What Are The Odds Of Making A Successful Game?

One of the first questions people who tell me that they are “thinking” about getting into game development ask me is, “What are the odds of creating a successful game?”

Well, here’s the cold, hard truth: it is unlikely to create a successful ANYTHING. Most products and businesses are unsuccessful.

First, there’s Sturgeon’s Law, based on quotes made by by science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.” Okay,that sounds like a joke, but it’s based on the common sense observation that most things created by people — whether it be books, movies, songs, games, or game websites — are of inferior quality.

However, if quality is not your standard for success, you might counter that many movies, books, and other works are inexplicably popular and/or profitable despite being crap (one needs to look no further for an example than the Twilight movies).

Well, here’s another rule of thumb that sounds more serious: the Pareto Principle (also called the “80/20 Rule”): “Eighty percent of the results can be attributed to only twenty percent of the effort.” In retail, it is commonly observed that 80% of your sales come from only 20% of your customers. Applying this to games, 80% of game purchases are for only 20% of the published games. Or to look at it another way, only about 20% of games sell well enough to be profitable.

So, most new games fail because most gamers buy games from already-popular franchises or that are heavily-promoted by publishers.

Before you get discouraged, I will give you another quote, one that was made by Han Solo in Star Wars: “Never tell me the odds.” If you are passionate about something, do it! Don’t worry about whether success is likely or not. One of the reasons so many people are not successful in their endeavors is that they give up because the odds are against them. But when they drop out, that makes the odds much more favorable for those who stuck to their passions.



About David Mullich

I am a video game producer who has worked at Activision, Disney, Cyberdreams, EduWare, The 3DO Company and the Spin Master toy company. I am currently a game design and production consultant, a game design instructor at ArtCenter College of Design, and co-creator of the Boy Scouts of America Game Design Merit Badge. At the 2014 Gamification World Congress in Barcelona, I was rated the 14th ranking "Gamification Guru" in social media.

Posted on November 26, 2012, in Career Advice, Game Production and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Very inspiring and intelligent article.

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