There is no need to repeat the fact that 2020 had its own unique flavor to it, or that the COVID-19 outbreak caught everyone by surprise and had a huge impact on the private and business lives of each and every one of us no matter where we were. Many game development teams struggled, some closed their doors, yet many had a stellar year – especially among the smaller and indie teams! I am grateful and humbled to be able to say that the MiTale team had a very successful year, and I wish to share our struggles and the things we’ve learned along the way.
For those of you who have never heard of our company before this blog post, I want to briefly describe who we are and what MiTale stands for. MiTale is a fully independent game development studio, which means that we do not have investments, loans nor other forms of external financing, and that all of our income is generated by our work in game development, through B2B services and revenue from the games we have published. This structure enables us to be independent in decision making with regards to the company’s strategy, mission and vision, aims and goals, as well as giving us creative freedom and – this is a very important detail – it keeps all of the assets of the company within the team. However, the main reason why we love being indie is that it enables us to explore the ever-evolving gaming technologies found within interactive storytelling design beyond just the entertainment industries. As a team of experienced developers from the gaming industry, we wish to share the best practices in game design from successful commercial titles (regardless of the platform) with professionals from other industries. Our lives are already gamified, even though many may refuse to admit so, and instead of denying that, what should be a priority is to focus on creating high-quality digital products that bring value to the users/players.
Our studio is still young, even though the founders and core team are seasoned representatives of the games industry. When we decided to form MiTale, we had a long ongoing discussion on what we wished to focus on, what the core values that our founding team represented were and that we wanted to build our business upon, what type of environment we wished to build for ourselves as team members, what we wished to offer future team members as our company grew and also what type of games we wished to deliver so that we could be at ease when we finally pressed that big red ”publish” button.
From the very first day, our team focused on building the company culture before the investment pitch deck. This is unfortunately not a common practice among gaming startups, even startups formed by experienced developers, as they do not necessarily even have any previous experience in leading a team or building a team culture. Team culture is crucial and should be a priority above any other strategy, because with the right culture and the right mindset (as well as a dash of humor, supportive team leaders, and always available coffee and chocolate) there is no challenge that is too big for the team to overcome and find a solution to. This is why I believe that leadership and team culture should be also part of game development study programs, as quite many of them, at least in Finland, encourage students to pursue the career path of entrepreneurship without even one proper lesson on soft skills. Soft skills are not only important when there is a crisis such as a global pandemic, soft skills are an essential part of the success of the team, company, and business development. A team or a company, just as any other community of fellow-minded and passionate people, filled with beautifully diverse talents and ideas, can only reach its full potential by empowering diversity and nurturing its unique quirkiness. Our differences make us stronger by challenging our ideas, thoughts and processes, letting us evolve through trial and error, and allowing us to weather the vast number of curveballs the outside world keeps throwing at us. By making sure that our team culture is not just a set of empty words on a sheet of paper but a part of our everyday practices that we utilize in both our internal relationships and also relationships with our partners and clients, we at the MiTale team made it through the challenges of 2020 without many adjustments, growing a profitable business and increasing our our team size from 6 to 12 members! This year, we aim to continue our growth at the same pace, by supporting each and every team member to be their best selves.
Nurture your team, make sure to listen and that every team member is heard, validate their opinions regardless of “seniority”, because only with the right culture can your team truly succeed.