5 things entrepreneurs can learn from the computer games industry

The rise of the internet brought with it a new era of digital technology. Ian Chambers, Chief Digital Officer at GAME Retail Ltd, explains that: "Digital technology is advancing at an incredible pace and we're constantly developing all our channels to make sure we're delivering for our customers.”

This technology has allowed people in the computer games industry to achieve a lot of entrepreneurial streaks. With so much in common, the computer games industry has a lot to teach entrepreneurs, like the five points below.

1. Think big. Then bigger.

The video games industry started off small. The technology was so limited that a single programmer could create several distinct games a year. Then the technology got more and more complicated, and soon each game would take a couple of years to go from an idea to a game on a shelf. The games became more expensive – and more expansive – and as a result, they have been setting entertainment records. Grand Theft Auto 5 is the fastest selling entertainment product of all time, selling more than $1 billion in games in only three days. It is a video game on a massive scale, with a rich landscape, cinematic story and three main characters the player can control. It took years to develop and perfect, and the benefit was seen immediately. 

The takeaway: When you increase the scale or scope of what you’re doing, the rewards will be greater, too.

2. If you do one thing, do it awesomely.

The Pokemon franchise is the second best selling computer game franchise in the world, only trailing behind the Mario series of games. Unlike the Mario series, the Pokemon games have remained largely unchanged since the first game was released in 1996. Basically, the player attempts to collect all the Pokemon and trains the ones he or she has collected up. The player battles other trainers and tries to become the Pokemon Master, the strongest trainer of all. The games have changed a few little things, like increasing the number of Pokemon available, but ultimately the game has remained pretty much the same for nearly 20 years. As a result, it has built a rabid fan base that only grows year after year.

The takeaway: Make that one thing perfect, and you will create a loyal customer base.

3. Stick with your market until it picks up again.

There is a reason Nintendo hasn’t published the Call of Duty series: when it first entered the computer games market, Nintendo positioned itself as the family friendly gaming system. The NES was even called Famicom (the “Family Computer” game console) when it was released in Japan. They have stuck firmly to this, even when it wasn’t cool. It really struggled in the Game Cube era, as generally games were becoming more violent and adult in their themes. Nintendo didn’t cave in, and instead they released the Wii system, the first successful system that used the player’s movements to control a game’s characters. 

The takeaway: Stick with your market, and don’t chase the trends like everyone else. You might not be fashionable for a while, but if you stay true to your market and evolve your offerings, you can come back stronger than ever.

4. If you’re small, fit into the gaps.

In the computer games market in the US, 45% of games players are women, but to look at many of the titles, you wouldn’t know it. Publishers still put most of their resources behind shoot ‘em ups, games where a muscled man rescues a beautiful woman or car racing games. Obviously women can and do enjoy these games, but they often don’t feel these games are targeted to them. As a result, many independent games makers, are moving in to fill in the gap. Companies like GirlTech, Purple Moon and Check Six Games are owned by women, actively recruit women developers and target girls and women gamers.

The takeaway: If you are one of the little guys in a market dominated by big guys, you should use your flexibility and nimbleness to fit into the gaps they can’t – or won’t – see.

5. Embrace and capitalise on your best asset.

It was mentioned above that the Mario series is the bestselling computer game series in the world. Part of the reason for this is because Nintendo actively capitalised on the Mario brand in its early days, putting Mario in just about every game they produced once they realised that he resonated with consumers. There have been the many scrolling platform games, the go-kart racing games, puzzle games, sports games and even a pinball game. In fact, Mario has been featured in more than 200 games, which illustrates his iconic status in the computer games world.

The takeaway: When you’ve got a big hit on your hands, embrace it, capitalise on it and occasionally change it around to keep it fresh.

The computer games industry has a lot to teach entrepreneurs, and the five above are just scratching the surface. Dig a little deeper, and you will find all sorts of lessons and takeaways that can improve your business. And at the very least, you can count the hours spent playing computer games as business research now.

Images from the Mario Kart & Call of Duty Facebook pages

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