HOW I GOT STARTED

John Vechey: Don't Waste Time With Mission Statements

PopCap Games began with just a couple of college guys who didn't know how to run a business. Then they hired a consultant--big mistake.

Max Photography for GDC Online

John Vechey, PopCap Games

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Long before John Vechey and his co-founders sold their video game company, PopCap Games, to Electronic Arts for $750 million, they were a couple of recent college grads who knew nothing about running a company. Their first mistake: hiring a consultant.

We made our first game, Bejeweled, in four days. It was 2000 and I was visiting my family in Indiana when I saw this Javascript solitaire game--no animation, no graphics--and thought it was cool. So I sent it to Brian Fiete, a college friend I met in programming class, and Jason Kapalka, a fellow gamer. Brian made an animated version of the game, Jason added gem graphics, and Bejeweled was born. At the time, Jason was working at Pogo, a company that was spending immense amounts of time and money making really bad games. We thought we could make better and cheaper games that everyone--not just the hardcore gamers--could enjoy.

We sold a downloadable version at $20 a game based on advice from a friend who said, "Price it higher than you think reasonable, because you can always lower it." The first month we made $12,000. The next month $35,000, then $150,000, and it just kept selling. I remember watching the movie Clerks with Brian and Jason one evening. Brian made a program that went ka-ching whenever we had a sale. We had just ordered pizza and were sitting on our couch when a guy in the movie says, "It's not like you can just sit on your couch and make money." And then the program went ka-ching. That was when I knew we were on to something big.

But we didn't know how to run a business, so we decided to hire consultants to help us figure it out. That was our first and biggest mistake. They were smart, and slick, and totally wrong for us. To start, they did not know the first thing about games--and yet they kept telling us they could fix all our problems for a lot of money. One day they asked us for a mission statement. We had no idea what that meant. All we wanted to do was make great games. If we don’t do that, it is all shit. If we do that, it will be fine. So we fired them, and decided to focus on making great games. We still have to ask ourselves daily, what are we doing? How does this relate to the core of our company? For us, that means making good games that are fun for everyone. 

 

Last updated: Mar 6, 2013




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