I’ve always known this, but it hit home recently, for various boring reasons. I’m a bit of a maths and stats and numbers geek. I’m actually not that good at pure maths, but I do love spreadsheets and statistics and so on. Can you tell from my games? I thought so. Anyway, because of that, I do a lot of planning, and strategizing, and thinking and extrapolating about business. The holy grail of course, is to think you have found a ‘formula’ that means you can make something for $X and sell it for $X+1, and thus earn billions and be a success. yay!
The trouble is, although it never seems it when you look at spreadsheets, nothing is reproducible in a linear fashion in the world of business. Say my ad campaign costs $0.40 a click and I estimate (through complex formula) that I get $0.44 value for that. That doesn’t mean I should double or quadruple my ad spend. Not vaguely. It just means that I am making money in these exact circumstances right now today. Doubling the ad spend widens the market and dilutes the targeting. it could then *lose* money.
In the rare circumstances where there is a huge market for generic product X, and the market is unfulfilled by others, and nobody else is looking to enter the market, and you can double your output of X with the same cost per unit, and currently X earns you money, then that is a done deal, but this NEVER happens.
Gratuitous Space Battles was a huge hit, back in 2009 or whatever, so a sequel is a no brainer in 2015. Although it isn’t because the market is totally different, the game has to (by definition) vary from the original, so the product is different. The economy is different, and so on…
This is why Positech is basically just me, in terms of full time game production people. Expanding sounds easy. I would like to expand. I have the capability to expand and make more games, definitely not short of ideas. But that would ideally mean cloning me, and sadly thats not possible yet. I have to find someone who likes the same kind of games as me, is VERY good at C++, speaks English, is looking for a job, is willing to work for someone else, who is affordable, who I get along with, who is trustworthy, who works hard, who is reliable and will do what they are employed to do.
If you think there are lots of those people, you have never tried to hire one.
Business is messy, messy,messy. People are unreliable, or they decide to quit and work elsewhere, or they get ill, or divorced messily and lose focus, or they win the lottery, or their partner gets a promotion and they have to relocate, or they are argumentative, or they are less experienced than they claim or…one of a billion things.
If when running your games studio you think ‘omg this is a nightmare, why am I dealing with all these crappy problems that you never see Elon Musk or Steve Jobs moaning about’, don’t panic. Business is always really messy, and fiddly and frustrating. Thats why most people take jobs with someone else.