I have covered this subject on here before but recent events have brought it once more into focus. Basically the history of management in the British video game industry is a history of failure and contrasts very sharply with the massive success of British games development. All you have to do is look at a list of British games companies and look what happened to them: Imagine, Ocean, US Gold, Domark, Rage, Psygnosis, Argonaut, Codemasters, EIDOS and SCi. There are more.
This contrasts very sharply with America where companies such as Electronic Arts, Activision and Take Two have extremely strong management teams. Often when they recruit management it is from outside the games industry. And always they recruit strong, proven, trained, professional management. In Britain most game industry management is still amateur, untrained and unskilled. We have seen the results.
Yet it needn’t be. In many industries Britain has world class management. And world class companies as a consequence. These businesses would never dream of employing amateur, unqualified managers and they would never dream of promoting someone into a job they weren’t trained for. Yet this is what the games industry does. Britain also has several world class management schools. It is very easy to enrol and to get superb training. Yet it is something shunned by the games industry and we have seen the results.
But it can be so different. Between 1999 and 2002 Codemasters hired a professional manager to run development. He had an MBA alongside his BSC and MSC. And he had serious management experience at Gulf Oil and as a consultant at Pricewaterhouse Coopers. Within his remit and what he was allowed he did an amazing job. He organised a highly efficient yet highly creative studio system that was responsible for a string of top ten hit games. Perhaps he should have been running the whole company!
Of course it is too late for a lot of the British game industry to change their ways. They are history or soon will be. And the British games industry slides down the international rankings with a brain drain of development talent. The remaining independent developers are dwindling in number as they are bought up by Japanese and American publishers It is not a pretty picture. Yet it is one that the industry has largely mismanaged itself into.