Citizen game

People who reads french and who are interested by the video game industry should have a glance at Citizen Game by Nicolas Gaume. It is basically the story of Kalisto, a french video game company based in Bordeaux as told by its founder/CEO. It goes through the whole success story till the bankruptcy in 2002.

I knew most of the stuff described in the book from my experience with game studios but the book puts that in a very good perspective. Some lessons: - the description of the video game economy based on development studios, editors, producers, subcontractors, distributors, banks, VCs... and how it evolved over time from garage-like cliques to more structured institutions. - in line with this issue, the book also shows an interesting shift in the CEO's work from helping creating games/teams to managing the relationships between funding institutions. Besides, Kalisto was french and it appeared that the "environment" was not really good for an innovative company. For that matter the description about the value of the company's assets by the stock exchange reviewers (COB) is very intriguing. - the difficulty to have a sustainable business model for a development studio. People who're developing games are the weakest link: there's low number of editors which fund projects, the difficulty for developers to hire lots of people versus having a sustainable activity in the long run. The company seemed to do a very good job with more than 3 productions at the same time. - the fact that all of this is a human thing and both the good and bad parts of the story are due to human behaviors: the gathering of a great team to create the company (and the games) and the bankruptcy caused by troublesome relationships, misunderstandings, lack of comprehension from funders...

What is also pertinent is to see how the authors has been described as a great entrepreneurs during the tech bubble (when the company was doing great) and how everybody dismissed him afterwards. It's not very good to fail at something in France, but this story is not described in the book.