Ilkka Paananen gives power to developers and Supercell's ambition to create a global mobile game
Author: Matthew Handrahan Translator: Willow Wu
At the GDC conference, people met Ilkka Paananen, the leader of game giant Supercell. When he delivered a speech in front of the public, he described himself as "the most powerless CEO in the gaming industry."
This statement is too confusing. This is GDC's largest exhibition hall. There are no seats under the audience and everyone is directed at Ilkka Paananen. When he came to power, the bottom-up developers who were eager to stand shoulder to shoulder with the giants were ready to listen. Paananen repeatedly emphasized in his speech that the CEO is not the dictator in the eyes of the public.
He explained that at Supercell, the decentralization of executives is the foundation of corporate culture. As long as we can fully consider the acceptance of products and follow the principle of user first, independent teams can make independent decisions in most cases. The development team doesn't even need to get Paananen's decision approval, which he believes will hinder smooth product iteration and program execution.
"For us, this is a very effective way of working. Everyone likes to work in this environment, but I also understand that this is not suitable for all companies. I think every company should have its own set of principles for doing things. You cannot directly copy the culture of another company. ”
Supercell-ceo-illka-paananen (from pocketgamer)
This is why many people want to hear Ilkka Paananen's speech: Learn more about how Supercell casts its success and then follow the leader's philosophy to do his own project. In Paananen's opinion, the most important decision he made as Supercell's director is to give people the power to make decisions autonomously, and to ensure that they employ only the best talent.
"In the final analysis, this is the only thing that you can control," he said. "The game industry is really complicated, and you can hardly predict what will happen later." So what I can do is to ensure the quality of the team's staff and optimize their working environment as much as possible so as to maximize the chance of successful projects.
“Sometimes they made breakthrough progress, and I was the last one to know. In Supercell this is the best thing that makes me happy. In fact, this has often happened recently. At this time, I can feel that our team works best. ”
Indeed, Supercell's organizational management approach is very suitable for them, so that they do not need to set up a dedicated human resources department. When there is a real disagreement between the employees (Paananen says this is rare), they should negotiate in a friendly way and solve the problem within the team (the team usually does not exceed 7 people). It is only in extremely rare circumstances that leaders need to be involved in mediation.
"The five people here now," Paananen pointed to a person sitting around the table, "and we can be a game team." This is a very typical Supercell game team that does not require any extra help from anyone. We can sit down and start working.
"This is the sense of ownership and responsibility. This relatively independent way of working is a topic worthy of discussion, but the responsibilities involved are more complex. ”
Supercell's profit size and number of players does not seem to match the company itself. ——they employ less than 250 people. Compared to King, one of the few mobile game companies that can compete with Supercell, the size of their company is really not an order of magnitude, and even game companies that are not so successful are much bigger than Supercell. According to Paananen, small-scale teams are the key to maintaining the corporate culture. It is in this environment that they can create such popular games as "tribal conflict" and "Royal War". However, things are not as imaginary. simple. After the company has achieved great success, most people will choose to further expand the company's scale. In fact, it is even harder to maintain the number of people in the team than to increase the number of employees.
"The expansion of the company's scale will surely make things more troublesome, but the scale of success will also expand. This is the temptation." It is like something with gravity always trying to pull you over. You have to fight it every day. ”
"When things are going well, you certainly don't think people have any more bad things. But what should you do if things don't go smoothly?" How high is your trust in your employees? Can we rely on their own internal digestion? Or do you want to intervene? This is the moment to test the corporate culture. In fact, this dilemma has been encountered many times. We are very clear that if you only focus on the short-term, make the choice you think you are right, and sometimes you are using power to overturn the decision of the entire team. Later you will find that the price is very high and the company culture will become fragmented.
"Another option is to let the team do whatever they want to do, they may be right or wrong." But even if they made mistakes, it would be beneficial in the long run because it helps maintain our corporate culture. You can force yourself to change your mindset. Don't think about the next year. Think about the next decade. This is not so difficult when you make a choice. ”
In most cases, the Supercell team can make independent decisions for multiple game concepts at the same time. The specific number will fluctuate. Paananen estimates that there are five at this stage. He is happy to admit that he cannot determine, but more importantly, he does not need to know. In Supercell, the game quality standard has always been the same, and the game must be guaranteed before the test is released. In addition, there is a set of higher standards for official global distribution.
Obviously, Paananen does not like to use the word "failure". He feels that the Supercell team is like a group of scientists. Test theory is established. The verification result may not be established, but it does not mean that the result is worthless. It still can bring a lot of useful information to the team, and so does the game developers. Ultimately, this will lead to high elimination rate of products, which may be unacceptable to developers. After all, in the game industry, the distribution of products is a matter of pride and professional reputation.
Paananen admits: "We discussed a lot on this issue. No one likes to cut off their products, but everyone can accept it because it is their decision rather than me. We don't have hard data that we can refer to during the development phase. In order to verify the hypothesis you have put a lot of effort, but the conclusion is not true. I know this may be very sad, but this is not the end of everything.
"How can we make the decision easier? You can consider other options, such as ‘this game is not up to the mark, but we'll just go ahead and check it out. Is this correct?
"In Supercell, you can not release the game, and then let it self-destruct. People come to play your games, they spend time, and many people also invest money. I, and everyone think we should take responsibility for these players, we should make this game better, and do some optimization and promotion every month. This is a responsibility of at least five years and ten years.
"The question I have to ask is this game that is not up to standard. Will you be willing to pay for it for the next five or ten years?" Thinking about these issues, you will suddenly feel that things are not so entangled. ”
Supercell’s third and fourth games “The Island Jones” and “Royal War” were separated by two years, but during this period, the pace of developing new ideas did not stop. Paananen admits that their standards are very high, but they are less than the current requirements of the mobile game market.
“Now, innovation has become more important than ever. It's no use following someone else to make a better version of a game. The competition is too fierce. Trying to test different game mechanics and different ways of doing things is more beneficial to the development of the entire game market.
"From our cultural point of view, this depends to a large extent on the development team. Some unexpected new games will be created in the industry in the future. To achieve this, you must have a group of creative talents to try something crazy. Perhaps one day, you will succeed. ”
There is also a trend that mobile games will be more in-depth in terms of social mechanisms. In terms of the functions of the mobile platform, most of the games at this stage still remain in the shallow layers of social games. This may be Paananen's biggest opportunity. Mobile game developers can use social mechanisms to harvest the same scores as Supercell, even beyond them.
"For now, there isn't any truly global mobile game on the market, which means that the game must not only be ranked first in the United States and the United Kingdom, but also in China, South Korea and Japan. One of our dreams. Can we make that kind of game?
"What's interesting is the possibility. Before our game, we topped the list in Korea, which is unprecedented. Others could not think that a game from a distant Finland could stand out in Korea's extremely competitive gaming market! We also entered the top 10 list in Japan and China, and it is quite exciting.
"As for the further globalization of mobile games, players in different countries do have different preferences, but I think these differences are gradually getting smaller." The globalization of mobile games is getting faster and faster. ”