October 11, 2023
4 mins

How to Encourage Innovation in a Game Development Company 

Encouraging innovation in a video game development company is critical to gaining a competitive edge in this rapidly evolving industry. In an industry where standing still means falling behind, developing a culture of innovation is vital for success. 

Leaders in the game franchise industry, such as Larian Studios, who have revolutionized the D&D niche through their work on Baldur's Gate 3 and the Divinity series, understand the value of innovation in game design and nurturing a creative culture. This capability for progressive creativity sets them apart from competitors in the space and helps them maintain their position in the gaming industry.

Here we'll explore the relationship between innovative thinking and organizational culture, the five ways to encourage innovation within your company, and also examine the most common company mistakes that can hamper the success of a game development company. 

What is Innovation in the Video Game Industry? 

Innovation in the video game industry can manifest in various ways, often involving technological advancements, creative storytelling, and novel gameplay mechanics. With the advent of artificial intelligence, cutting-edge technology, and immersive game designs, game developers are continuously exploring creative solutions. 

For example, the integration of virtual and augmented reality technologies into gameplay offers players unprecedented levels of immersion and interaction. Beyond technology, innovation also encompasses narrative structures, game mechanics, and marketing strategies. 

The Importance of Innovation in Video Game Companies: Square Enix and Nintendo 

While creating hit video games is one part of innovation in this industry, the bigger picture involves transforming the gaming experience itself. Take, for example, Nintendo's revolutionary Switch console. Launched in 2017, the Switch seamlessly combined home and portable gaming into one unit, fundamentally altering how we experience games.  

Square Enix also demonstrated innovative prowess with the release of Final Fantasy VII Remake in 2020. The remake revitalized a classic title with cutting-edge graphics and a revamped combat system, all while preserving the beloved narrative that originally captivated players in 1997. 

Companies like Nintendo and Square Enix have thrived because of their willingness to innovate, offering lessons to any game development company aiming to gain a competitive edge. The success of the Nintendo Switch and the rave reviews garnered by Final Fantasy VII Remake stand as prime examples of how innovation can lead to industry leadership and financial success. 

How is Culture Related to Creativity? 

The organizational culture within a company plays a pivotal role in cultivating creative ideas. When employees feel empowered to take risks and explore unconventional solutions, the result is often groundbreaking game ideas. 

Innovative thinking thrives in an environment where there's room for experimentation and failure is considered part of the learning process. Therefore, a game development company’s culture serves as the fertile ground from which creative endeavors can sprout, shaping not just individual projects but also the long-term trajectory of the organization.

5 Ways To Encourage Innovation in Your Game Development Company 

Here are some ways to encourage a positive culture of innovation within your game development team:

  1. Maintain an Understanding and Inclusive Work Environment: Creating a workplace where everyone feels respected, valued, and understood can lead to a wellspring of creative ideas. Team-building activities focused on inclusivity can further cement this culture, making everyone more comfortable in sharing their ideas.

    An inclusive and empathetic culture encourages innovation by creating a safe space for open dialogue and risk-taking, thereby allowing creative ideas to flow freely and evolve into groundbreaking innovative solutions.
  1. Provide Time and Space for Creative Thinking: Allocating time and space specifically for creative exploration gives your development team permission to think outside the box. Designated 'innovation hours' can catalyze these creative endeavors, helping to turn abstract ideas into actionable projects.

    Allowing freeform thinking can often lead to new approaches towards game development, such as creatively redesigning your most casual games.
  1. Rapid Prototyping: Often the final product in game design is unclear at the outset. Rapid prototyping allows game development teams to iterate quickly through different versions, dynamically refining the design, improving functionality, and progressively moving closer to a final product based on user feedback and design evaluations.

    This methodology develops a flexible environment that encourages creative thinking and experimentation, substantially increasing your odds of discovering creative mechanics that set your game apart across the market.
  1. Incorporate Cutting-Edge Tools: Using AI tools and specialized project management platforms such as Jira in game development removes the bottleneck of routine and mundane tasks, enabling teams to invest their time in exploring creative game mechanics and narratives.

    Incorporating AI tools and specialized project management platforms designed for customization creates an ecosystem in which creativity isn't stifled by routine or administrative tasks; acting as a catalyst that sparks innovative approaches to gameplay and storytelling.
  1. User Feedback Loop: User feedback provides invaluable data on what works and what doesn't, offering direct insights into the target audience's preferences. Utilizing tools like in-game surveys, social media engagement, and beta testing can facilitate this feedback loop, enabling the company to collect more diverse and actionable data for future iterations and updates. 

    When game developers incorporate this feedback into their game design documents, it can inspire them to think creatively about how to solve issues or enhance user experience, ultimately leading to more interactive video games. 

How Does Organizational Culture Influence Creativity? 

The structure of your video game development company can significantly impact how freely innovative ideas flow. A rigid hierarchy can stifle creativity, while a flat organizational structure often nurtures it. 

It's also important that your innovation objectives align with your broader business goals. This ensures that the entire company, from game developers to the business owner, is on the same page when it comes to the company's direction.  

How Company Culture Can Deter Innovation: 

While it's crucial to build a culture of innovation, be aware of common company pitfalls that can deter success: 

  • Lack of Recognition: When hard work and creative solutions go unnoticed, it can sap the enthusiasm out of the team. When team members feel their efforts go unrecognized, they are less incentivized to push boundaries or take creative risks, stifling the innovative potential of the team.
  • Mismatch of Goals: If the game development studio is focused solely on financial targets or deadlines, it can stifle the creative aspirations of game designers. Game designers might hold back innovative game ideas that don't align with the company's short-term goals.
  • Failure to Review Organizational Culture: It's crucial for the business owner to regularly evaluate whether the existing culture aligns with the company's innovation objectives. A misalignment between culture and innovation goals can result in missed opportunities, reduced morale, and an inability to adapt quickly, making it easier for competitors to take the lead.

A toxic work environment, lack of recognition, or even a mismatch between the development studio's goals and the creative aspirations of game designers can stifle innovative culture. It's crucial for the business owner to regularly review the organizational culture to ensure it aligns with the company's innovation objectives. 

The Quest to Sustained Innovation in Game Development 

Encouraging innovation in game development companies is not just a strategic move; it's the secret cheat code to staying ahead in an industry that waits for no one. The innovation process can also develop pitfalls to be aware of, such as toxic work cultures and misaligned goals, which can act like invisible walls preventing your team's advancement. 

Creating a game development company culture which encourages creativity and cross-collaboration doesn’t just develop brilliant dynamic games; it develops the future leaders of the industry. Navigate these challenges skillfully and you'll set new high scores in innovation, making your company a revered name in the game development studios hall of fame. 

Want to stay in the loop on the latest game development company strategies? I'm Bruno Schirch, Founder and CEO of Playgig, and I'm committed to sharing cutting-edge industry insights, updates, and my entrepreneur journey with you. Head over to my contact page to connect directly with me, or join me on Instagram and X, let's keep the conversation going and ensure you're always in the know!