Some of the most exciting game development communities are growing in places that are not the U.S. I’m not aware of the game development community in Stockholm Sweden before Mojang hit the map, but I can definitely see them becoming the center of Swedish gaming in the future. But watch out Sweden, here comes Finland. What is the game development environment like in your corner of the world? Are you getting a chapter of the IGDA?
The title may make you think that I hate Mojang. Far from it. I love the company, the business model and Minecraft. Kotaku recently reported on the amazing new offices of Mojang. They are certainly pretty, perhaps a bit too pretty. As evidenced by the comments to the kotaku piece. When it comes right down to it, they made a mistake here. After the jump, are 6 reasons why.
1.) This is a gorgeous office space, most likely made to order. When a business puts out money to build something like this there is both a one time expense, and an on going cost. Any start up company needs to concern themselves with their ‘Burn Ratio’, which is the total of all those costs to run the company. Mojang isn’t exactly a Kendall Square Start up. But they should be concerned about the amount of money they are spending vs the amount of money they are making Granted they are conservatively making $300,000 US per day… But that will not last forever, despite what Dinnerbone may think. How much expense does this new office carry for them after them and can it be maintained after the demand for Minecraft falls?
2.) A big issue is with the timing. They have released an extremely successful first game, and it’s just about to hit peak sales. If it hasn’t already. Mojang does have a couple more games (which do look great) in process. However a second game has not yet been released, nor is it likely that a second game will be anywhere near as successful. One commercial hit does not an empire make, and that office definitely screams ’empire’. The future has a way of throwing things in your path that you don’t expect. Especially right after you sign contracts. That’s usually time when the project gets delayed, the revenue doesn’t come in or the economy crashes. How future proof are these offices?
3.) Those are some really swanky layouts, with gorgeous amenities Tons of meeting space, lots of room to hang out together, lots of games to play. Could this all add up to a gratuitous distraction from producing a second hit? Perhaps its my puritanical style New England upbringing, but a more spartan aesthetic seems more conducive to getting work done. A fun space, one filled with great people… But leather sofas? It all seems like a big distraction with a big cleaning bill.
4.) This demonstrates poor managerial judgement on the part of Carl. Who I like a lot, and has done a great job. Bigger offices, to supply more room for new employees, are one thing. Nice offices are another thing. Everyone should have a nice office. But bespoke work space is different issue entirely. Their offices are nicer then the Boston General Office of New York Life. Which is the highest grossing office of the largest mutual insurance company in the U.S. A company that overall has more money then the U.S. Federal Reserve. The offices are nicer then Microsoft Cambridge (Ichiro disagrees because Microsoft gives lots of great free food), and possible even nicer then Microsoft. They rank right up there with Google and Apple. That’s a clear statement from one company to the rest, whether intended or not. What message is Carl trying to send with this choice and is it intentional?
5.) This office space sends a message to the local community. It sets the bar very high for independent and AAA Swedish game developers and may discourage some of them, while encouraging others for the wrong reasons. What if instead of spending money on this lavish office, they had constructed a co-working space available for other developers? Like BetaHouse. They could have put that money into fostering a bigger and better game development community in Stockholm. A ‘Stockholm Indies’ if you will. Thereby growing local talent for them to raid later on.
6.) But the last and final reason I hate Mojang’s new office, and for me the one that is the foundation for all others; It’s in Sweden, and I will never ever get to see it, let alone work there. All other arguments are minor in comparison to jealousy.
[Update] On 10/4/2012 Two days after the Kotaku post Jens shared a picture of the functional workspace at Mojang’s office. This looks very much like the old Mojang offices, simply in a bigger room. This room fits the preconceived notion some of us have of what a game developers office looks like… They just also happen to have another room which could win architecture awards off to the side somewhere. Looks like the pretty room see’s a lot less action then the ‘factory floor’.
Don’t worry folks, things are all as they should be.
“I hope we can keep a lot of open and free platforms around. If Microsoft decides to lock down Windows 8, it would be very very bad for Indie games and competition in general.
If we can keep open platforms around, there’s going to be a lot of very interesting games in ten years, mixed in with the huge AAA games that we all love.” -[Notch]
The timing of the Ouya may be perfect, assuming Microsoft doesn’t change plans to fully integrate Xbox with Windows 8. Even if it takes a year after Win 8, launching an open platform like Ouya could really be a coup if gamer and game developer angst is running high.
Developers who write their own code, and don’t look to get approval through the XNA platform have reason to fear the future. Anyone who codes for iOS says “Meh, been there, done that”. Personally I think it’s all noise. Trying to search ‘Windows 8 lock down’ returns so much Persson that it’s hard to find any real details.