Thursday, October 12, 2006

Books missing from the "list of fifty"

Next Generation has an article up by Earnest Adams on the '50 Books for Everyone In the Game Industry".

It's a good list. Sadly, I can only claim to have read 11 of them, and I took away a couple good suggestions.

However, I think it came up *WAY* short on the business side of things. Page 7 of the article has four 'business books' and three that are arguably more about production (the 'post mortems' book is I guess a bit of both).

However, what he's got as business books are "story behind the legend" type books like Masters of Doom and the "Game Over" Nintendo book. Nothing down about business models, distribution, forces of change, etc, etc. This is in many ways indicative of what's wrong with many parts of the games industry today, in particular the developer community, is a surprising level of naivety about the business. Seamus Blackley ranted about this at GDC this year, and I agree.

With that said, here are the five books I recommend. These aren't necesarily the BEST business books (with the exception of the first, which really is), nor are they the best "business 101" books out there. These are teh books that, when I read them, made bells go off about my thoughts about our industry.

Anyhow, here goes:

1. Inside the Tornado by Geoffery Moore. How innovative technologies and products go from birth to death, every phase of their lifecycle in between, and the strategies for each. The most complete analysis of the technology industry to which games is married, if not a part of.

2. Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud. It's been said that comics and games share many similarities, both creatively as well as culturally. The same is true of the business and distribution models. This look at the history of the comics business, it's varying degrees of success in different cultures and times will make bells go off in your thinking about the games business. Many of the thoughts on reinvention of the business in the age of digital distribution apply here too.

3. Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad. This is the story of how a bunch of bands making up the indie punk scene of the early 90's carved a new industry into the soft underbelly of an old one. It's an entertaining read about punk rock. It may also serve as a manifesto for the indie game movement.

4. The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki. Go do the startup thing, or start a revolution within the big corporate machine. Either way, here's a manual.

5. The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton M Christensen. A painful lesson that keeps repeating itself in teh tech industry and in games as well. Good to be familiar with the model and the mistakes others have made to avoid making them yourself.

6. Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove. What do giants like Intel and Microsoft have in common (other than yours truly :-)? The nagging fear that it could all be over in the blink of an eye. Best adopt that mentality for your own business as well.

7.The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. I actually don't recommend reading the book. I think the PDF version of the original paper conveys the idea quite well, and the book stretches the idea so far beyond it's original scope as to be detrimental. Also worth reading the other side of the arguement in The Wrong Tail by Tim Wu (a counter argument, or at least a pointer to where the tail sometimes doesn't apply.

That's my 2c worth on the list!

Oh, and that the works of fiction referenced didn't include Snowcrash, well, that's just plain inexcusable! :-)

[Update: Finished the paragraph after point 7. Seems I posted with it half-drafted. Duh. Also, still mucking about to see why my image links aren't working [now fixed]]


Darius Kazemi said...

I really liked Built To Last, by, um, I forget who.

Anonymous said...

The Long Tail is an interesting concept. But like so many before it, it was perfected a long time ago by the most cut-throat market.

You may remember the "Long Tail" in its earlier incarnation as the "Million Rounded Tails". The Million Rounded Tails refers of course to the early revelation of a few smart consumers that they could break the stranglehold of a scant few distibutors in the adult industry (ie. Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler, etc) by posting girlfriends, mag-scans and local strippers, etc on mini-websites and charge for the downloads.

They "Made Everyone Available", "Cut the Price to Virtually Zero" and now the most successful sites use known adult stars to anchor the site and "Help Others Find It"; or so I'm told.

If you want to write really successful management books based around simple ideas, or start a new company with an earth-shattering new idea, do your homework first and see what fresh new ways the adult industry has gotten behind to serve its customers more effectively.