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The key success factors for the introduction of substitutes from emerging competitors in the gaming industry.

  • The video game industry has come a long way from its humble beginnings in a computer lab at the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s instrumentation group to a multi billion-dollar industry. Considering that the gaming industry is a relatively young industry, it has faced a substantial amount of structural changes and shifts that were intensified by mega trends (i.e. Digitalization) that influence every industry in a certain way. One of these structural changes was the emergence of smaller studios, also known as “indie studios”. Even though these studios have always been a part of the industry, they themselves and their games respectively have gained a lot of appreciation and support over the last decade. Some of these titles even managed to upset those of the big and established studios, also referred to as AAA studios. The most dominant factors that allowed for the emergence and the success of smaller studios were the drastically reduced entry barriers (i.e. free development kits, online distribution websites) and the supportive environment offered to them (e.g. university programs, incubators). Yet, some studios manage to generate better results with their games than other studios do and therefore remained capable of competing in the industry. This circumstance inspired this thesis to identify the KSFs (i.e. Key Success Factors), also referred to as CSFs (i.e. Critical Success Factors) that allow for a successful launch of the game. Generally speaking, KSFs are those business areas and activities that, if executed in a proper way, enable a company to compete successfully in a given market. Since their introduction in 1961 by D. Ronald Daniel, a consultant with McKinsey & Company, the KSFs have been the subject of many studies and academic research papers. A majority of the research tends to focus on applying the KSF methods to more established industries (i.e. healthcare, construction). In addition to that most of the research conducted within the field of KSFs tends to gravitate around identifying and forecasting the KSFs that might be of interest for a given time period instead of focusing on a dedicated event such as the launch of a product. This thesis therefore provides the first comprehensive research on the KSFs in the context of the gaming industry, with special regard to the smaller studios (i.e. indie studios) and the launch period of a game. First and foremost, this study aims to identify the KSFs that are of great importance to the successful launch of a given game. Furthermore, it tries to research how these KSFs are identified and implemented by the studios. Additionally, it will be researched if the studios are using the traditional model outlined by Howell, M. (2010) or if they rely on other methodologies to identify and implement the relevant KSFs for a successful launch. Lastly, it will be analysed, how smaller (i.e. indie studios) determine whether or not a game was a success and what metrics they use for this evaluation. The study relied on secondary data provided by scientific journals, books, conference papers from the fields of busines, project management, strategic management and gaming. Since the available scientific literature for this specific research topic was considerably scarce, a lot of the needed content and references used in this thesis were acquired through practical research. The research followed a hybrid approach, indicating that quantitative as well as qualitative research methods were applied. The qualitative research was conducted in the form of interviews with six industry experts that all had contributed in their way to successful game launches in the past. They were thoroughly researched and evaluated before being contacted in order to ensure their ability to contribute to answering the research question. The data and inputs gathered from the qualitative research were used throughout the theoretical part of the thesis in order to compensate for the continous lack of academic resources and to support the claims made by the author. Furthermore, the data was used to create the survey (i.e. quantitative research) that would be distributed among 409 potential participants. Similar to the quantitative research, these participants were also thoroughly researched and evaluated in order to ensure the legitimacy of the results. Findings suggest that smaller studios (i.e. indie studios) are not familiar with the traditional model proposed by Howell(2010), which tends to be employed larger corporations in rather established industries. Yet they are familiar with the concept of KSFs and determine as well as implement them through agile project management, which has its origins in the software development industry. This way studios are able to adjust and adapt their KSFs at a faster pace, which is essential due to dynamic environment they operate in. The results indicate that a majority of the participating studios use the Scrum development method in order to determine and implement the required KSFs for developing and launching their games. A significant number of studios rely on dedicated agile project management software programs that aid the companies throughout the project lifecycle. The most popular programs being Trello and Jira. The qualitative research identified a total of 22 potential KSFs that are deemed to be important for the successful launch of a game. The most crucial KSFs were considered to be the following: - Team chemistry & intrinsic motivation & internal communication - Budgeting & scheduling & scoping - Selecting distribution channel & front-page promotion - Presentation of game on websites & USP - Active community on social networks & strong customer support & transparency The results indicate that the traditional one dimensional metrics (i.e. sales level) of evaluating the success of a game launch might no longer have the highest weight in the opinion of studios. The success tends to be determined by a set of one-dimensional metrics, which are quantifiable (e.g. sales levels, positive reviews) and multi-dimensional metrics which are not quantifiable (e.g. learning experience, fulfilment). Summing up, there might not be such a thing as a “magic formular” that will ensure the success of a game launch. Yet, the research aims to provide suggestions based on the findings from practical research that could be of usage to studios when launching their next game.

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Author:Vincent Kornmann
Advisor:Heike Stengel
Document Type:Bachelor Thesis
Year of Completion:2021
Granting Institution:Hochschule Furtwangen
Date of final exam:2021/02/28
Release Date:2021/07/22
Tag:Gaming industry; Independent studios; Key success factors (KSFs)
Degree Program:IBW - Internationale Betriebswirtschaft
Functional area:Marketing
Licence (German):License LogoEs gilt das UrhG