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Nexon's new CEO preaches respect for the creative
Nexon's new CEO preaches respect for the creative
June 17, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

"Itís hard to do that, right? Itís a lot easier to talk about buying revenue, about trends, about what game is popular this month. Whatís exceptionally hard to do, and what our industry has to give a lot of respect for, is the creative person, the game developer who is not asking those questions."
- Nexon CEO Owen Mahoney

In a new interview with VentureBeat, newly installed Nexon CEO Owen Mahoney speaks openly about the industry's tendency to ignore creativity in favor of trend-chasing and business-speak.

Mahoney became CEO of the Tokyo-based online game publisher, perhaps best known for MapleStory, in March. He's been the company's CFO since 2010. Nexon has, of late, been heavily investing in new studios and signing deals to publish games.

In the interview, Mahoney discusses the "five bad years" the industry recently went through, where there was "precious little good art coming out of the industry." Console studios chased graphics fidelity, he argues, while social game developers exploited their audiences -- only to mostly disappear once those audiences wised up.

"Those hot up-and-coming companies of a few years ago did not end up having sustainable businesses at all. That indicates to me that our industry lives or dies based on the quality of its creative output. That's the lesson of the last five years," Mahoney says.

His views are also shaped by his time at EA, where he says business development staff who didn't play games played too big a role in shaping the company's lineup.

"If you look at Pixar, I would posit that what made them a great film studio was this absolute insistence that they are an art form. You canít just shovel out junk. That might work for one or two movies, but itís not going to work consistently over a period of decades."

The full interview with Mahoney is available on VentureBeat.

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Eric Finlay
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Man, that's awesome if he means it and sticks to it. Also, for some reason I felt like adding "unlike King" to the end of every sentence.

Ramin Shokrizade
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The industry has been investing heavily in trend analysis focused design the last few years, trying to isolate "what makes a commercially successful game." The problem is that what makes a commercially successful game is partly dependent on dopamine production, which is suppressed by repetition. So trying to repeat success is, almost by definition, a failed approach in game development. This is not the case in other industries, and this is what non-gaming business professionals have a hard time grasping.

So yes I think creativity is really important, but in the current business environment creativity is seen as risky and "not supported by data". If your idea is not supported by existing data (in other words, a repetition of something that already exists), then your idea is likely to be canned. Thus this sort of business model that is being imported from other industries is doomed to fail, over and over for biological reasons.

Paul Lenoue
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While I applaud Mr. Mahoney's statements, upper management isn't the only place that needs to appreciate creativity. The majority of game programmers I've met seem to have the similar attitudes towards people who are good at creative game design but can't code: "If you don't program then you have nothing worthwhile to say."

Kujel Selsuru
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I'm just pleased to hear someone in his position say this, I think Iawata-san is the only other CEO I've heard say anything along these lines.