 100,000 digital copies of the game you still made a pretty penny. Charging $10? You just made a million bucks. Charging $15? You made $1.5million.

I also think developers are under-estimating the desire for RPG's on the Xbox Live arcade as well. I love the Penny Arcade games because they feel like the old SNES era games with a bit of evolution (not to mention the writing), and I know a friend of mine and I would LOVE to see more games like that popping up to download and play. Yet instead I sit down to give the Divinity II demo a whirl and am greeted by obviously low-budget quality, horrible animations, clunky control and a complete lack of interest to even see the demo to completion. If the developers had been less ambitious and tried to make a game more to the scale of Shadow Complex, Penny Arcade or Castle Crashers, I might have been more interested.

The way I see it, the smaller studios need to be taking a huge advantage with the online marketplace. Build a game that "hardcore" gamers will want, or beckoning to long lost nostalgia, and market it as well as Shadow Complex or Castle Crashers were marketed, and let it loose. Chances are you'll do great.

But instead, everyone just wants to make games that are too big for them. That, or all the games on Arcade are basically coin-op style of gameplay. It's fun for a few minutes to half an hour, but it doesn't immerse in the same manner as a "hardcore" title would. AAA doesn't NEED to mean $60 retail disc. It could just mean the experience and quality the game will provide. Shadow Complex is as much a AAA product as Modern Warfare 2, Dragon Age, Brutal Legend, ODST, Batman, so on and so forth.

Mordwyl:
I still am oblivious as to why Modern Warfare 2 was so successful. Yes, I get it, it sold enough copies to buy a small country. However having seen it in action made me wonder if the sales were justified, or question the customers' taste.

Their marketing machine was top notch. Adding that with the publicity they got from both sides (mostly the "bad" publicity about the "controversial" moments in the game) makes everyone interested pretty much aware of the game's existance.

In the end, if the game is loved by many, and hated by zealots, it will do well in sales. This is not fool proof, but it worked with Duke Nukem 3D, Carmageddon and a few more.

But what about the studies showing that if you price your game too low,people will think there's something wrong with it? Note that the Steam games they're selling at these low prices aren't the LAUNCH prices. The cheaper cost model only makes sense if you can sell the cheaper version later to the people who wouldn't have paid the higher price at launch.

I think a better recommendation to developers would be to remember that the market just doesn't go away after launch. Movies have the secondary sales of DVDs and rentals. Game publishers can capitalize on older games with cheaper prices as long as they actually KEEP SELLING THEM. There's a lot of games that I can only find used. Why shouldn't my money go to the developers instead of some gamestore reseller?

Was the first paragraph a Parrot Sketch reference?

The thing about graphics, I've always considered good graphics to be more about style than realism.

I mean okay so you've got realistic people but everything's brown and it's fnucking boring to look at. I'mma go over here and stare at Dismissed as Kiddy 2. It's pretty.

A strong article. Strong opinion. You can neve go wrong with a well crafted story with excellent gameplay, no matter how shitty the graphics. Keep it up.

Grrrrrrrraaaaah. Why, oh why the fucking CEOs look at everything only from a financial point of view?! If they actually spent five to ten minutes on, you know, digging deeper than basic company-running routines they've learned in their first year of financial college, they could have made a lot more money by making smart decisions. You can't just make money in entertainment industry by buying low and selling high or some shit like that - this ain't stock exchange. Nor it is banking. They could fire idiots in marketing and PR departments instead of valuable programmers. But they will not. Because all corporate executives are idiots who barely have enough brain cells to drool.

I hate big bloated megacorporations - mainly because they're even unable to do their jobs properly.

Kollega:
Grrrrrrrraaaaah. Why, oh why the fucking CEOs look at everything only from a financial point of view?! If they actually spent five to ten minutes on, you know, digging deeper than basic company-running routines they've learned in their first year of financial college, they could have made a lot more money by making smart decisions. They could fire idiots in marketing and PR departments instead of valuable programmers. But they will not. Because all corporate executives are idiots who barely have enough brain cells to drool.

I hate big bloated megacorporations - mainly because they're even unable to do their jobs properly.

I think I have an answer for CEOs looking at everything from a financial point of view.

Namely that CEOs run businesses, and businesses exist to make money. It's that simple. You can say that they could've made a lot more money by 'making smart decisions', but where's your proof of that?

Yes, laying of 1500 employees and then spending $300 million or whatever for acquiring another gaming company seems stupid, but you know what else seems stupid in retrospect? Making new IPs for games instead of making sequels to the same franchise over and over again. Mirror's Edge and Dead Space didn't make nearly as much money as Madden, the Call of Duty's, or Halo.

We can really debate what game companies are doing as stupid all we want, but unless we have in company notices or psychic powers, we don't have the knowledge of why those 1500 employees were fired from EA. You can say that they could fire the guys from marketing and PR instead of the programmers, but think of it this way. If those marketing and PR guys had successfully marketed games that became hits constantly before the under-performing games but the game in question was the first game that those 1500 employees were working on and you needed to make cuts somewhere... what would you have done?

Now, I'm not saying that those marketing guys WERE successful for the company before or that those 1500 people were incompetent or had the bad luck to be working on a their first game that didn't do well, but I wouldn't be surprised if this was the case. But yet again, we really have no way of knowing why each of those employees got fired, because most of us don't work for EA or are privy to their CEOs' internal business plans.

CustomMagnum:
- snip (too damn long) -

I forgot to mention my main point, and it goes thus: unlike, say, banking, entertainment industry is not purely financial. You can't run a publishing company with ONLY financial methods - you also have to understand what the fuck are you doing, have a basic idea of how entertainment industry works.

Launching a game or a film is not dependant only on good marketing and getting as much revenue as you can for as little investment as possible. But "big boys" seem not to understand that.

And amounts of marketing dudes employed by each and every corporation in existence are just redundant anyway.

 Pages 1 2 3 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here