During a recent teaching trip to Shanghai I had the chance to do some interviews of local managers. I was especially interested in the subcontractor’s network organisation of video game companies. Shanghai being a hotbed of video game start-ups. Those companies specialised in 2D and 3D graphics for all types of games, going from basic phone games to major AAA games on PC, PS4 and Xbox.

One of my interview took place at NY Game a company led by Mr Wei. The company work for west and eastern video games companies, among recent realisation they worked on the famous Diablo Immortal.

Forecasting the future of and industry is forecasting threats and opportunities

During the interview on subcontracting (for an academic paper I expect to publish in the future), we discussed the future of the game business and how he perceives the development of his work and the future skills needed. For him it is obvious that the next generation of devices used for gaming being handheld or PC or powerful Sony and Xbox consoles, will push some actors out of business. Those who cannot satisfy the new requirements. It will also give opportunities for newcomers to enter the market. The video game industry is since the beginning and industry with cycles between 5 to 7 years, with the rhythm given by launch of new devices. Each new generation implied better graphics and more computation power. Usually he sees such development as virtuous, because they put away some limitation and give artists (especially the graphical artist) the freedom to be as precise and detailed as they would like. However, the future trends will be to include animation that rely on some technical skills that not all art making subcontractor master.

The other clear trend for him is that, whatever the device you are using, the same game will have to work on all major devices. Therefore, the real power will be in the hand of those who master the connection technology between the different devices (Google Android and Stadia by e.g.).

What can a company do when technology skills rise to resist competition?

Clearly the next generation of art and graphics will be even more 3D and animation oriented that the previous one. New tools like Substance Painter are more engineering than artist oriented. Many competitors invest in technical skills, adding coding skills to art. However, he chooses a different strategy.

“What will be one of the next development of video games? Surely even more personalisation!”

For the moment you can have clothes, weapons, even characters than you can buy to make your game distinctive. In the future, this will go to another level. Some games will allow you to modify much more graphical elements (why should the game took place in a mountain when you would like to be in a small village or a beach?) or even revamp completely a game.

Nevertheless, to be able to do that you do not only need additional graphics, you need also story elements that made it fit together. Buying a great and beautifully looking sword is nice, but having a story explaining why this sword is so unique and make this story known in the game is something else. Therefore, subcontractors who propose art elements will surely propose additional story telling services in the future. The story telling allows the customer not only to play a hero but makes it a legend into to the game vis à vis other players.

Ideas for managers: Managing everything means managing with a story

Today manager juggle with a wide variety of processes and aims for a firm. Technological evolution, mixed with a new generation of employees who have different motivations is making the job more difficult. A clue that this interview gives us about managing in the video game domain is that technology raised the need to tell a story to make the pieces fit together.

Many managers just paste things together, superposing several layers of what they need. In reality, they should take a needle to make the pieces hold together, this needle is a good story.

Storytelling is a way of using facts, not modifying them, but put them in a special light and give them more meaning. It is used in project management, team building, team debriefing, quality management, human resources management, and so on.

Storytelling is a way of giving a meaning, a purpose on some activities. Manager should not just take new technologies for the sake of novelty, or invest in new tools to be being on the techno forefront. Strategy need that all investment relates to each other, to a same story. So what is the story you tell your employee next time you make a technology investment? Remind, don’t modify the fact, give them a meaning.

For any question about NY Game, contact Jennifer Wu.