Five things from Think Games Istanbul Google X Deconstructor of Fun Event in Turkey

More of the event here, and my talk should be live soon…

1. Cultural Norms Matter

There’s far less “sharing” in Turkey than in Finland or Sweden. Anyone with a Finnish ID number seems to have access to Supercell’s dashboards! Turkey has largely avoided non-competes, and it must stay that way. King single-handedly has hamstrung Swedish mobile game development with its notorious three-month non-competes, which, after a three-month notice period, amount to six months for an employee to start elsewhere. France is dealing with a similar issue, and it’s to their detriment. Much of Silicon Valley’s success is due to the ban on non-competes, something that’s gone over the heads of subsidy-happy governments.

2. Agglomeration Effects are Real

Economists are fond of the power of location to build industries through virtuous success cycles and knowledge spillovers between firms. Turkish development feels like 90% puzzle or hypercasual, and it’s no wonder, given Peak, Gram, Dream, and Rollic’s success. But Turkey needs to do more to hedge on genre category, as hypercasual’s story teaches us. Falling KPIs from Spyke Games’ Tile Busters are a warning sign.

3. Politics Threaten the Entire Ecosystem

Upcoming elections on March 31st made the tension palatable. Stable institutions and respect for the rule of law are essential to economic prosperity, and I wonder how much more Turkey could have grown over this period with stable institutions. Nothing encourages capital flight more than political instability, except, well, inflation, and that’s not looking good either.

4. AI is like Teenage Sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it…

AI feels obvious, but I’ve only seen it used for concept art, which is hardly an essential part of the funnel. Its use is predicated on integrating into engineering pipelines and throughout different parts of the stack. Tomi Huttula‘s Cosmic Lounge is the most open and aggressive use of technology; everyone should see that talk (online soon!). Starting from the ground up with AI feels like the right play, and it’ll take longer than expected.

5. Everyone’s Accepted Industry Contraction, but No One Has Structural Answers

Mobile and HD are shrinking, and it’s not clear we’ve hit bottom. While there was a focus on new strategies, the elephant in the room continues to be shrinking time played. Time played needs to explode to match COVID numbers, and no one has a path to get there. I wrote about this in Gaming’s Best Days Are Behind It, and will continue too. As the EU seems to have thrown in the towel, primarily concerned about regulating USB cords, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that our saving grace is continued global economic growth, mainly from the U.S. and Tier 3 regions.

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