By cximran 2 Comments
If you’re in the games industry, you’ve probably heard this question asked at least once in your professional life: “How do I get into the industry?” Depending on who you talk to and what you’re interested in, you’ll get a variety of different responses:
- If you want to be an artist: “Build a portfolio!”
- If you want to be a programmer: “Make some mods!”
- If you want to be a game designer: “Just give up.” (Just kidding, you’ll probably have to work your way up from a production or QA position to get a better sense of how game mechanics work)
- If you want to be a producer: “Learn development methodologies and try becoming a project manager somewhere.”
- If you want to be in the games press: “Write, write, write!”
There are a variety of articles, literature, and tutorials on how to go about accomplishing the items above but there’s one part of the games industry that doesn’t seem to get much attention from those looking for work in the space: Business Development .
I’m not a programmer, an artist, a game designer, a producer, or a member of the game press but I always find myself attending GDC every year and I’ve been to so many game-specific trade shows (including E3) that it’s all starting to become a blur. I work in business development. What exactly is business development? Well, the best way I can articulate it is that a business development person is someone that is the primary point of contact for a unit of a business that facilitates relationships between companies, builds and maintains deals with partners, and represents the company at various industry events. Essentially, a business developer is the guy on the line when it comes to scouting, evaluating, and closing deals with the people and companies around all aspects of game development. For example, if you’re a Business Developer for Speed Tree , your job is to meet new developers, understand their needs for procedural foliage generation, and craft a deal that both meets the goals of the Speed Tree business and the client game developer.
As a business developer, you’ll have to get used to wearing many hats.One day, you’ll be working on a distribution deal with GameStop for your next AAA title, the next day you might be staffing a booth at PAX to meet fans, and the day after that you might be working closely with developers and the company’s marketing team to build a pitch about the new functionality available in your next sequel. If you go to an E3, the business developers are the guys that you see wearing the suit jacket and jeans running around the closed doors behind booths or the “private meeting” rooms on the second or third floor of the LA Convention Center. They’re also the guys who are probably most responsible for wall of middleware logos before your favorite game starts, as they negociated the deal to get that kind of exposure in the titles.
So the next logical question is - how do you get into business development in games? Well, there’s no hard and fast degree that you can acquire and there’s no set of “hard” skills that you need to have in order to do so. Sure, a business or economics college degree helps, but I think anyone can do a great job working in business development if they first develop a core set of skills, including:
- Networking. You need to master the art of “meeting people”, you have to be comfortable in your own skin as well as eager to introduce yourself and your company to peers in the industry. My friend Darius Kazemi has a great series on networking in the games industry on his blog, Tiny Subversions (http://tinysubversions.com/category/networking/) .
- Fastidiousness. You’ll need to maintain a real attention to detail, and more importantly you’ll find yourself working on more than one project at once. Since business development often relies upon the action of another party there might be a significant amount of downtime between your work cycles on a project, so you’ll most likely be tackling on many projects at once. Your company is going to be counting on you to see through all the angles of a potential deal, so pay attention!
- Patience. Arguably the most important skill you can have in business development. You’ll spend a lot of time on airplanes, in hotel rooms, in line at events, in office lobbies, and more. Additionally, since your work is going to revolve on multiple people’s schedules, you’ve got to have a fair amount of patience so that you can walk the fine line between being a bother and being a gentle reminder.
Once you develop those core skills, you’ve got to start hitting the pavement. So far, the easiest “track” that I’ve noticed with regards to business development is to start off as some type of business intern at your favorite game company. You’ll probably be tasked with a bunch of very intern-specific duties like data entry, but you’ll get a chance to see a game studio in action and you’ll also be able to build knowledge in some of the tools that you’ll no doubt use on a daily basis as a business developer. As your internship continues, communicate with your boss and ask if you can get more work with regards to the business - 9 times out of 10, he or she will be happy to find work for you, and as you move towards the end of your internship make sure to ask your employer to write a recommendation for you on LinkedIn as well as ask if you can use them as a reference for any future employment opportunities. I was actually lucky enough to get my first job out of an internship where a few months into me working I got promoted to a full time gig, so work hard and you’ll reap the rewards!
I’ll be updating this blog later to tell you more stories about business development in the games industry, how I got the job that I do now, and the various aspects of the business that you tend not to see on Gamasutra or sites like it.