Growing up, Kristian Segerstrale loved games, and wanted to make them, but his limitations as a coder and as an illustrator were obvious. So instead, he said he worked on developing a different talent: building strong game dev teams.
At the DICE Summit in Las Vegas today, Segerstrale reviewed his past accomplishments in the industry, including co-founding mobile game company Glu and social game company Playfish (acquired by EA), and investing in Clash of Clans developer Supercell. He's now the founder of Super Evil Megacorp.
Segerstrale shared 10 lessons he learned over his years as a game dev team leader and executive.
When the conditions are tough and you're just getting your company off the ground in a new market, keep your burn rate low; spend a minimum amount of money. Segerstrale said it's better to have a small team working in a medium for a long time, instead of a big team burning up money in a short period of time.
If you’re involved in tech that's immature, and your market is immature as well, you have to understand that traction will take a long time to happen.
He explained how he'd predicted that mobile games would eventually see a billion-dollar game company in 2004 -- that didn't happen until nearly a decade later. These things take time, but that early experience in the immature feature phone market helped him immensely once smartphones took off.
Segerstrale didn't suggest that everyone puts their game company up for an IPO. But if you do, you need to experience how to handle the downturns; how to explain to investors and analysts the trends of your company. Know the ups and downs of your company and your marketplace before going public.
(He also joked about how Glu's stock jumped 4 percent after he left the company -- at least the market agreed with his decision, he said.)
In physical games, it's a 50/50 split between making a game and distributing them. In digital, it's 90 percent making games, with 10 percent left to publishing (i.e. traditional marketing). Don't invest too much in publishing if you're in digital.
After selling Playfish to EA, he was a non-executive director at Supercell, which turned into a huge success with Clash of Clans. Now he's heading up Super Evil Megacorp working on the tablet MOBA Vainglory. Apply your past learnings to your new adventures, and be prepared to learn even more.
"Talent matters," stressed Segerstrale. He said that talent ought to be dense; Supercell's structure shows that 10 amazing people working on one game is better than having 10 amazing people forming 10 different teams to work on 10 different games. Be dense, be efficient, be successful.
There are a lot of assumptions about what mobile players want, or how they play games. Many say they want simpler, three-minute experiences. But with a MOBA like Vainglory, Segerstrale said it goes against assumptions of mobile players. "Core" players are waiting for "core" experiences on touchscreens, he said.
Hearkening back to point no. 2, he said to be patient. Use slow growth as an opportunity to learn. The people who cut their teeth when times are tough are the leaders when things take off.
This isn't traditional game development and marketing anymore, so there's no reason game developers should be emphasizing traditional funding models.
"Take established wisdom with a massive bowl of salt," Segerstrale said. "Don't listen to me. Just go out and build it. That's what's so exciting about today."