9 signs that your game studio is a sustainable business

Business models are changing with both the audience and the technology to reach that audience. What are the dos and don’ts of sustainable business practices in the future?


At Growing Games at Arsenalet, September 14th, we took up the discussion of what the sustainable game studio will look like in the future. Richard Hughes-Jones and Christian Fonnesbech dove into what the critical factors are that will define success or failure of game studios in the future, whether it be business model, team or relation with the audience.

These are 9 of the most important points brought up at the event, curated by our participants.

1. Have a vision for your company
Strategize for the long term. Who will you be when your product is finished? Every decision you make, both about the company and the product should ask this question first: What are we trying to be? Not simply what are we trying to do? Only then, should you try to plan specifics. Always return to your vision when in doubt.

2. Create a universe
Exploit the possibilities in continuing (and teasing) the story of your game, outside of the game itself, on social media and even outside the virtual space. Try to create a larger universe around your product and keep pushing it. A game can be much more than a product.

3. Have a long launch window.
More than half of steam sales happens in the first few days of release. Don’t spend three years developing something that has less than a week to be a success. Instead you should focus on a long ramp-up, release bits of your universe over time and drive interest up, also after release.

4. Focus on the good story
Give your users something to talk about. Create “public” spaces inside and outside the game – engage your users to create and discuss your story. Create a reason to keep following the development and release. What happens next?

5. Make your users into creators
Facilitate user-generated content. You can both engage your userbase, and save resources by creating the tools and incentives for your players to create content for your game. Modding tools and map-editors can expand your universe and make your game relevant for much longer.

6. Ideas are easy
In creative businesses it’s easy to get lots of good ideas. You should not try to incorporate all the ideas into your product. Pick a few of the best ones and follow through. Then expand your Universe and use your other ideas for your story or a sequel!

7. Have a plan for long-term cash flow
Where does the money come from? With the points above in mind, engage the users and incorporate alternate cash-flows from your Universe. If you can create value for the user, they will pay for it. Consider micro-transactions and DLC, but don’t disregard the idea of other media. Merchandise, art, comics: These are more than valid ways of creating cash-flow. Don’t start looking for money when the war chest is empty, have a plan before you start.

8. Find the balance
Games can be a very artistic media. Or a very commercial product. Try to balance these two, instead of focusing on just one aspect of development. If you’re unsure about the business aspects, start looking for a new team-member!

9. Bring the team together
Your vision and strategy for the company should always encompass the entire team. It is your job to make sure everyone is on the same page, works towards the same goals and that everyone knows what everyone else is doing. Nothing destroys morale more than not knowing what is going on.

Want to know more, or join the next events? Check out the Growing Games calender, or send an email to Mads Marturin for more information.