Valve and EA: A Look at Two Very Different Organizations
In all the games industry, no two organizations are more divergent than Electronic Arts and Valve. To even the most casual of observers, it appears as though the two businesses have completely different faces, completely different attitudes towards their consumers, and completely different business methods. Today, we're going to take a closer look at those methods - and exactly how one differs from the other.
We'll start with Valve.
It's the organization everybody loves to love. It's not hard to see why. Valve pushes out quality products, they've revolutionized digital distribution (hell, where games are concerned, they practically invented it), and they've offered a great deal of support for independent game development. What's more, we've been able to ascribe a friendly face to them. Gabe Newell is a fellow most of us know and trust. But how - and why - has Valve developed such a reputation? Why does their organization seem friendlier, more approachable, and less "malicious" than Electronic Arts?
Right out the door, it's pretty obvious that they aren't exactly your typical organization (for one, it's privately owned, and if Newell is to be believed, they would dissolve before selling or going public) - something which becomes even more obvious after reading their employee handbook, which is readily available on their website. For those of you who don't care to read it, there's a brief video for you below which sums up the most important points in the hadbook. See, rather than have a traditional organizational structure, Valve lets their company operate in a very organic fashion. At the risk of sounding like a bit of a bleeding heart, it is, in many ways, more of a community than a business. Employees (all of whom presumably love their jobs) are trusted to work on whichever project best suits them, playing to their strengths instead of mitigating their weaknesses. It's a strategy which, at first glance, sounds like it doesn't work....
...until you look at the ridiculously long list of successful, entertaining, and downright legendary games they've released over the years.
The fact is, game development is a creative pursuit, so a traditional work structure, while not impossible to operate under, isn't necessarily the ideal choice for such a field. The fact that Valve is privately owned and operates in such a fashion also makes it seem more approachable than a massive, faceless corporate entity. Valve isn't some organizational abomination - it's a collective of gamers, writers and artists, just like their customers, who love both to create and to play. Whatever else you might say about Valve, they have some pretty masterful PR.
Now, let's take a look at Electronic Arts...
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A gamer at heart, Nick started writing when he was a child. He holds a BA in English, works as a freelancer, and loves every minute of it. One day, he hopes to net himself a career in game design - but that's something for the future.
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