Helsinki-based Supercell has played five games with more than a billion unique players. The founder of the company shared his 10-year history in a blog yesterday. Paananen revealed that the company has 4.3 billion player accounts. If each player had a Supercell game on three devices, that represents about 1.3 billion unique players.
With just 328 employees, Supercell has ridiculous sales of $ 4.76 million per employee, or 3.96 million users per employee. I guess that makes it the most profitable business in the video game industry. This is clearly why Tencent invested in the business at such a high price. But Supercell does not boast about this side of its business.
“When we started the business, we were inspired by companies like Blizzard, Nintendo and Pixar,” said Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen in the post. “All of these companies have successfully created successful entertainment products that are enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Most importantly, they have been able to do this consistently over the decades, in the case of Nintendo, for over a hundred years. “
He wrote the message as a way to give back and share his learnings with other game companies, and Paananen asked the rest of the staff to come up with ideas. Paananen said that inspiration has remained constant, as has the company’s dream: to create games that will be played for years and will be remembered forever. He said it worked for Supercell, but that each company had to develop its own culture.
My catch: I added my own reaction to what Paananen said in each of the points below. This is a great document for companies that aspire to have as much impact as Supercell, and yet I have this idea in mind. It’s not jealousy, because I don’t run a gaming company. I’m just wondering if other gaming companies would respond by saying that these rules are for companies with billions of cash and wonderfully successful employees and teams. That is to say, it is a luxury to be able to run a business this way. It’s unfair, because I don’t see any negative intention here, like bragging – just a sincere intention to help. So I don’t think anyone should reject these ideas. But it’s kind of a backdrop, because Supercell is a rare company and what Paananen says is true. Supercell rules work for Supercell, not for everyone.
1. Always play the infinite game
Supercell was built around the idea of creating games that as many people as possible play for years and that will be remembered forever. Teams don’t launch games that they don’t think they have a realistic chance of achieving the dream. The most important factor that our teams consider when testing our games in beta is the length of time that players continue to play. The retention numbers are the most important here.
“It means we don’t just kill beta games, we kill good games,” Paananen wrote. “Good examples would be Smash Land and more recently Rush Wars – two very refined fun games that received positive feedback and excitement from the start. But they weren’t games people would play for years, so their development teams decided to kill them. They decided that instead of developing their games further, it is better to spend their time developing a new and better game. ”
Beyond that, teams are thinking about what would be the right long-term appeal for players and the community. This shows how they deal with game updates, content creation and community events. The teams are doing their best not to think about the next quarter or the next year, but the next decade. The Clash of Clans team worked on major design and technical issues for over two years before the efforts paid off. It never would have worked in a company that only cared about quarterly results.
My catch: This rule places Supercell in an extremely rare position in the gaming industry. Most game companies do not have the luxury of killing games that do not meet a long-term goal. Blizzard had a similar culture since its founding almost three decades ago, and it has killed many games, just like Supercell. But very often, game companies have to think about the next quarter, either because they lack cash, or they have to worry that investors in public companies will sell stocks if games are delayed. But if you didn’t have to worry about the short term, Paananen is right. This is what you should be thinking about in the long run.
2. Great teams make great games. Not necessarily tall individuals
In 2010, Supercell started with the idea that “the best people make the best games”. However, years later, we realized that it was not a question of having the best individuals / people, but of having the best teams. The company therefore changed its guideline to reflect this.
“For me personally, the biggest surprise in the past ten years has been the incredible difficulty of building an excellent team capable of making a new successful game,” said Paananen.
Things that need to be put in place include making the game interesting for the players when it comes out, having talented individuals with very different abilities and ways of thinking, getting them to work well together in one psychologically safe environment with total confidence. Paananen said there is no quick fix for this challenge, and that he is subject to many trials and errors. It starts with a core of two to four people who are “a tight, well-functioning core team.” Even two of these people constitute a “magic pair”.
My catch: I think it’s true that games have had a certain Hollywood craving in the past and have put some leaders in the spotlight as brilliant game creators. Hideo Kojima comes to mind. But it’s really the teams that make the best games, and the teams that have been working together for a long time are the ones that really have value.