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EGD News #106 — A series of silver bullets

EGD News #106 — A series of silver bullets

Sent on October 29th, 2021.

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💊 A series of silver bullets

“How The Mighty Fall,” Jim Collins’ book, talks about companies, once great, failing. Eventually, they become mediocre and finally to capitulation or irrelevance. As I was recently reading the book, I had a familiar sense with what I had written about earlier this year, when I wrote about parallel game projects.

Then I asked founders to ask.

  1. Do you have the human resources to set up a second game team?
  2. Do you have a system in place for concepting, production, and launching your games?
  3. Do you have sufficient capital to concept, produce and launch a game?

But I believe there’s so much more to the topic of making several games at the same time.

In “How The Mighty Fall,” Collins talks about companies placing many undisciplined bets as they struggle and gasp for air. They believe that a series of silver bullets will save them. As Collins says that “common ‘saviors’ include a charismatic visionary leader, a bold but untested strategy, a radical transformation, a dramatic cultural revolution, a hoped-for blockbuster product, a “game-changing” acquisition, or any number of other silver-bullet solutions.”

And it never works. The only choice is to embrace “less is more.” When going after silver bullets, founders, executives, and board members should, in Collins’s words: “Breathe. Calm yourself. Think. Focus. Aim. Take one shot at a time.”

But is this true for gaming? If you have the capital, the human resources, the systems, shouldn’t you always pursue more game projects?

Last summer, I wrote about another concept from Jim Collins, which states that we’d first fire “Bullets, then a cannonball.”

Here’s what I wrote:

“The idea is to fire small bullets (test new products, technologies, services, and processes) to see what works and what doesn’t. Only after new ideas have been tested and proven should the organization fire a cannonball. Bullets don’t sink the ship, but a cannonball can. Organizations should fire cannonballs (put large amounts of organizational resources and energy into ideas) only after they’ve fired lots of small bullets (testing new ideas to prove whether or not they will work).”

Having observed dozens of mobile studios in the last two years up close, as an advisor, investor, and board member, I can relate to so many instances where teams searched for silver bullets or fired several cannonballs.

What usually happens is that when you do not appreciate your existing games, you are talking down on the games, saying that “They can’t perform better” or that “They are old games.” The culture gets infected with the belief that hit games are born as hit games, and you can’t evolve a game to become anything more than that is naturally revealed in the first 12 months of the game going live.

This culture creates the willingness to try out many things, which is excellent, but it also creates an atmosphere where the best people want to work on the new games since they are admired. Who’d like to work on an old game? The disease of the new has infected us.

Another silver bullet candidate I’ve recently been observing is the founder coming back to me with, “We’re working on adding NFTs and play-to-earn to our game.”

I recently had Guillaume Verlinden on my podcast. Guillaume was the game lead for Monster Legends and Dragon City, which both he managed to turn around and bring lots of success to the Social Point, the developer, and owner of the games.

“How we manage to accelerate the growth or reverse trends was by going to the root emotion in the game and building upon it. I’m very convinced that games that have been successful at something, they have a chance to grow again.”

Another example case is Finnish developer Seriously, who launched their first mobile title in 2014 called Best Fiends, which depicted cute insect characters called the Fiends. Seriously went after the Disney playbook, where they tried to build a franchise of Best Fiends products and games.

Eventually, after years of several attempts at other games, they decided to focus on the original “old” Best Fiends game, scaled to the company to over a hundred million dollars in annual revenues. The disciplined work on the original, “old” game made Seriously a better business.

As you are contemplating a move into NFTs, merge games, or something else that could be a silver bullet for your business, ask what Jim Collins would ask: “are you embarking on an undisciplined pursuit of more?”

I want to end on a few disciplined examples for working on things that aren’t silver bullets:

📈 Elad Levy — Custom analytics for games, part 2

This week I released the second episode where I’m talking with Elad Levy, who is the founder and CEO of Dive, who are a new kind of game analytics provider.

In part one, we talked with Elad about embracing data in gaming and what the challenges can be when a team builds their own data solution. Now, we focus on being data informed and how game studios should get started with analytics.

Listen to the discussion by going here.

📃 Articles worth reading

How to Hire the Best — “Success is directly correlated to the quality of teams in the studio. Because no matter how bulletproof the design is, how superior the tech and art are or how smartly the product positioning was made, the inability to execute will guarantee failure.”

Is a user retaining, or are they returning? What is D1? (and Dx) — “There is a difference between a retaining and a returning user, I propose a single definition of Retention D1 measured as the % of NEW users who return 16h after downloading the app. Retention is about retaining, and therefore always clean of re-attribution and re-engagement.”

How to Save Millions With Marketability Testing — “The usual way to identify your game’s target audience is to use game categories. If you are making an RPG game, you can check out the best performing RPG games in your market, analyze them and try to learn their strengths and weaknesses. It’s natural because you aim to focus on RPG-enthusiasts. Well, you can surely have some success with that logic, but you are also severely narrowing your view and creating unnecessary blind spots.”

💬 Quote that I’ve been thinking about

“Good fortune is as light as a feather, and few are strong enough to carry it.”

— Zhuang Zhou

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