Read these 5 steps for success, then you'll be ready when it comes, says Tag CEO Paul Farley

It's time to get organised

Read these 5 steps for success, then you'll be ready when it comes, says Tag CEO Paul Farley
| TAG Games news

Paul Farley is MD of Tag Games, a Dundee-based developer behind the likes of Doctor Who: The Mazes of Time on iOS and Funpark Friends for iOS and Android.

I read a quote from Hemingway this week (Ernest, not Wayne) and was struck by how much it resonated with my observations of the games industry.

Speaking of an old fisherman in The Old Man and the Sea he states, "It is good to be lucky, but it is better to be exact, then you are ready when you are lucky."

I'm struck by how ad-hoc most game studios tend to be when it comes to strategy and planning. Perhaps there hasn't been enough time and distance from the bedroom coding roots of our industry for many of us to reach a more mature place?

The huge explosion in indie games studios over the past few years has no doubt also skewed the perception of success much more towards the breakout original titles, over and above the franchises and brand-driven successes of console.

So what we see is a lot of very successful, quite chaotic studios that seem to have a successful formula for a while before they implode, or fade away.

And that's the kicker. I'm sure many in our industry would be delighted to have one massive hit – the classic one-hit wonder – but I do often ponder the opportunities a breakout success creates for a studio, which are then lost because they were not prepared.

I firmly believe that striving for success while surrounded by failure is an easier place to be than trying to manage and maintain success.

How do we, whilst in the midst of current reality, start to build constructs to ensure success is sustainable over the long term should we get that initial bite and manage to land it?

Here are a few ideas for your consideration.

1. Start with some probing questions

Who are you? That's a deep question for a games industry website, but is a good place to start if you haven't already asked it.

It naturally leads on to further questions around the type of studio you want to create and the formation of a vision. This is where you want to get to.

Without a clear understanding of who you are and where you are going, your entire organisation will be blown about from pillar to post as you seek your big break. You'll waste a lot of time and effort, and if in the highly unlikely event you get lucky you'll have absolutely no idea how to do it again.

Once you have a clear idea of where you are going, the next question is how are you going to get there? This question talks to our values, or ethics, which again are going to be informed deeply by how the team as individuals have set their moral compasses.

What is valued, what is not? Will you get rich at all costs; even if you eventually have to destroy everything you've built to achieve your personal need? Is the desire for creative expression driving your studio? Do you want to leave a lasting legacy? Are you seeking fame and glory?

Success can corrupt even the most grounded teams so having a strong sense of identity, a vision that goes beyond a single hit product and a clear set of values helps to keep balance when ego's start to rise.

These questions are incredibly important in forming a shape, identity and ultimately a plan for your studio that can be sustained through good times and very good times.

2. Sort out your structure

Most games studios I've worked with have tended to neglect any strategic approach to the structure of the organisation. This is to their short and long term deteriment.

Organised chaos seems to be the norm, but if you're struggling to manage now, how will you possibly cope during a period of exponential growth? You won't.

Now is the time to consider how the different parts of your studio work together. How will that look when you are 20 people, 50, 500? How will that structure evolve and change? If you are planning now for those steps you can guarantee it will be easier when it actually happens.

How you organise will impact on your ability to grow, adapt to change and learn. It goes beyond simple organisational hierarchy and touches on how projects are funded, staffed, managed and led. It is vital. Take time out and think it through.

3. Think big, think long term

In the UK especially we tend to limit our ambitions. It's not cool to be overly ambitious.

This mindset prevents us from imagining "What If?", so whenever "What If?" becomes reality we aren't able to cope.

Opportunities to create global leaders in our industry are lost because we aren't ready to step confidently into the next phase of our personal and business development because we freak out and sell out early, settling for second best and a lifetime of regret. This is a tragedy.

I'd advocate small steps where you practise for the big time. Experiment with new processes, people, tools, technology and so on. Look at what larger companies do and try to imitate them where it makes sense.

Hire your team based not on their skills today, but on their cultural fit with your studio and their potential to step up quickly when and if needed in future.

Making lots of small practical leaps of faith such as buying more desks, moving to a bigger office, hiring that marketing executive and so on may seem like indulgence, but psychologically they signal intent to your team, clients and investors and begin the process of building your studio of tomorrow, today.

Think about how else you can start living a little of your vision now.

4. Technology is a tool, not a toy

Remember technology serves you, not vice versa.

Read this again and accept it as truth.

Less is more. The best solution is usually the most elegant. You are not a teenager; no one gives a damn if your office server is better than the studio across the hall. You have more important things to consider.

Don't be distracted by the tech. Once you've had your initial break this also applies to things like fast cars, yachts and trophy wives, too.

5. Check your ego

You didn't have all the answers before you were successful and you sure don't have them all now. Continue to learn. Enjoy the ride, but keep working hard.

As most musicians will tell you, the second album is always the hardest. Most of all, don't believe your own hype – stick to the plan. Stay true to yourself.

Have fun and good luck!

You can find out more about Tag Games on the company's website.