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The gaming chief who greets failures with champagne

来源:FT中文网    2017-04-11 06:20

        Strange things were afoot in July as teenagers congregated in churchyards. Cars crashed as drivers stared at their smartphones. And Clash Royale — among the highest grossing games apps since its launch last March — suddenly dropped out of the top 10. One cause of all these events was the launch of Pokémon Go — the mixed-reality mobile game that superimposed animated characters on to the real world for gamers to chase around cities and along roads, and had 50m players at its peak. It also caused an almighty pain for Ilkka Paananen, the 37-year-old co-founder and chief executive of Supercell, the Finnish gaming studio behind Clash Royale and Clash of Clans. Pokémon Go’s success “was a kick in our butt”, he says.        去年7月发生了一些奇怪的事情:青少年们在教堂墓地聚集;司机们盯着自己的智能手机,导致撞车事故。《部落冲突:皇室战争》(Clash Royale)自去年3月发行以来跻身于最盈利游戏APP之列,那时却突然掉出了前十名。所有这些事件的一个原因是《口袋妖怪GO》(Pokémon GO,又译“精灵宝可梦GO”)的发行——这是一款“混合现实”手机游戏,将动画角色叠加至现实世界,让玩家在市内各地和沿着道路到处搜索,最高峰时有5000万玩家。它也给37岁的Supercell联合创始人和首席执行官伊卡•帕纳宁(Ilkka Paananen)带来巨大痛苦,这家芬兰游戏工作室发行了《部落冲突:皇室战争》和《部落战争》(Clash of Clans)。帕纳宁说,《口袋妖怪GO》的成功“是对我们的重大打击”。
        More than 100m people still play Supercell games daily, and it remains the world’s biggest mobile video game publisher by revenues. Its success is the stuff of legend — many games studios have proven one-hit wonders; Supercell has had four. In 2012, it released its first two games, Hay Day and Clash of Clans, both of which went on to generate more than $2m a day within a year, through its “freemium” model, which allows anyone to play for free, but requires in-app payments to advance through the levels. But in July, Clash Royale raked in an estimated $62m, roughly half of what it was making in April, according to SuperData Research. Pokémon Go was not the only problem either. Supercell had no games in the top 10 last summer.        每天仍有逾1亿人在玩Supercell的游戏,按收入计算,该公司依然是全球最大的移动视频游戏发行商。它的成功是一个传奇故事——许多游戏工作室只有一款成功游戏,而Supercell有4款成功作品。2012年,该公司发行了最初两款游戏《卡通农场》(Hay Day)和《部落战争》,这两款游戏均在一年内实现了每日逾200万美元的收入。它采用“免费+收费”模式:让任何人免费玩,但需要在应用内付费才能升级。但SuperData Research的数据显示,去年7月,据估计《部落冲突:皇室战争》带来6200万美元的收入,大约是4月收入的一半。《口袋妖怪GO》也不是唯一的问题。去年夏季Supercell没有一款游戏进入前十名。
        Mr Paananen got a lot out of the experience — particularly new knowledge about how to fight business threats. His main realisation was that “we weren’t good at listening to our users”, he says. So after Supercell fell out of the top 10, the studio mobilised, thrashing out user feedback in troubleshooting meetings.        帕纳宁从这一经历学到了很多——尤其是有关如何应对业务威胁的新知识。他说,他的主要收获是“我们不擅长倾听玩家意见”。因此,在Supercell的游戏跌出前十名后,这家工作室行动起来,在问题解决会议上激发用户反馈。
        Users had been complaining for weeks about specific features of Clash Royale, such as a smiling emoji that was sent to the game’s loser at the end of play. Users also felt the game merited further updates. So Mr Paananen’s team brainstormed ways to keep their games fresh, add features and incorporate player requests. The company is all the better for the experience, he says. “The true test of a company’s culture is when things aren’t going well, so this is what we were built for.”        玩家们数周来一直在吐槽《部落冲突:皇室战争》的某些功能,比如在游戏结束时发送给游戏输家的笑脸符号。玩家们还觉得这款游戏值得进一步升级。因此帕纳宁的团队想方设法让游戏保持新鲜感,增加功能,纳入玩家心愿。他说,这一经历对该公司变成了好事。“对一家公司的文化的真正考验是在事情进展不顺的时候;这是我们的宗旨”。
        Both Clash games are now back among the top 10 grossing games on Apple’s app store, partly because fickle mobile gamers have looked for a new challenge after the Pokémon craze.        《部落冲突:皇室战争》和《部落战争》现在重回苹果(Apple)应用商店十大最盈利游戏之列,这在一定程度上是因为善变的手游玩家在《口袋妖怪GO》热潮之后寻求新的挑战。
        But for Mr Paananen the challenges have not stopped. For the financial year 2016, revenue growth at privately owned Supercell flatlined, which analysts have blamed on an increasingly competitive and crowded mobile games sector.        但是对帕纳宁来说,挑战并未结束。就2016财年而言,私人所有的Supercell的收入增长陷入停滞,分析师将此归咎于手游领域竞争加剧和进入者众多。
        This is all happening at a pivotal moment in Supercell’s history. Just a month before Pokémon’s launch, Chinese internet group Tencent acquired majority ownership of the group for $8.6bn. The seller was SoftBank, the acquisitive Japanese technology group that was selling assets after its debt tripled.        这一切发生在Supercell历史上的关键时刻。就在《口袋妖怪GO》发行一个月前,中国互联网集团腾讯(Tencent)以86亿美元收购了这家集团的多数股权。出售方是收购意识较强的日本科技集团软银(SoftBank),后者在债务增长3倍后出售资产。
        Perhaps because of the luxury of private ownership, Mr Paananen talks about a focus on the longer term rather than short-term financial challenges.        或许是得益于私人所有,帕纳宁把焦点放在较长期,而非短期财务挑战上。
        “We are well aware we will have our ups and downs — after all, this is a creative business,” he says with a shrug. “Have you ever seen a band whose songs are number one for more than five years in a row?        他耸耸肩说道:“我们清楚地意识到,我们的业务将会起起伏伏——毕竟,这是一家创意企业。你见过歌曲连续5年多高居榜首的乐队吗?”
        “We don’t set any quarterly goals, even yearly goals feel too short-term for us,” he says.        他说:“我们没有任何季度目标,就连年度目标对我们来说也过于短期了。”
        Supercell’s games are notable for their depth of storytelling. Clash of Clans involves building a goblin army and fortifying a medieval village to fight off enemy clans, including moustached barbarians and wizards, against players around the world. The in-app currency is precious gems.        Supercell的游戏以讲述宏大的故事闻名。《部落战争》涉及打造一支小妖精军队和强化一个中世纪村子的防御,以抵御敌对部落(包括留着八字胡的野蛮人和巫师),在游戏中与世界各地的玩家对抗。应用内的货币是珍贵的宝石。
        The writers of television series Futurama and The Simpsons have even created an animated YouTube series called ‘Clash-a-rama’, based on its rich characters and plot lines.        《飞出个未来》(Futurama)和《辛普森一家》(The Simpsons)的编剧们在这两款游戏的丰富角色和情节的基础上,创作了在YouTube上播放的动画系列片《Clash-a-rama》。
        Another thing keeping Mr Paananen confident is his company’s history of innovation, fostered by what he sees as a culture of true democracy.        另一个让帕纳宁感到自信的是,他的公司拥有创新的历史,得益于他所称的真正民主的文化。
        Supercell, which employs just 224 staff, is structured as a collection of dozens of “cells” of game developers, each of which operates as its own team. Each cell, made up of roughly seven people, comes up with its own ideas for games, builds prototypes, and tests them. If the team like a game, it is put to the whole company for scrutiny. If the group agrees they like it, the game is played by employees as a further test.        Supercell只有224名员工,其架构是数十个游戏开发者“细胞”的集合,每个“细胞”都运营着自己的团队。每个“细胞”大约由7人组成,他们提出自己的游戏创意,创建原型并进行测试。如果团队喜欢一款游戏,就会提交整个公司审查。如果游戏获得大家认可,就会让雇员们试玩,作为进一步测试。
        Despite Mr Paananen’s 6 per cent stake in the $10bn company making him a multimillionaire on paper, he lives ordinarily. His social life includes attending monthly gaming conventions in local pubs and playing in his twice-weekly early-morning ice hockey games.        尽管帕纳宁在这家价值100亿美元的公司拥有6%的股份,从而让他成为纸面上的亿万富翁,但他仍像普通人那样生活。他的社交生活包括每月参加当地酒吧的游戏大会,以及每周抽两个早上去打冰球。
        Mr Paananen, who grew up in the town of Piikkiö, two hours west of Helsinki, and whose parents were teachers, traces his leadership of Supercell back to a gaming obsession as a child, rather than an ambition to be a rich founder.        帕纳宁在赫尔辛基以西两个小时车程外的Piikkiö镇长大,其父母是教师。他认为,他在Supercell的掌门人地位源于小时候对游戏的痴迷,而不是创业致富的野心。
        His management style is explained through the language of sport. “The best sports teams get a lot of strong and talented personalities to play together really well. It is super competitive, like the start-up world, and the element of luck is key to both,” he says.        他通过体育术语解释自己的管理风格。他说:“最优秀的运动队有许多强壮而有天赋的队员,他们在一起配合得很好。队伍拥有超强的竞争力,就像初创企业一样,而运气因素对两者都非常关键。”
        “I used to think the winning team was the one with well thought-out plans and everything beautifully organised, and split into boxes, and timelines and budgets, but that’s not how creativity works.”        “我过去以为,胜方是计划周密、一切都有条不紊的那个队,他们列出框架、时间表和预算,但创意不是这样子的。”
        He is also undeterred by product failures, which he embraces as steps on the route to success. When Supercell kills a game idea, he often pops open some champagne to share with his staff. “[This culture], it’s really the thing that keeps people together at the worst times,” he says.        他也没有因产品失败气馁,而认为这是通往成功的必要步骤。当Supercell毙掉一个游戏创意的时候,他往往会开香槟与员工分享。他说:“(这种文化)真的是让人们在最糟糕时期凝聚在一起的东西。”

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