Organizational Dynamics at Play: Implications for game design

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This study considers the organizational dynamics of the games industry which can be characterized by an increasing modularization and platformisation, and yielding a number of insights that may inform organizational learning and innovation, on the one hand, and platform theory, on the other hand.

It will investigate the game design process, within and across firm boundaries underpinned by the game platform, in general, and the game engine and toolkit, in particular. It will give particular attention to the organization of game development as a temporary organization associated with so-called 'cabals' that are organized around structured role systems whose nuances can be negotiated in situ, facilitating (team) members to learn and, thereby possibly benefiting the firm (Bechky, 2006). The findings yield insight into cabals as a temporary total organization and a means for career progression. In doing so, this study can provide a more rounded understanding of the conditions that affect the organization of game development thereby highlighting the role of the platform.

The platform is considered to be a structuring element within a game development and product architecture (cf. 'multi-sided market strategy' and 'platform leadership'; Evans et al., 2005; Gawer, 2009). And whose boundaries, in this study, can be seen to be in constant flux which is not only associated with internal organizational mechanisms like the cabal, but also with 3rd party-supplied component developer firms, and user developers (known as 'modders') (cf. Nieborg and van der Graaf, 2008; Parker and Van Alstyne, 2008; Postigo, 2007). More specifically, this study provides insight into the ways valuable ideas and skills can stem from changing boundaries of the firm (or, cabal) and platform, and inflows and outflows of knowledge and development can find their way to the marketplace from either side of these, leveraged as a core process in product innovation in the game industry.

For this purpose, this study draws on two prominent developer firms, i.e. Valve Inc. (e.g. Half-Life, Portal) and Linden Lab (Second Life), highlighting the conjunction of the developer firms' management strategies to control labour processes of game development across firm and platform boundaries, and the implications for business models and structures of the game industry, i.e. the ability to innovate and compete.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAssociation for Cultural Economics International, Business Studies at Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan.
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2012
EventAssociation for Cultural Economics International (ACEI 2012) - Kyoto, Japan
Duration: 22 Jun 201222 Jun 2012


ConferenceAssociation for Cultural Economics International (ACEI 2012)


  • temporary organization
  • cabal culture
  • modding
  • platform ambiguity
  • competition


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