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Did Work From Home Hurt the Video Game Industry?

Innovation / Experiment
Goal Setting
Product
Remote
Productivity
Ownership
Prioritization
Performance

8 February, 2022

Itay Wein
Itay Wein

Product Director at Electronic Arts

Itay Wein, Product Director at Electronic Arts, shares how he best prepared his video gaming company to make a strategic switch to remote work.

COVID-19 Forced Video Game Companies to Rethink Remote Work

Business across the industries was impacted during the Covid-19 as many were stuck at home or even working from home. In my case, one of the realizations we had was that the company's core business, which is delivering games, could've been at stake. Before Covid, while everyone was working together in our studios to build and test the games, access to the right gaming development kits was easy - however as we were forced to work remotely - . we no longer had access to the office equipment, which had put shipping the game on time at risk at the right time. So, we were short of time to come up with a working solution to assist the studios with, which met trouble halfway.

What happened was we decided to make a sudden track change to help the company in its core business by developing a whole new product for internal development. Therefore, we stopped almost everything and started creating a new product to help studios in the work-from-home situation. The first six months revolved around building "something" that we did not know much about, and getting that product up and running to deliver our usual product was the challenge.

Minimum Viable Products Comes to the Rescue

As much as it was time constraining, we worked through a process. The first step was to identify the needs and the gaps that engineers suffered from in the remote work environment. Of course, we did not know about everyone's standard work procedure, but we knew that the products needed to ship. The situation became more like "product-as-you-move."

The directors came up with a requirement that they thought was needed, and we designed the features accordingly. However, when we started to build our test cases, it turned out that the actual users didn't use those features at all. Therefore, it was a waste of time; although our customers allegedly requested it, the actual users were not fans of the feature.

In the meantime, understanding and validating customers and their requirements and bridging gaps by giving our best guesses to build an initial product version that could be shipped for usage. Once the MVP was out, people started using it, while we improved on it by gathering more experience as we used the product.

Since we already had something in place that we knew would work as a product, we looked forward to polishing and adding features. Within one quarter, we had a fully functional effect in most of our studios and helped our engineers in the work-from-home environment, plus created a few new use cases that utilized our product, that we were not in our initial scope.

All in all, it was a pivot on our main product, the tools of which saved our upcoming days by easing in delivering faster and efficiently. The games were supposed to be delivered on time, and with adequate quality, the new product helped us achieve that.

In the End, Focus On the End Users

  • When you don't know the subject matter, you do not know which direction to follow. In our case, we relied on the user's feedback and requirements, but what if we did not identify the right user's group in the first place.
  • Even during crunch times, testing and understanding the users to ratify them with real users ahead of time is necessary. In the end, find out your end-users and confirm the users accordingly with them.

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