Platform Type Influences Everything a Game Company Does

by Alan O'Dea

Platforms are Choppy, Genres are Smooth

Platforms have the largest impact on the games industry. Platforms change much more regularly than genres and present the market with the largest shifts in customer habit, growth, decline and migration. Platforms can be described as choppy due to this constant cycle of change and the high frequency by which these changes occur. Many of our most successful game companies have achieved success simply by achieving platform / genre fit on a new platform e.g. Supercell on Mobile, World of Tanks on PC, Zynga on Facebook, Call of Duty on Console etc.

Far fewer game startups have achieved success over multiple platforms or across platform cycles. This monumental task is usually reserved for companies that reach the vast scale of a global publisher such as Electronic Arts. These long term multi-platform and multi-cycle companies end up struggling to adapt to ongoing and radical platform changes and are in a constant race to achieve platform genre fit on a wide range of existing and new platforms. They most usually adapt to new platform/genre fit by acquiring startups who have achieved this fit on new platforms.

Genres by comparison remain largely stable across platforms. Genres can said to be smooth given their relatively slow frequency of change. Genres are not entirely smooth and they do change. We all remember going to play coin-op arcade games in the real world and those point-and-click text adventure games. By and large however nearly all genres of games became established at the very beginning of the video game industry way back in the 1970’s and have remained relatively unchanged since then. This relationship can easily be seen in an analysis of 24,000 games released across multiple platforms since 1975 by NcikVGG

Video Game Genres and Platforms

Platform Type Influences Everything a Game Company Does

This fundamental relationship between platforms and genres suggests that for lean game startups, platform type influences everything a game company does. This focus on platform type informs the entire lean games approach and should dictate all activities a games startup needs to focus on to achieve platform/genre fit. To achieve platform/genre fit a lean game startup can focus on

  • bringing an existing genre onto an existing platform.
  • bringing an existing genre onto a new platform.
  • bringing an existing genre onto an existing or new platform and trying to
  • re-segment the platform as a new business model entrant (freemium, subscription) or
  • re-segment that platform as a niche entrant (casual, mid-core or hard-core)
  • cloning an existing genre that is successful on another platform

New and Hybrid Genres

I am not going to talk about creating a new genres. Game startups almost never create new genres. In fact one of the biggest mistakes made by game startups is confusing hybrid games and mistakenly defining these games as new genres. Nearly all these hybrid genre games are easily defined within one or two dominant genre classifications and do not qualify as new genres.

Continue reading the Platform/Genre Fit series