A 25th anniversary feels like an achievement for any small business, and doubly so if you make and sell video games. As we all know, it’s a volatile business, where distribution channels, hardware platforms, consumer tastes, even business models can change seemingly overnight. Zigging and zagging through more than two decades is daunting, even more so if you are a woman-led business making and selling games.
My career path has closely followed the evolution of Legacy. Except for an exciting 3-year stint as President of HitPoint Games from 2017-2020, I have been Legacy’s CEO since its founding in 1998. I doubt that I would have remained as CEO over those 25 years if I didn’t love games and enjoy all the myriad creative and business challenges.
Legacy’s 25 years in business can be divided into three phases.
1998-2005 – Developer and publisher of simulation games for all ages, e.g., Emergency Room, Zoo Vet, Pet Pals, Moon Tycoon, etc.
2005-2016 – Developer and publisher of licensed PC games with a definite tilt towards women customers, e.g., Law & Order 1, 2, 3, Law & Order Criminal Intent, ER, Criminal Minds, Paranormal State, Ghost Whisperer, Psych, Twilight Zone, Doctor Who, Crayola 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.
2016-2020 – The dominant distributor of casual PC games in Walmart stores
Since returning to the helm of Legacy in 2020, I have focused on building new revenue sources to replace retail, which is declining rapidly (no surprise there). Besides building digital distribution revenue on www.legacygames.com, and porting some of the best hidden object games to console, we are in the process of developing a few new cross-platform games with Hollywood licenses. The challenges are never ending, but so are the opportunities.
It’s hard to summarize 25 years in business, but here are a few learnings hopefully worth sharing.
- Protect your reputation. Games are a relatively small business. A bad reputation will matter, and bite you in the rear when you least expect it. This applies equally to individuals as well as companies. We spend a lot of time at Legacy responding to customers, honoring our “satisfaction guaranteed” policy on every purchase. We know that some folks take advantage, and many of our older customers require lots of hand-holding, but it’s part of our DNA to provide the best service we can.
- You become like the people with whom you spend the most time, so choose your friends, colleagues, employees with care. Hang with those who are smarter and kinder than you are. Surround yourself with people of good character who have unique and interesting perspectives, with different life experiences than your own. It makes the journey all the more fun.
- At my age it’s safe to say that almost everyone else lives downstream. Consequently, what I do and say matters, to my employees, family, friends. I try to model behaviors that I think lead to happy, fulfilling, productive lives. It doesn’t always work, but it’s the only thing that ever has.
- Will Rogers said it best. “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” My biggest mistakes at Legacy were not understanding when to persevere and when to “stop digging.” There’s no easy answer. When is a project doomed to failure, and when is the D1 retention number you need “just around the corner,” with a few more tweaks? All you can do is continually ask the question, and let your intuition and data direct your decision.
- Accept uncertainty. As Mark Twain said, “Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.” There was a time, about ten years ago, when Legacy could develop a hidden object game based on a TV license and were practically guaranteed to be profitable. Those days are long gone. The vast majority of games on Steam and the app stores have little traffic and less revenue. There are, of course, actions you can take to minimize the risk of becoming a “zombie” app, but there are no guarantees in this business, and I have been surprised many times when a game performs better than I anticipated (Murder, She Wrote) or worse (League of Mermaids). Learn to live with uncertainty and try to calibrate your investment to the potential risk and upside.
- Your best work is done at home, and the fruits of your labor are measured in joy. As a woman in a male-dominated business, I spent years pretending to my colleagues that I didn’t have another life that was more important than the one spent in front of a screen. I’m glad to see that most young parents today are front and center with their family’s needs; they don’t hesitate to ask for time off or alternate arrangements so they can attend a school function, soccer game, etc. I am grateful that I and my colleagues enjoy flexible hours, and wish that everyone could have the same ability to work hard but not necessarily 9-5. When people are on their deathbeds and listing regrets, notice how no one says, “if only I had signed that contract.” They regret not spending time with their family. Don’t be that person.
Saving the best for last. I want to call out a few of the incredible people I have had the pleasure to learn from and work with in the past 25 years. What a treat, to see so many young people graduate from Legacy Games and go on to illustrious careers in gaming. I am particularly proud of the young women I have been able to mentor and who, in turn, have taught me invaluable lessons about game design, UI/UX, trends, etc. Just to mention a few of my very special colleagues…..Amanda Leiserowitz, Magne Booc, Kelly Lallemand, Ting Ting Chang, Constantine Mershchiy, Paul Hake, Patrick Lee, Jesus Uriarte, Charlie Duldulao, Nick Marchesini, Jonathan Cooperson, Jo-Ann Hernandez, Mike Donges, Chrissy Deters, Danielle Green, Stephen Hodniki, Jamar Graham, Ryan Modjeski, Andrew Duncan, Craig Brannon, Matteo Marjoram, David Fischer, Kira Ross Schlitt, Terence Wang, Margaret Wallace, Donald Marshall, Andras Albel and the list goes on and on. To all of you, I am deeply grateful to have shared the journey.
Let’s raise a glass to Legacy’s next 25 years! May it be as fun and rewarding as the first 25.