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Why product managers are about to be the most important people in Gaming

By on January 30, 2012

The games industry is changing so fast that there are new roles that we need that didn’t exist five years ago. I’m a non-executive at nDreams, and one of the people we need right now is a digital product manager.

What’s a digital product manager? Read on to find out.

Aurora screenshot

 

To many people in the games industry, a product manager is a junior marketing person. Someone who takes the creative material developed by the brand managers and spends money on placing those ads on television, in print and online, usually on a country by country basis.

In that world, a product manager is nearer the bottom of the tree than the top, and product managers aspire to becoming brand managers.

In the web world, the product manager is a lynchpin role at the heart of the organisation. If you asked me to name one famous product manager, the first name that would leap to mind is “Steve Jobs”.

Not exactly a lowly marketer, is he?

A product manager has to manage three conflicting roles: he (or she) is the user champion, he needs to deliver what the commercial realities of the business needs and he needs to understand the limitations and resources of the technology and the team that provides it.

As Martin Eriksson, product manager at Covestor, and formerly Huddle, where I consulted, said in a post on GAMESbrief called “What is a product manager”:

“I’ve always defined product management as the intersection between business, technology and user experience (hint – only a product manager would define themselves in a venn diagram).”

In this new world of service-based, free-to-play games, the product manager may be the most important person in the company (second only to the game designer; in some cases more important.)

And no, a product manager is not a new term for a “game designer”. A game designer, traditionally at least, didn’t have to worry about the business objectives. They may have been the consumer champion but that was based on instinct and ego. A product manager needs to temper that instinct with data, the ambition with resource limitations, the game design with revenue requirements.

I think that the role of product manager is about to come into its own in games. If that excites you, head over to nDreams to apply for the role of product manager, or find a way to create it in your own company.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com
  • http://whatgamesare.com Tadhg Kelly

    Spot on. 

  • Phil M

    Great post, but I disagree that the role you describe isn’t one of a designer (albeit a lead designer or creative director). If a game is to be really successful it needs UX, production constraints and business goals built in from the start.

  • http://www.gamesbrief.com Nicholas Lovell

    In my experience, game designers just don’t focus on these things. The discipline prizes creativity and vision over business and resources.

    Frankly, I think it prizes those things over user experience, or in some cases “making games that players want, rather than that you want to make”

  • http://twitter.com/carlodelallana Carlo Delallana

    Very few game designers working outside of the indie scene actually get to create for themselves. Designers have to balance personal vision with the desires of the audience as well as metrics set by their employer. 

  • Phil M

    You need to meet better designers :)