The Corporate Forgetfulness of Beancounter General
At one point during a company’s rise to the skies, sometimes they manage to forget what they’re about.
Corporate mentality makes it so what drove the company forward up to that point is driven away by a profit-first mentality that investors require, when they’re involved.
When in doubt, blame China
You can see such examples by looking at Apple and Nvidia. They both raised their prices for the same product by 30% gen-over-gen twice, their sales subsequently decreased and they had to change their projections. It seems like a pretty glaring correlation between cause and effect, but in both cases, difficulties with China’s markets were the blame (regardless of that being part of the reason).
When the new iPhone costs 1600€ compared to 1100ish and you blame China for the lowered sales, I am scratching my head.
When the new RTX cards which offer little improvement and are at prices that are higher than last year’s during the crypto galore, and you blame China, I am scratching my head.
In this case, I am positive they do understand, they just try to shift the blame while looking at the short term.
Still, it’s kind of hilarious for them to blame another entity when they’ve been overpricing hard for 2 generations and it is finally catching up to them.
Those who forget
I’ve been a nerd ever since I got my hands on a 386 PC. That means I’ve followed the rise and fall of many videogame companies over the years.
There are some passionate people working in passionate environments, leading up to having passionate companies that love the product they make, and I noticed that overtime most successful companies that owe their success to the passion of their people and their fans lose track of what they’re about.
With money comes the need to manage, handle and beancount (some would say accountants, but my BOFH mindset craves for the beancounter word), with structures that result in limitations for such creative and passionate individuals.
Beancounting you out, beancounting you in
A struggle arises between these passionate creatives and beancounters, as they have extremely different visions and priorities.
As time goes on, the beancounters win, as they have control over the money and investments, and it takes years for them to turn the products of the company into sterile copies of each other and cash grabs. In the meanwhile they can enjoy both a more efficient and profit oriented company, with the remnants of the good products, plus the brand that they’ve built which hasn’t yet been eroded by their short term and greedy attitude.
They will then hire replacements that will cater to their attitude and their personal bias which are not what made the products and games in the first place. They’ll also be less driven individuals as they will be hired to work under different conditions and restrictions than what was at first.
So, in time, the company which was built by passionate and driven people, slowly becomes devoid of such passion and either gets managed with a corporate mindset, or derails with personal/political/idiotic agendas and spirals into nonsensical endeavours. There’s a third option but it rarely occurs. When it does, you get small gems such as CD Projekt RED, Larian, Obsidian and some others.
Of course, there’s always time for them to fall into those other paths.
As they say in The Dark Knight, *you either die a hero or you live long enough to become a villain**.
Fans usually get the shaft out of it, which can lead to the decline of the company, due to losing their fanbase and those willing to spend the money, or the change to a more profitable target, meaning they do lose their fanbase, but they acquire a new one, deemed more profitable. (the rush to the lootboxes and mobile development, for example)
In either case, the mindset and company attitude becomes one driven by squeezing the most profit, without looking to find a balance between quality and profit.
Activision works this way, they produce mediocre products, they target certain individuals willing to spend money on serialized games and/or microtransactions and whatever else they can get away with, and that’s how they work.
They’ve since expanded with Mobile games, which cater to a more casual audience for the most part, but not unwilling to spend money, the profit is actually higher while development costs are much lower, makes for an amazing market to invade.
or not? Not happy, or not an ending?
Which is what Blizzard did, when during their PC-centric conference they announced a Diablo Mobile game, after teasing for weeks to a PC-centric fanbase.
And they got surprised of the extremely bad reception.
They were SURPRISED.
That unequivocally shows they’re completely disconnected to what their old fan base was, to what they wanted and appreciated.
What do they do then? They prepare a couple blunders, end their year along with Activision as an extremely profitable one, and they proceed to, among other things:
- Cut HOTS E-sports and proceed to half-retire the game, making it a ‘classic’ after months of silence regarding its future and without talking it out ahead of time to the people that would be involved by the decision
- Ask Hearthstone players whether they would play the game without e-sports.
And other things. So, what’s next? They cut about 800 jobs, to maximize profits.
I don’t know about you, but these are not people I’d want to give any money to.
It’s not just them, the list goes on, this shows how things change overtime. Konami, Electronic Arts are at the forefront as well.
Over the years I have come to identify such companies and while there’s not much I can do, I do make sure not to go out of my way and fall to their marketing work, as marketing is all they’re about, and I do work for my money, so I am not really happy to give any when they’re so blatantly non-caring about their customers.