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从业者从地域差异角度分析为什么北欧多产优秀手游

发布时间:2019-10-10 08:54:22 Tags:,,

从业者从地域差异角度分析为什么北欧多产优秀手游

原作者:Will Luton 译者:Willow Wu

(本文作者Will Luton是一名资深产品经理,同时也是一名游戏设计师。2018年创立Department of Play,为SEGA、Rovio、Jagex等公司提供管理咨询,帮助他们提升各个平台的游戏表现。)

在本人职业生涯中,我有幸在全球许多优秀的游戏公司工作过,这让我可以从一个独特的视角思考地域因素所产生的影响,以及它们对成功起到了怎样的助推作用。公司的环境决定了人才的质量、人们的沟通方式、企业的价值,还有一系列微小但也能起到辅助作用的因素。

文化是公司管理最有力的一个工具,因此我花了很多时间观察、思考地域差异。商业环境总是复杂的,有明有暗。尽管减税政策可能很明确,但人们对工作的信念或态度却很模糊、多变。

没有一个地区能够像北欧这样拥有如此独特的文化以及优异的商业成绩。

北欧的总人口不到1600万,连英国的1/4、加州的一半都不到,瑞典和芬兰诞生了Mojang (《我的世界》)、 King (《糖果传奇》)、Rovio (《愤怒的小鸟》)、Supercell (《部落冲突》 《皇室战争》《卡通农场》)、DICE (《战地》) 以及其他上百家工作室,他们在所有游戏平台都有不俗的表现。更不用说冰岛、挪威和丹麦了。

所以我经常思考,北欧这个小群体是如何做到长期屹立于全球市场的?

Angry-Birds-2(from toucharcade.com)

Angry-Birds-2(from toucharcade.com)

员工保护制度的力量

在所有发达国家中,美国是员工保护成效最差的国家之一。北美各地普遍存在的自由雇佣制度意味着任何人在任何时候都可能被公司解雇。由此一来,美国的工作文化就成了一种对权力的顺从。你的收入保障更大程度上取决于你老板对你个人的看法。如果你的经理做了什么蠢事,挑战他你就很可能会丢了工作。

尽管这种随意的雇佣方式有助于维护战略目标的统一性、减少低绩效员工或有毒员工,但最近的管理学研究表明,高绩效技术团队有一个共性:有心理安全感(psychological safety)。

心理安全感是指员工敢于公开表达观点而不惧怕报复打击。它已成为硅谷管理圈的一个热词。在竞争无比激烈的美国企业中,大部分人都忽视了这一点。

北欧国家的员工保护在世界范围内是数一数二的,这也在很大程度上影响了他们提出、解决问题的方式。北欧国家的员工和管理者知道他们可以挑战、被挑战,不用担心收入会因此受到影响。

我在北美参加过一个公司会议,团队的人全都是眼睛朝下看、无言地朝CEO点头,然后离开会议室,沮丧地挤在一起抱怨。他们知道,持不同意见的人可能(也确实会)在毫无预警的情况下被裁掉。然而在瑞典,最年轻的团队成员会跟公司创始人提出他们的忧虑,每个人都会秉持着北欧著名的实用主义精神去倾听和思考。

员工保护和其它法规会对员工行为、工作场所的其它表现产生直接影响,从而形成地区与地区之间的企业文化差异。

态度上的不同导致不同地区产品之间有了非常明显的差距,商业成绩也是如此。员工保护促使人们获得心理安全感,可以更好、更深入、更坦诚地探讨问题。除此之外,员工还有了更强的自主意识、更强的动力和团队凝聚力。

而那些员工保护制度相对不太完善的地区,我们应该思考的是裁员的处理方式和影响:在别无选择的情况下才选择裁员,跟团队充分沟通,提前告知受影响的员工,并给予慷慨的遣散费。否则,管理层可能会不知不觉走向独裁。

分享&合作

在2017年的RovioCon大会(由芬兰手游开发者们举办的年度活动)上,Supercell公司的CEO Ilkka Paananen发表了一篇关于芬兰手游发展历史的演讲。Paananen认为赫尔辛基的成功关键在于初创企业将自己视为合作者而不是竞争者。

Supercell、Rovio的创始人会和初创公司的人聚在一起讨论游戏开发。这个群组只有一个目标:帮助对方获得成功。这些团队认为他们并非处于竞争环境中——毕竟,没有玩家是只玩一个游戏的——而且他们明白水涨众船高。

所以,如果有一家公司跟苹果关系良好,他们就会帮助引荐。或者他们会共享用户获取渠道数据、盈利技巧和技术栈。这种开放性与世界各地其他开发中心区的“秘密初创企业”或“知识优势”的概念相左。

赫尔辛基的初创公司希望看到他们的家乡获得成功。因此,坐落于本地中心区的工作室放弃竞争观念,转而与邻居接触,培养一种共享的文化。

教育很重要

北欧教育在过去十年备受追捧,这是有原因的:经济合作与发展组织(OECD)2010年发布的一份教育报告显示芬兰的科学研究排名世界第一,综合排名仅次于韩国。冰岛、瑞典和丹麦都进入了列表的前20。

北欧地区的高额税收被重新注入教育系统,所以高薪教师、免费学前教育和高等教育非常普遍。这反映了他们的一种基本信念:教育不仅是促进社会公平的有效途径,还是对国家未来的一项良好投资。

芬兰的教育也鼓励情感方面的改变,注重合作精神,而不是像美国学校那样侧重竞争。已有研究证明高情商和合作确实会带来更好的游戏成果。

此外,北欧人在计算机科学方面领先于其他许多发达国家,他们很早就在课堂中应用电脑了,并将编程纳入为课程的一部分。

因此,北欧的这群从业者从小就接触电脑,情商方面也颇为出色,组建一个人才济济的团队、开发出色的游戏是必然趋势。

寒冷、黑暗和电脑的慰藉

当你问芬兰人或瑞典人为什么他们的游戏制作天赋这么强,你通常会得到这样的回答:

“北欧冬季气候寒冷,日照时间短,你能干的事就是呆在家里玩电脑。”

从我在斯德哥尔摩的生活经历来看,我可以肯定,呆在家里玩电脑比忍受室外零下20摄氏度的天气更舒服。一年中有那么几个月完全没有必要外出。

好在家庭电脑和电子游戏都逐渐实现了多人联网,不再是一个人的室内娱乐。随着80年代demo scene的出现和90年代Dreamhack等大规模局域网聚会(LAN party,指的是由一群人暂时性、通常也是自发性地带着他们的电脑,在一个地方用局域网相连,这样的聚会大部分是以玩多人网络游戏为目的,游戏邦注)的兴起,北欧国家有了自己独特的计算机社区。

Mojang公司很多早期员工都是Notch在大规模局域网聚会上玩游戏结识的,而Rovio则是由Assembly大会上的demo团队发展而成的。Demo scene和局域网的出现给年轻、有雄心的程序员们创造了新的社交空间,能够一起讨论想法和计划。

但推动快速自我提升的则是demo scene精神:Demo聚会的目的通常只是为了展现高超的技术。Demo程序员要努力将更多内容塞进小内存载体中。所以早期移动设备上市时,北欧的开发者已就经准备好挑战极限了。在体积最小的硬件上呈现令人兴奋的游戏。

但这些程序员同样擅长在高端显卡设备上运行内容较少的游戏,打造与3A游戏媲美的画面,或者依靠小团队通过算法创造庞大的程序生成世界。

呆在家里鼓捣电脑真的是非常值得:创造技能和人际网络,这就是数十亿美元工作室的基础。

成功孕育成功(和金钱)

去年,芬兰游戏产业总共获得了21亿欧元的收益,这是一个很大的提升。Mojang、Supercell、Rovio和其他北欧公司的成功有至关重要的作用。

尽管上述因素可能为北欧人的初步成功打下了基础,但也正是有了这些早期成功北欧地区才能实现持续的繁荣。

在App Store的发展初期,从旧金山到赫尔辛基的航班上都挤满了风险合作伙伴。从大公司中独立出来的新公司面临的是前所未有的多种资金渠道。这些公司的员工拥有丰富的大规模游戏开发和运营经验,这意味着热门游戏的出产条件都已具备。

如今,Rovio和Supercell都有着自己的基金和并购业务,也就是说初创公司可以继续从这些最了解北欧特色的人那里获得资金。

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

I’ve been fortunate in my career to have worked at some outstanding game makers, from San Franscian startups in Canada to Finnish corporates in Sweden. This has given me a unique perspective into the influences of different regions and how they impact success. The environment of a company dictates the quality of talent, how people communicate, what businesses value, and a slew of tiny but additive factors.

With culture being the most powerful lever in management, I’ve spent a lot of time observing and thinking about regional differences. The environment of business is often both evident and obtuse: While tax breaks might be clear, systems of beliefs or attitude to work are muddy and changeable.

And no region is as culturally unique and successful as the Nordics.

With a combined population of under 16 million, which is less than a quarter of the UK or half that of California, Sweden and Finland have incubated Mojang (Minecraft), King (Candy Crush), Rovio (Angry Birds), Supercell (Clash of Clans, Clash Royale and Hay Day), DICE (Battlefield) and hundreds of other studios finding success across every gaming platform and model. This is not to mention the output of Iceland, Norway or Denmark.

One of the biggest questions I’ve asked myself is: How have the Nordics consistently punched above their collective weight?

The Power of Employee Protection

The US has some of the weakest employee protection amongst developed nations. The at-will employment common across North America means that anyone, at any time can get cut from the company. The result is that American work culture is one deferential to power: Your income security is more closely linked to your boss’ opinion of you than anywhere else. So if your manager does something stupid, you risk your job to challenge it.

While the at-will guillotine can lead to greater strategic consistency and fewer carried underperformers or toxic staff, much of the recent management science points towards a commonality of high performing tech teams: Psychological safety.

Psychological safety is defined as the ability to express oneself without fear of negative repercussions. And it has become a Valley management buzzword because it is so sorely missed across cut-throat US businesses.

Meanwhile, the Nordics have some of the strongest employee protection in the world, vastly impacting the way in which issues are raised and resolved. Nordic employees and managers know that they can challenge, be challenged and more readily walk away with their income.

I have sat in meetings in North America where teams, eyes down, nod silently to their CEO only to leave the conference room to huddle dejectedly and complain. The team knows that dissidents can and do get cut with little warning. While in Sweden, the most junior team members raise worries to founders, while everyone listens and considers with that famous Nordic pragmatism.

Employment security and other laws have a direct impact on staff behaviours and many other dynamics in the workplace, creating some of the biggest cultural discrepancies between regions.

These attitudinal differences result in drastic product and business outcomes. Ultimately, security of employment births psychological safety and so better, deeper, and more frank discussions. This not only allows for better exploration of ideas, but of greater sense of autonomy, greater motivation, and team coherence.

For those in regions with weaker employee protection, we should think about how layoffs are handled and the impact they create: Letting go of employees only when no other options present themselves, with good communication to the team, forewarning to the impacted employee and generous severance. Else management risks becoming unknowingly dictatorial.

Sharing is Caring

At RovioCon 2017, a free annual conference hosted by the Finnish mobile developer, Supercell’s CEO Ilkka Paananen stood on stage and talked about the history of Finnish mobile development. Key to Helsinki’s success, Paananen claimed, was how budding companies viewed themselves: As collaborators not competitors.

The founders of Supercell, Rovio and other fledgling companies would get together and discuss making games. This group had a single goal: To help each other succeed. The teams didn’t see themselves as in competition — after all, no player only ever plays one game — and they knew that a rising tide lifts all boats.

So should one company have a good contact with Apple, they helped with introductions. Or they shared data on user acquisition channels, monetisation techniques and tech stacks. This openness is at odds with the notions of the stealth startup or “knowledge advantage” held in other development hubs around the world. The fledgling companies of Helsinki wanted to see Helsinki succeed.

And so studios in their own hubs would do well to drop notions of competition and reach out to their neighbours to foster a culture of sharing.

Education, Education, Education

Nordic education has been somewhat fetishised over the last decade and for good reason: A 2010 OECD education report put Finland second only to South Korea for overall performance, with the Fins besting the world for Science. Iceland, Sweden and Denmark all appear in the list’s top 20.

The high taxes in the region are pumped back into the education system, resulting in well-paid teaching staff as well as free preschool and higher education being common. This reflects a fundamental belief that access to education is not only a great societal equaliser but also a good investment in the future of a country.

Finnish education also encourages emotional evolution, with a focus on cooperation rather than competition as in US schools. This is impactful as emotional intelligence and cooperation have proven to result in better game outcomes.

Additionally the Nordics were ahead of the rest of many developed nations with computer science, putting computers in classrooms and making programming part of the curriculum before many nations.

Therefore, across the Nordics there was a workforce with a developed emotional intelligence who had been exposed to computers from a young age. It was inevitable then that they would go on to form great games teams.

The Cold, Dark and Computer Solace

When you ask Finns or Swedes why game making is in their blood, you commonly get a stoic response:

“It’s cold, dark and there’s nothing to do but stay at home and play with computers.”

From my time living in Stockholm, I can confirm that staying at home and playing with computers is more favourable than bracing the -20oC weather common amongst the dark, short winter days. For several months a year there’s no reason to be outside.

But rather than be inside alone, networks began to grow around home computers and video games. Starting with the demo scene in the ’80s and blossoming into large scale LAN parties like Dreamhack in the ’90s, the Nordic countries had their own unique computer communities.

Many of Mojang’s early staff were found by Notch through playing together at LANs, while Rovio formed out of the Nokia-sponsored Assembly demo party. The demo scene and LANs created the space for young and ambitious coders to meet each other, discuss ideas and plan.

But it was the spirit of the demo scene that encouraged rapid self improvement: The goal of demo parties was often no more than to impress with technical excellence. Demo coders would work to cram as much as possible into small memory constraints. So when early mobile devices arrived, Nordic devs were prepped to push limits and generate exciting games from minimal hardware.

But these coders were equally adept at going low level on high-end graphics hardware, creating beautiful looking AAA titles, or utilising algorithms to generate vast procedural worlds with only small teams.

Staying at home and messing with computers really paid off: Creating skills and networks that would form the foundations of billion dollar studios.

Success Breeds Success (and Capital)

Last year the Finnish games industry generated €2.1 billion in revenue, which is no small change. The success of Mojang, Supercell, Rovio and others across the Nordics has had a significant impact, resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy of continued success.

While the factors listed above may have set the Nordics up for their initial success, it is that first flourish that has driven the continued prosperity of the region.

In the early days of the App Store, every SFO to HEL flight was stuffed with venture partners. The unprecedented access to capital for new companies spinning out of bigger outfits, staff already versed in building and running games at scale, meant that the conditions for more hit games were already in place.

Today both Rovio and Supercell operate their own funds and M&A, meaning that there’s a continued access to capital from those who best understand what makes the Nordics so special.

Will is a veteran Product Manager and game designer who now runs management consultancy Department of Play, helping companies such as SEGA, Rovio, and Jagex to grow their mobile, PC, and console games. Will is also an avid retro games and pinball player.

(source:gamesindustry.biz


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