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One Up: Creativity, Competition, and the Global Business of Video Games

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What explains the massive worldwide success of video games such as Fortnite, Minecraft, and Pok�mon Go? Game companies and their popularity are poorly understood and often ignored from the standpoint of traditional business strategy. Yet this industry generates billions in revenue by thinking creatively about digital distribution, free-to-play content, and phenomena like e What explains the massive worldwide success of video games such as Fortnite, Minecraft, and Pok�mon Go? Game companies and their popularity are poorly understood and often ignored from the standpoint of traditional business strategy. Yet this industry generates billions in revenue by thinking creatively about digital distribution, free-to-play content, and phenomena like e-sports and live streaming. What lessons can we draw from its major successes and failures about the future of entertainment? One Up offers a pioneering empirical analysis of innovation and strategy in the video game industry to explain how it has evolved from a fringe activity to become a mainstream form of entertainment. Joost van Dreunen, a widely recognized industry expert with over twenty years of experience, analyzes how game makers, publishers, and platform holders have tackled strategic challenges to make the video game industry what it is today. Using more than three decades of rigorously compiled industry data, he demonstrates that video game companies flourish when they bring the same level of creativity to business strategy that they bring to game design. Filled with case studies of companies such as Activision Blizzard, Apple, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Microsoft, Nexon, Sony, Take-Two Interactive, Tencent, and Valve, this book forces us to rethink common misconceptions around the emergence of digital and mobile gaming. One Up is required reading for investors, creatives, managers, and anyone looking to learn about the major drivers of change and growth in contemporary entertainment.


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What explains the massive worldwide success of video games such as Fortnite, Minecraft, and Pok�mon Go? Game companies and their popularity are poorly understood and often ignored from the standpoint of traditional business strategy. Yet this industry generates billions in revenue by thinking creatively about digital distribution, free-to-play content, and phenomena like e What explains the massive worldwide success of video games such as Fortnite, Minecraft, and Pok�mon Go? Game companies and their popularity are poorly understood and often ignored from the standpoint of traditional business strategy. Yet this industry generates billions in revenue by thinking creatively about digital distribution, free-to-play content, and phenomena like e-sports and live streaming. What lessons can we draw from its major successes and failures about the future of entertainment? One Up offers a pioneering empirical analysis of innovation and strategy in the video game industry to explain how it has evolved from a fringe activity to become a mainstream form of entertainment. Joost van Dreunen, a widely recognized industry expert with over twenty years of experience, analyzes how game makers, publishers, and platform holders have tackled strategic challenges to make the video game industry what it is today. Using more than three decades of rigorously compiled industry data, he demonstrates that video game companies flourish when they bring the same level of creativity to business strategy that they bring to game design. Filled with case studies of companies such as Activision Blizzard, Apple, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Microsoft, Nexon, Sony, Take-Two Interactive, Tencent, and Valve, this book forces us to rethink common misconceptions around the emergence of digital and mobile gaming. One Up is required reading for investors, creatives, managers, and anyone looking to learn about the major drivers of change and growth in contemporary entertainment.

30 review for One Up: Creativity, Competition, and the Global Business of Video Games

  1. 5 out of 5

    Anu

    Super fascinating breakdown of the history of video games, with a contextual narrative of all the inflection points in tech, platform and business models. Crazy to see how bundling/unbundling cycles have played out across multiple layers in the supply chain network, creating unlikely winners and overnight losers in a rapidly moving industry. Serves all tech people well given how much gaming has influenced the business and consumer tech space at large. Buy the hard copy, the tables of numbers in Super fascinating breakdown of the history of video games, with a contextual narrative of all the inflection points in tech, platform and business models. Crazy to see how bundling/unbundling cycles have played out across multiple layers in the supply chain network, creating unlikely winners and overnight losers in a rapidly moving industry. Serves all tech people well given how much gaming has influenced the business and consumer tech space at large. Buy the hard copy, the tables of numbers in the kindle version is painful to read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Guthrie

    The video game industry has held my interest for a long time. As a semi-active gamer, I have tried to keep my head on a swivel with how things have changed, but this book does a phenomenal job of breaking it all down. Games have changed, and so has the philosophy behind them in some places. More than a product, games are a service and a source of media entertainment. Companies behind the games and consoles we love have to figure out how to not only create great content but how to market it effec The video game industry has held my interest for a long time. As a semi-active gamer, I have tried to keep my head on a swivel with how things have changed, but this book does a phenomenal job of breaking it all down. Games have changed, and so has the philosophy behind them in some places. More than a product, games are a service and a source of media entertainment. Companies behind the games and consoles we love have to figure out how to not only create great content but how to market it effectively and develop continuous revenue streams from their work. They also have to determine how to predict the future to keep us on the hook. No doubt, One Up is an academic work. It can be tough to read in some places, but if you have a genuine interest in the industry and how you fit into it as a consumer, the reward is worth it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Pilz

    One-up is a pretty solid overview how the business of computer games evolved. This is not the history of computer games, lacks in places some of the stories about the coin operated computer game business and focusses mostly about the groundbreaking changes which has lead computer gaming which displaced a lot of the other entertainment options we used to use. The blockbuster business of the big gaming franchises rival and surpass major movie franchises like Marvel or Star Wars. The dynamics are d One-up is a pretty solid overview how the business of computer games evolved. This is not the history of computer games, lacks in places some of the stories about the coin operated computer game business and focusses mostly about the groundbreaking changes which has lead computer gaming which displaced a lot of the other entertainment options we used to use. The blockbuster business of the big gaming franchises rival and surpass major movie franchises like Marvel or Star Wars. The dynamics are dynamic, and the information is compiled based on a lot of original research, and well presented. I would recommend the book in the category "business" for non-fiction readers, or for investors in the market places. The mechanics of financing and amortizing computer game development is at the center of the book and truly illuminating.

  4. 5 out of 5

    José Antonio Lopez

    This book is a must read for people wanting to excel in the gaming industry. Lots of creatives and developers are so immerse in their passion that they forget this is just a business. Van Dreunen makes a very detail case on the in and out of how the gaming industry works, how it has evolved, how some strategies became successful while others tank. Something remarkable about Van Dreunen work is that the lack of information about this industry didn't stop him, instead he develop his own charts and This book is a must read for people wanting to excel in the gaming industry. Lots of creatives and developers are so immerse in their passion that they forget this is just a business. Van Dreunen makes a very detail case on the in and out of how the gaming industry works, how it has evolved, how some strategies became successful while others tank. Something remarkable about Van Dreunen work is that the lack of information about this industry didn't stop him, instead he develop his own charts and tables to explain the evolution of the industry. If you want to live from gaming, One Up should be on your short list of readings.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Matt Conger

    This book achieved something incredible. It changed my mind in terms of being a snob about video games. I was compelled to read this because I was so disappointed in a previous book that purportedly covered the same ground ("the business of video games"): Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo. The author has two goals with this book: first, describe the history of innovation in the business of video games. Second, knock people like me down a peg or two for being video game p This book achieved something incredible. It changed my mind in terms of being a snob about video games. I was compelled to read this because I was so disappointed in a previous book that purportedly covered the same ground ("the business of video games"): Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo. The author has two goals with this book: first, describe the history of innovation in the business of video games. Second, knock people like me down a peg or two for being video game purists. And he succeeded. He very thoughtfully explains that things like (gulp) Kim Kardashian-branded mobile games or (double gulp) lootbox/season pass mechanics are actually good for the industry. His arguments are pretty simple. The costs of making video games has increased substantially. High-end titles cost 15x more to make now than they did a few console generations ago. And seemingly cheap-to-make games like Candy Crush end up being expensive to bring to market because of user acquisition costs. And yet, buying a new video game has pretty much been $60 USD for as long as I can remember (he has a chart showing how average prices have evolved over time). So it is no wonder that the industry has relied on new business models and adding mainstream users to stay afloat. I like that this book makes me think about current video game controversies with more perspective. Two things in particular were quite eye-opening: the geographic fragmentation of the industry and the role of IP development. Here’s how this book made me rethink the current controversy over the monetization strategy of Diablo Immortal (don’t come at me r/gaming). - Western countries will predominately prefer games-as-a-product (i.e., pay $60 for a full game) and they are relatively saturated in terms of growth. By contrast, still-growing Asian ones will mostly prefer games-as-a-service (i.e., free-to-play with microtransactions). - The market grows fastest both in terms of $ amount and in terms of innovation when IP doesn’t just stay with one developer and one published. By licensing their IP to developers and/or creating a competition around it, it creates more “at-bats”, even if some of those development efforts are huge failures. In these market conditions, I can see why Blizzard took a deep breath and opted to partner with NetEase and bring the Diablo IP to mobile. This is just one example of how this book stretched my thinking on the video game industry. This book deserves 5 stars, with my only (unfair) criticism being its publication date. It came out in October 2020, so the book only makes cursory references to the pandemic and its effect on gaming. That publication date means there’s nothing on Gamestop as a meme stock, nothing on From Software’s jump to the gaming mainstream with Elden Ring, and as mentioned, nothing on Diablo Immortal. Rest assured that the author has continued to give free, weekly commentary on the video game industry (which he awkwardly calls ‘the interactive entertainment industry’) through Substack. For fellow gamers reading this, I strongly encourage you to read this and consider escaping the traditional gamer mindset.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tab Williams

    A wonderful primer on the video game industry - where is has come from, where it is today, and potentially where it is going. It was a bit lighter on discussing actual companies and their strategy, which was a huge disappointment. Also, many of the topics were long-winded and at times the bull was slow. That said, it was a very good primer for the industry and I have a better handle on the drivers, what matters, and some of the risks. Overall, a must read with anyone that messing around in the i A wonderful primer on the video game industry - where is has come from, where it is today, and potentially where it is going. It was a bit lighter on discussing actual companies and their strategy, which was a huge disappointment. Also, many of the topics were long-winded and at times the bull was slow. That said, it was a very good primer for the industry and I have a better handle on the drivers, what matters, and some of the risks. Overall, a must read with anyone that messing around in the industry. Note - doesn't touch much on the platforms like roblox, fortnight, minecraft, etc.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Ottenwalder

    As someone in the games industry this book felt like a missing link tying business cases to creative endeavors. As most books in the industry center around design and the creative process. It felt almost like a mini The Prize by Daniel Yergin in describing the evolution of the industry and where it can possibly go in the future.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matt Berry

    The best primer I've come across, on the gaming industry. The best primer I've come across, on the gaming industry.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bob Makin

    Great book, only deep dive into the ever evolving games industry book I know of.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Adam Fogel

  11. 4 out of 5

    Scott F

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kon Moltchanski

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stefano Finazzo

  14. 4 out of 5

    MarcoAranda

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bianca

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dylan Reider

  17. 5 out of 5

    TSH

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cody Fulton

  19. 5 out of 5

    jessica hsuan

  20. 5 out of 5

    Steve

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emil Lundberg

  22. 5 out of 5

    Matias Alanko

  23. 4 out of 5

    Viktor Pierre

  24. 4 out of 5

    Piero Ardito

  25. 4 out of 5

    Eric

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chayanin

  28. 5 out of 5

    Raf Magdelijns

  29. 5 out of 5

    David Barrie

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cathal

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