Back in the 1950s Peter Drucker had pegged it down very nicely: "... any business enterprise has only two basic functions: marketing and innovation. All else is detail." This was the subject of a debate in my class, more than half raising the objection that devil was in the details. I, too, thought one could not reduce a whole business to a single functional unit. But now as I write more about the video games industry, I get a whole new appreciation for that quote.
Drucker did not mean the details were unimportant. What is of the utmost importance, though, is not to let the details run your business. Once the details get in charge, rest assured you are on a spiral of decay and eventual demise, waiting to be dealt the death blow by a competitor who knows what business is all about.
For those of you who are allergic to the word 'marketing' (thanks to Grover and Kermit), let me rephrase the original quote: "Any business enterprise has only two basic functions: creation and delivery of value, and innovation." I like this version better because it shows well that whatever the games industry is currently doing is anything but that. Predictability wins over creativity, and under-delivery has become the norm of the industry.
Even though I am trying to have a different business approach to games in this blog, I've had quite a few people tell me that any business talk is a turn-off to them. Recently I have begun thinking that this might be the root of the problem.
Could it be that in our avoidance of business-related issues (because we are all burnt-out and distrustful), we have been delegating our responsibility over to people who could not have cared less about all the things the industry should stand for? It is very simple: when one refuses to drive, somebody else will get behind the wheel. After that point you will have very little say in where you are going.
Hence the reason I have been going on and on about how internet has changed everything, and how it has reduced the barriers to innovation. But it is not just the internet, of course.
The mentality needs to change too: from passive observation to passionate entrepreneurship.