Dear Google, Amazon, & Microsoft: Games is Not Media & Entertainment – It’s over 2x the Size


Back in the Fight” by Zayde Wolfe, EDVN and “Somebody Like Me” by Warcub 🎵

Regulars expect this post to come out on Saturday.

I am sorry – I needed more time.

I’ve been thinking about ambiguity but also the cyclical misclassification of games by vendors – writing about one (handling ambiguity) helps those I’m responsible for today as a localized challenge. Writing about the other helps everyone in this industry…Let’s try to do both without being an jerk.

When things are ambiguous – whether that is in architecture or a company it’s easy to look at the people around you and say “You are supposed to give me a project!” or “They are supposed to unblock me and give me access!”

Or worse…”My leaders are supposed to know to keep this work focused on games! They absolutely would never be so awful as to re-org me.”

Trust me – even if an entire team is good at doing the hard work of going around and getting context – influencing it alongside their managers – In some cultures it is still very easy to have a poor decision applied by those who don’t care about getting context at all, have the power of spreadsheets, and the integrity of trash.

The more senior you get – no one gives you a project.
They only give you problems and this is what you’re being tested on.
It gets more ambiguous the higher up the ladder.

The market gives the opportunity, and we rush to sell it.
The players give the challenge to make sure a game stays alive.
The industry gives the golden window to create the market by creating the hardware.
And hardware is where most money and power resides.

Your title? My title? That only sometimes gets us access to context. Mutual respect as generated over time gets us a whole lot more through influence. And if we are going to be successful – we need to influence to get context until we can create our own framework to solve our hardest problems.

Spheres of Influence

It’s really helpful to lead our lives by doing this:

Championing others to solve technical and cultural challenges, become partners, lean-in to what you are trying to do, while being a good person, is understanding, that you cannot force people to do things. You have to convince them it is worth their time.[5]

From “Fleets of Influence” July 2022

Projects, Proposals, Tech Briefs, PRFAQs, Jira are all frameworks until running at ambiguity and creating those frameworks is our exercise. Individually, you can choose to be the person who runs at ambiguity and creates the framework to detangle it, or you can choose to be the person who lives in it and has it applied to you by those who hold the power of the framework – that is true regardless of being a manager or an individual contributor – and if I trust you to run at ambiguity and create one, then I am challenging you myself to apply it to me.

Teams will see this in every single career ladder. You may find yourself in a situation where you both (1) want to be promoted in engineering but (2) then still want to be the person where context is gotten for you and applied to you by your manager (the normal framework owner) – when what leadership may be looking for is those who need to do the hard work of going to talk to people to get a lot of context which is critical to business and then present both the real problem and framework on their own before leveling them up.

The riskier the situation, the faster we need to build context. This is at the same time being humble and willing to do small tasks that still address business needs and have patience – modeling that nothing a customer asks for is beneath us in liveops, that we respect our time in the context of others time. Our vision is not suddenly more important than listening both at a broad context scale and to the day-to-day. No one is perfect at this – we’re all trying to learn to do it better which bring some to… FAANGMAHGNAHG.

I should write a whole post about working through ambiguity in engineering but the main take away from that would still be the same: Building wide span context was the best way to run at ambiguity not asking my manager to do it for me – and later, when that ambiguity became external to me and not localized to my team or even my company, I ran at it in other ways.

It has come to my attention that some leadership in FAANG still thinks Games is Media and Entertainment.

And I have to ask as someone whose framework for influence is a blog…

Did FAANG Get Context This Time?

When FAANG and all the partners along with it misclassifies the entirety of Games – they then align goals, go-to-market, documentation, and org charts around that decision.

It isn’t a great experience for customers and partners alike – Suddenly something else is more important to FAANG – the metaverse, web3, generative AI – than making games.

Partners start to see goals en masse that affect any important partnerships they were working on. If you have ever felt “sold to by vendors” when vendors give what was supposed to be a technical presentation – wait until an account team is goaled as if they are in the wrong industry.

Games will be drowning with, “But what we need help with is NoSQL databases and containers—–” and vendors will be interrupting anything we care about with high fives and “Okay, but can we give a presentation on Generative AI for cinematics?” because they goaled themselves on customers buying something else and tried to make it work.

I say this because I think this is an accident and I still believe, or want to, that we all want to be good partners.
Ask anyone in manufacturing what they think “the metaverse is” and “if games matters” and get them to tell their story and it’s easy to see the impact of misaligned goals.

One would think we could escape this problem by picking the “right cloud provider” but companies can’t because it’s a problem in F/MAANG that is driven less by customers, and more by noise and people who want to get promoted.

I’m sorry if I’ve turned into a jerk with this post.

Because I’m not finished.

I wrote about how Google still saw Games as Media & Entertainment in “Enabling LiveOps Across Games with Shared Operational Excellence (DORA)” in 2022 based on the DORA yearly survey for DevOps with:

“Gaming is a $336B industry according to Bitkraft (Source: Bitkraft VC) when including streaming services, communication, engines, IP/content sales, and hardware. Newzoo in ’21 put it at $175B where it was already larger than TV, film, and music (Collectively, Media & Entertainment) combined before those were included (Source: Newzoo). Vendors, please give our industry the justice of having our own industry benchmarks for this achievement.

Even today according to Statista – TV, Video, and Film’s OTT (Over-The-Top) revenue represent $154B revenue while Games on its own represents $396.2B revenue. So regardless of the source we are looking at at least 2.5x the size of Film and TV.

Make no mistake – this isn’t a simple misclassification that’s existed for years. In some companies, segment categorization is a power play that impacts 100s of people and all their work. It determines “who gets the headcount” and who gets to stay. Who gets to go.

Flexibility isn’t really a choice for most employees in that choice. One day you were important. And the next day because you didn’t jump on the Metaverse Now Web3 Now Generative AI train you are gone.

It is clear the games industry needs its own set of dedicated specialists based on how the money moves in this industry – we shouldn’t continue this trend in ’24.

I’ve worked both in Media & Entertainment (First) and then in games…I worked on set as a Camera B operator for music videos and also as video assist for feature films. My early games career was working on games for TV shows. The ambiguity I had to work in was “Watch this Pilot for this show that we’re thinking of green lighting” followed by “Now pitch some game ideas and then let’s go figure out how to build them.”

We had to figure out were we making games to promote the show (Media & Entertainment)? Or were we making games to make money from the games (Games)?

Believe me when I say this loud and clear: They are two different, amazing industries that need their own support. They may work together – but they do not work in the same way from the business side.

Classifying Games as Media and Entertainment is taking what is a larger industry by revenue generated and number of customers and moving an entire group of people who have always been seen as “less than” and continuing to say “they are less than” while they have more money and know better. SuperData Research in 2020 put it at 8x the size of the music industry and almost 4x the size of the Film Industry. This is not a dice worth continuing to roll and tumble every year.

As someone who actually believes the future of games will kill the console via SmartTVs but that that currently that won’t happen because GPU splitting for games streaming and data transfer isn’t 100% a solved problem (it costs too much) – what exactly is going to get sold by constantly trying to categorize Games as Media & Entertainment?

In 2024?
At a profit?

What workloads are we bunching together to share resources?

Build Farms?
With the same problems in film that require mobile data storage for shooting in extreme on-location environments?

Are we thinking that costs for VFX and animation used in games cinematics for virtualized film locations is more of a revenue driver than the workloads that engineers who build the gameplay and the business units who need to review games revenue own? So the solution is to just clump ’em all together, it’ll work out?

Has that actually ever worked well? Cause on the customer side it SUCKS.

My dog is also my entertainment but I’m not going to put Chewy in the same category as Larian Studios even if my bias made me want to argue PUPPIES ARE ENTERTAINMENT.

When asked what games actual pains are today is the first answer now always going to be Generative AI? What if it’s still containers? Databases? You know. The things we need today to launch games right now?

I’ll be over here watching our industry become even more defiant that we have lived and seen the impact of our choices as a distinct group of people who need partners to focus exclusively on games – care about us, this giant multi-billion dollar industry, on its own.

I too am excited about the next slate of games.

But I’m wondering: are some of the decisions made for our industry by those who support it as partners really about what’s best for it? Or is this about power and who gets to own all the quota when the games launch?

Life has taught me: Strategy isn’t re-org-ing people all the time – it should be thoughtful and built with vibrant context before making any changes like that. Often those who wield the word “strategy” as a weapon are actually wielding a decision that impact their quota, their headcount, their singular purpose, to serve only them in constraints which sucks for customers and for employees alike.

Header Image by Simone Secci from Unsplash.

[5] This is the fifth clue to the puzzle.