I finally got around to completing my Part 2 of the Darkest Dungeon Kickstarter postmortem. In this article, I discuss the result of our mid-campaign and end-campaign publicity pushes, the earning shape of various Kickstarters, and our choices and preparation for fulfillment and related logistics.
Sometimes I forget how long I’ve been making games. This gameboard was from one of the first full on board games that I designed, circa 2000. “Mythrole: Merchants” was a pick-up and deliver game in a fantasy world. It had a few mechanics that I like: dynamic supply and demand, and also a general encouragement to make lots of free-form deals with your opponents. However, the game was a bit clunky overall in many ways, though I haven’t played it in over 10 years so it’s hard to remember how easy it might be to improve it.
During one of the Independent Games Summit talks at GDC last week, one speaker (can’t recall who) quipped the line “I’m sure nobody in this room comes to work each day thinking about maximizing shareholder value.”
I wasn’t in the room for that talk, but if I was, I certainly wouldn’t have agreed! I am “indie”, and I do, in fact, go to work every single day thinking about maximizing shareholder value. I’m a major shareholder in my independent game development efforts!
There is often a stigma against people who admit that they are interested in profiting (substantially) in their independent game development. This seems really odd to me, and also not accurate. I think most developers want to profit from their work. Some are more obsessed with it than others, but very few don’t genuinely want to be in a situation where their creative work has provided them not just security, but enjoyability in their financial situations.
Anyone who manages a for-profit company has a responsibility to maximize shareholder value. However, this often gets confused as “care only about money and making as much as possible regardless of how or lasting effects.” The truth is, maximizing shareholder value should be done:
- …within the mission and philosophy of your business
- …with an aim towards long term sustainability (assuming you want your business to last)
- …with consideration of what “Value” is.
#1 is critically important. If I found my business with an intent to make innovative games, then I should not maximize shareholder value by becoming a fast-follower or cloning shop, because that doesn’t align with my company’s mission.
#2 is important for considering company reputation, future strategic opportunities, and health of company assets (including the human resources—US!) I shouldn’t maximize value by taking a contract that won’t eventually help lead to better opportunities down the line. Sometimes, survivability is an important strategic consideration. Take the WFH gig, live to fight another day. Many of us have been in that situation.
#3 is the game theory concept of “Utility.” Value changes from person to person. I believe some amount of fiscal value should almost always be part of your overall business Value or utility. But other things enter in, too. For example, “working no more than X hours per week” can be part of your value equation, as can “never require employees to miss a family event”, or whatever.
For me, it is very important that my company mission involve making games I find interesting. Long term sustainability for myself is critically important, but I’m more open to individual companies coming and going based upon marketplace changes, opportunities, and life changes. The concept of Value for me DEFINITELY includes a substantial amount of fiscal value, but it does involve my holistic health, enjoyment of my day to day routine, and interaction with quality people.
Every day I work, I try to maximize this value.
Ever wondered how to error check and understand worksheet formulas better? Use MS Excel’s built in Formula Auditing tools. In this video I cover the basics, using some strategy game worksheet examples.
And another one—this time about how to use $ signs to control your cell references in formulas in MS Excel. Riveting, I know.
Trying something new - a series of video tutorials on game design and related tips. This one is about how to use VLOOKUPs in MS Excel. Not incredibly exciting for a video, but maybe it will be useful to some people!
Earlier this week, I posted an article on my Gamasutra expert blog about the use of Expected Value in game design. Here’s the link!