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Some gaming CEOs take their company culture very seriously.
Rob Pardo, founder of Bonfire Studios, has been around enough business to learn about creating culture in various game studios. After taking a leading role in Blizzard, he is also not unknown for the Gamesbeat Summit, where he participated in a panel on the same topic in 2019.
This time, he interviewed Ilka Pananen, one of the founders of Supersell, creator of hit mobile games such as Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, Hay Day, Brawl Stars and Boom Beach.
It starts with the name. Supersell’s philosophy is that teams should be independent, work in small cells and work independently of control to do their best creative work. Supercell focuses on the creative process, freeing up the maximum potential of their people and the teams they create.
The company turned the traditional organizational pyramid upside down and really tried to enable bottom-up creative patterns. It embeds responsibility at the team level and builds a true performance unit rather than a more traditional profit / loss center approach. A lot of companies talk about this; It’s easy to say, hard to do.
The studio was created for the same purpose. Its founders created a workplace that is employee-driven. Pananen believes that the best people make the best games.
And so, in building the studio culture, the objective was to create teams of self-employed collaborators. To provide maximum freedom, but in such a way that teams with strong personalities can prevent disagreement.
Supersell has a philosophy that teams should have a common goal and clarity of vision.
Freeing up teams to self-manage, how would you resolve conflicts while building a studio?
Friction and discussions are healthy for teams; Which we often refer to as healthy stress. But to create a consistent studio culture, the environment cannot be combative. The best teams are the most passionate. Leadership therefore facilitates and coaches teams to clarify their vision and then allows them to find themselves moving forward with the guards from those stress points so that it does not boil over.
This strategy seems to put a cap on the maximum team size. “I don’t think there’s any upper bound,” says Pananen. I think every situation is different, every team’s game is different and every game is different. But basically, I think we’ve made it clear what we’ve changed in our culture, how we talk about things, we’ve always been thinking ‘how we can do better for our players’. We use the term ‘correction mentality’ “
The teams in the company are the right size. It is the clarity of the team’s vision that determines its size. Teams are self-functioning organizational structures. This encourages them to keep within the limits of the team size and expand as needed.
This improvement is linked to the mindset. To never be satisfied. That any team’s game, no matter how great, can be questioned. Be polite and willing to accept feedback.
Panane admits his mistakes, such as keeping teams too small after starting hit games. Smaller teams were ideal for starting games, but after they got hit, the burden of coming up with a continuous live performance became like running on a treadmill. After realizing the mistake, Panane said Supersell started building bigger teams after the launch.
Stronger studio teams are more resilient – embedding resilience in studio culture
The company has had to make adjustments while creating its culture. Which has allowed them to face various crises. One of them was an epidemic. “The epidemic came and it forced us to do something different and try,” Panane said, “since then they [the teams] Many have become more open-minded because they actually… We were able to prove that some really great work could be done… We really trusted the teams to find a way… We trusted the teams to work out that decision. What is the best way to do it? Them. “
“We choose the teams we trust, and then if we trust those teams, we don’t tell those teams what to do. We don’t even try to enforce control. Our internal teams Not for, and not for our outside teams … the studios we invest in. “
Supercell continues to expand and so new challenges are constantly emerging. It is the culture that makes them resilient, as teams are able to flex and direct around changes in both the creative field and the industry. There is a powerful debate between two great creative minds in this industry who have empowered teams in many ways to prevent a negative environment about which we have heard numerous reports over the past year. Some of the larger organizations would do well to listen to this conversation.
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