Skip to main content

Design your own games industry CEO

They're dropping like flies. With our help, though, you can build your own business titan and rule over gaming for decades.

Riccitiello: gone. Wada: gone. There's a lot of director-level games industry talent out of a job this month, and between the silver-haired fox's departure and the events at Square Enix earlier this week that we're now referring to as 'Wadagate', there are gaps that need filling.

Wada way to go!

But how to fill them? With no obvious answer at EA, in particular, we decided the best thing for it was to design our own Frankenstein's CEO, assembled from all the things we believe are important in the ones who are currently at work in public companies. Hopefully our endeavours will give inspiration to the likes of EA chairman Larry Probst, those behind Square Enix's restructuring, and any other corporate leaders who find themselves floundering. We're here to help.

The big question was, how do we kick off this important thought experiment? Fortunately, inspiration lay within easy grasp. BioShock Infinite, released this week, includes a handy "Gear" system, where the right pair of boots or trousers can increase your chances of acquiring bonus loot from litter bins, or send forth fire-based splash damage upon landing from a skyline. All we had to do was package up the key facets of noted industry executives in hat, shirt, trouser and boot form, and then synergise (sorry, synthesise) our patchwork executive from these components.

Below we present the options we came up with, along with our choices, and we do hope you will play along at home. How will you balance visionary business savvy against the need for retaining creative control project by project? How much do you care about guaranteed headline revenue growth when it means you lose development expertise in the boardroom? These are the sorts of questions that - along with "what's for lunch on today's helicopter?" - a top-level games industry CEO with only two arms, two legs, a torso and a head must frequently contemplate.

Good luck. Or, as JR might say, you deserve better and I am accountable for the miss.



Phil Harrison's Blue Sky Crown: Harrison stands taller than most people anyway, but in the games industry he also rises above the noise and picks out visionary paths to the future before a lot of his rivals. Do you like SingStar? EyeToy? Doesn't matter - they built a future of creative risk-taking for PlayStation that allowed things like Heavy Rain, Journey and Unfinished Swan to exist. Sure, choosing the Harrison Hat over other headwear may also lead your exec to say things that turn out not to be true, but then inventing the future is an inexact science. Choosing the Harrison Hat gives your exec long-term vision but impairs short-term fan service. Is that a risk you'll take?

Markus Persson's Fedora: Adopting the characteristics of this accidental millionaire immediately gives your fake exec credibility with gamers around the world - not to mention an addressable audience in seven figures through his widely followed Twitter account. He has also made a game that didn't so much tap into the zeitgeist as define it. The question is: can he repeat the trick? Placing the fedora upon your fantasy executive's head is a calculated risk that lightning can be created twice in the same bottle, but it has other benefits. For one thing, he or she will be a great person.

Hideo Kojima's Mogren Mask: The difficulty with being an auteur with the complete financial and creative backing of your deep-pocketed publishing parent is... Wait, sorry, just throwing up with laughter over here! Kojima's games have a spellbinding halo effect on everything connected with the man, so plugging your executive bonce into his Joakim Mogren bandaged prosthesis gives your portfolio a tinge of inspiration. However, we're stocking a boardroom, not the shop floor, so really you're gambling that the deep, contemplative, occasionally impish qualities of Kojima's work can be taught to subordinates - something that his attempts to hand his creations to a new generation within his studio suggest he hasn't figured out. The pressure must be great, too. Heavy hangs the crown, etc, especially when it covers your entire face.


Mike Morhaime's Stubborn Bowling Shirt: Blizzard's games are always brilliant, they hit consumers in gaming markets both new and old all around the globe, and in one of the world's biggest traditional games companies Morhaime has what sounds like absolute control of his agenda. Why wouldn't you want his shirt on your exec's back? Well, a balanced exec is important and, if you've already chosen a hard business head for your hat then you might want to branch out a bit with a different kind of leader. Or perhaps you just don't dig Blizzard's deep fantasy trench?

Prickly fresh.

Ken Levine's Figure-Hugging Superhero T-Shirt: Given that he's a self-confessed perfectionist who is hard to work for, adopting the threads of Booker and Elizabeth's big daddy would guarantee devotion to product quality, but perhaps at the expense of corporate harmony. Your fantasy exec would take risks and avoid spottiness in execution - something that did for John Riccitiello - but you'd probably have fewer products less often, which increases the downside if external factors inhibit sales.

John Carmack's Watch-That-Is-Also-A-Calculator: I have nothing but love and respect for the man who almost single-handedly created, not to mention grandfathered, so much of the gaming that we have cherished since he first discovered C. However, even his biggest fan would acknowledge that his studio tends to be a little tech-heavy in its approach, perhaps to the detriment of developments in areas like, I dunno, story, design, gameplay mechanics or other trivialities. The risk may still be worth taking to gain his brand of programming alchemy, but then again you encounter the same risk you did with Kojima: he will have to manage rather than do, so it's about whether he can sire successors. (Also, I realise a watch is not a shirt, but I had no choice.)


Trousers seemed the safest bet as we're not sure he's mastered shirts.

Shigeru Miyamoto's Exploding Pantaloons: I don't know why Miyamoto's pantaloons are exploding, but it can only be with joy. Famous throughout the industry for walking into collaborating studios and helping them discover the Nintendo difference that propelled their games to greatness, he not only ensures product quality and injects new thinking, but he has the experience of mentoring protégés like Eiji Aonuma to their own distinctive greatness. A wise head on experienced shoulders with a strong design and development background, he's hard to look past, whether your fake exec likes to dress left or dress right in the morning.

Ken Kutaragi's Brass Balls: Ken Kutaragi doesn't just see the future. He builds it. Not only that, but he builds it with soul rather than cold calculation. The Emotion Engine. The CELL. The UMD. (OK, forget that one.) The greater risk with Kutaragi isn't that he won't come up with a great strategy, it's that his eye is always on the horizon, like a sailor longing for the sea, when sometimes you really need to focus on the now.

Yves Guillemot's Eight-Part Multinational Trousers: I haven't met Guillemot in person for several years (or in any context, actually - we've long since stopped Skyping each other to discuss Ryan Gosling) but if he's applied his own guidelines for making games to his wardrobe then I wouldn't be surprised to see him in a finely fitted, coherent outfit that is somehow drawn from tailors around the globe, working in harmony over great distances. Ever heard the old adage about how doing stuff faster often requires an exponential increase in manpower? Guillemot heard that and he was like, "Exponential, eh?" Bam! Assassin's Creed made by 900 studios. And hey, don't knock it; you might need that kind of epic hit factory scale at some point. These are the trousers to get you there.


Satoru Iwata's Vitality Sandals: I still remember where I was the day Satoru Iwata pulled the Wiimote out of his jacket pocket at the Tokyo Game Show in September 2005. I was at the Tokyo Game Show watching him pull it out of his pocket. With that flourish of showmanship, the former developer turned top-level games exec changed the course of the industry, and while Nintendo's more recent attempts at disruption have been less successful, his ability to pull a Mario Kart 7 or price cut out of his ass has provided cover so far. And with Iwata Asks, he is also secretly the world's greatest games journalist. However, he can't bring those properties with him, and your fake exec may need stronger internet chops, so choose wisely.

Jack Tretton apologising for the PSN security breach during E3 2011.

Jack Tretton's Shiny Boot Polish: If I ever need to apologise to 70 million people for giving out their passwords while simultaneously encouraging them to buy something that looks suspiciously like a more expensive PSP with the same software, Jack is where I'll turn. It may be a divisive profession, but don't overlook pure sales credentials in your fake exec. It's all very well having great ideas and kickass developers, but in the face of hostile customers or shareholders, you need someone who can sell them on a dream.

Bobby Kotick's Diamond Slippers: Activision CEO Bobby Kotick gets a bad press for things like grilling studio heads in windowless Gestapo-esque facilities, careless talk about taking the fun out of making games, and of course shutting down our favourite game studios like Bizarre Creations, but his ruthlessness can also be put to good use. His stompy obsession with massive, sustainable franchises that make $100m seems to have written a blank cheque for Bungie to build Destiny, and if your fantasy exec wears Kotick Slippers, then you also get a 10 per cent bonus chance of appearing in a Brad Pitt movie.

Our choices

An artist's rendition of the greatest games industry CEO in history.

Hat: It's got to be Hideo Kojima's Mogren Mask. Visionary strategy or a proven track record establishing new markets with sheer creativity are amazing qualities that make the Harrison and Persson hats very tempting, but we're hopeful we can find some of those elsewhere in our outfit. But there is only one Kojima.

Shirt: Man, this is getting tough already. Carmack is soooo tempting, but then if we've gone for Kojima we know we'll get cutting-edge tech anyway. Ditto Levine; he and Kojima are apples and oranges, but imagine the internal conflict in our fake exec between two such strong sets of instincts. So it's gotta be Morhaime. We need to be able to hitch our company's bats*** games to moneymaking and new markets.

Pants: Kutaragi. Every day. In fact, he can show up whenever he likes. That one idea could be killer, so this is my fake exec's luxury item of clothing. Which is to say that sometimes my fake exec turns up to work wearing no trousers.

Boots: Bobby Kotick's Diamond Slippers. Controversial? Demented? I just can't see past the Morhaime/Kotick axis that leads Activision to consistent success, and hopefully Kojima hat-based influence would chop away things like the Walking Dead and Family Guy cash-ins and leave only the Destiny. And if the boots ever give our fantasy exec the urge to put out another war game, Kojima's got that too. Hey Bobby! War has changed.

We fully expect you to come up with a different combination. There is no right answer. No wonder all these guys get fired eventually.

Read this next