Coolness! Make It Big In Games has been picked up by Alltop. Guy Kawasaki’s latest small web service business, Alltop is a much expanded version of popurls, i.e. a single place to go to read the five latest stories from hundreds of sites. All of the sites are arranged by categories, such as Games, Gizmos, Web, Green, etc. I kind of think of it as an automated RSS reader where I don’t have to do much work, and I like it… a lot.
I’m sure all of you have heard of Guy Kawasaki, but if you haven’t he was the original Apple “Evangelist”, i.e. a business development guy that would recruit software companies to build great products for the Apple Platform. Since leaving Apple, Guy has written a bunch of books, started Garage.com (a web form venture capitalist), and writes an incredibly insightful blog.
I once met Guy along time ago and I have a pretty amusing story about that meeting. We had dinner together at a SPA (Software Publisher’s Association) meeting in Washington, D.C. At the time, I was running Dynamix, a company that I co-founded with Damon Slye. We were an incredibly small, struggling game developer, and I was out looking for opportunities to increase our business from one large original IP project with Electronic Arts and a conversion project with Activision (they had just changed their name to Mediagenic..nice move, huh?). So, I was out to dinner with, I won’t use his name, but it rhymes with Ben Holeman (I decided I probably should not use his name, but I still burn about this 22 years later), a slick executive from Mediagenic, and Guy was there to get support for Apple games from us.
It was an extremely embarrassing dinner for me because “Ben” was trying to bully our small company into taking on a bunch of projects for Mediagenic at budgets that were way less than profitable, i.e. we would lose money on all of the projects. “Ben” used the usual tactics of saying that I must be a bad manager of bad developers if we could not take on these projects and make money. He was pushing extremely hard on me. Guy was sitting across the table and it was all very uncomfortable.
That night, I didn’t really sleep. The next morning, I told Ken that we would not do any more projects with Mediagenic. When I got back home, I wrote to the President of Mediagenic and told him the same and described the tactics that were used to try and pressure us to take on the unprofitable work. I thought that was the end of that.
A couple of months later, I got a call from Dick Lehrberg, the guy that had replaced Mr. “Holeman”. He wanted to patch things up with Dynamix. We ended up doing a huge 10 product deal with Mediagenic, they helped us break away from EA’s infamous stranglehold first option contract, and help fund us as an Affiliated Publisher. With their help Dynamix leveled up in the gaming world, big time.
From then on in my career, when ever I ran into somebody that I didn’t like or that didn’t have strong integrity, I have always been able to say, “I’ve outlasted better assholes than that.” in reference to my dealings with Mr. “Holeman”. So, if I invoke the “better assholes” clause on you, you better watch out
There are lessons to learn for anybody that is trying to make it in the games business from this humorous little story:
1. Get out and get around. This was my second SPA meeting, and Dyanmix was the only development company there. SPA was very small back then, so I had direct access to presidents of companies, i.e. people like Trip Hawkins (EA), Doug Carlston (Broderbund), Ken Williams, (Sierra), etc. It nearly killed me to go to these meetings because I felt like small potatoes and that I didn’t belong. But, I kept plugging and eventually got to know everyone, causing work and business opportunities to abound.
2. Stick to you guns, do not take work that is not profitable. You can’t make it up in volume. Even if you agree to take on work that is unprofitable or cutting it way too close, the company on the other end is still going to want 120%.
3. Create your own version of the “Better Assholes” clause. Don’t work for people that you don’t like or that do not have integrity. Life is too short. I always say, “People that I want to work with on projects that I want to work on.” It works.
-Jeff Tunnell, Game Maker
Make It Big In Games