Service Development Department Manager Kenichi Miyazaki
Service Development Department Engineering Manager Ryo Shibayama
Please give us a brief description of GameWith.
We run a service called “GameWith”, which offers game strategy. We also provide “Game Introduction”, to provide information on how to find games, and “Video Streaming”, performed by our exclusive game talents and e-sports players on the video platform.
At the beginning, we were mainly focused on social games, but recently we have been focused on console games (home consoles), such as PS5 and Nintendo Switch.
Our mission is to “Create a world where people can enjoy games even more”.
By exploring GameWith, we aim to become a platform where you can meet and play games that suit you and support you throughout your daily life.
There are two main types of content that GameWith handles as media: strategy information and game reviews.
We have been focusing on game strategy for a long time, but we are now building a system to create contents for game reviews as well.
I write reviews from the stance that “any game can be fun,” but I also try to be creative in my approach, so I normally think about what audience GameWith wants to reach.
Casual gamers tend to be less interested in the beauty of 3D graphics, so I try to convey the points that they can enjoy.
As a result of examining various ways of presenting content in other projects to see what would ultimately lead to conversions and game installs, I realize using video tutorials is the best option, so I have been focusing on using videos instead of just articles.
Thinking on approaching other countries as well, in 2018 we have released an English version of GameWith, for mainly Southeast Asia countries.
We have become one of the largest services in Japan and we have decided to expand our business overseas to keep growing and keep reaching new users to enjoy our service.
The problem we face is that there are similar services like GameWith in other countries, and also there are also many differences in the gaming culture between Japan and other countries. For example, in the U.S., people tend to drive around a lot, so they mainly play PC and console games instead of smartphone games. In Europe, the trend is similar to the U.S., but there are strict regulations on so-called gacha (Loot Box), which makes it difficult to develop social games like the ones we have in Japan.
Although we have many things we are still working on, the global game market continues to grow, and we are making use of the experience to keep increasing our service overseas.
You have been growing steadily since your start-up in 2017, and this can have a great impact on the company. Have there been any changes within your company in this regard?
I happened to join the company just before it went public, so I experienced the difference between the atmosphere before and after it went public.
I joined the company as a server-side engineer, but after the company went public, there were many changes and was able to address the shortcomings of the organization, becoming manager about a year after joining the company.
One of my main duties as a Manager was finding new engineers, but this was a very difficult task.
The ratio of job openings for engineers is much higher than for other positions, and I was not completely sure they were joining until the job offer was successfully accepted. Therefore, I felt that it would not be successful if the HR department worked alone so we worked closely to review the candidates’ offers one by one.
Also, when new members joined the team, we were not able to properly communicate the complex implementation parts that had been in place since the founding of the company, and when the number of new employees exceeded half of the development organization, we were slammed every day, and there were times when we could not properly distribute tasks.
There are many cases where employee satisfaction inevitably changes after they join the company. Has there been any impact on the characteristics of employees?
During the hiring interviews for new employees, it is normal to hear questions about benefits, but there are more and more candidates who are more interested in seeking a good environment. I felt there was a difference in values.
We try to find out if the candidate is what GameWith is looking for at the interview.
But we are keenly aware that it is a bad idea to lower the borderline in a hurry to hire. A small difference in values can lead to conflicts among members, so we have to think carefully about this point, including the assignment of members after they join the company.
Although the number of new employees who like to play games is decreasing. However, there are still a lot of people who like to play games and enjoy playing them. There are two points that we are conscious of when hiring.
The first is that you must like the service. If you like the service, you will feel motivated and you will be interested in making something good, in working very hard.
The second point is that you like the fact that users enjoy the service. I believe that liking the service is an inner feeling, while liking the user’s enjoyment is an outer feeling.
If you only like the service, you might create something that the user doesn’t want, and if you only like the user, you will only listen to the user’s voice and create something that doesn’t work as a service. Therefore, I try to hire people who have both of these qualities.
Even though changes are always something necessary within the company, I got the impression that GameWith’s mission “to create a world where people can enjoy games even more” is strongly spread throughout the company. Do you have any system to spread the mission and vision in the company?
We have a system that you might not hear in other companies,a system called “Game Allowance” where you get an allowance for playing games.
If you play our games for more than 50 hours a month, you can get the allowance.
By playing games, we can not only enjoy games, but also ask ourselves what kind of information we would like to have as a player, and I think this is the foundation to improve our services.
Also, GameWith has game club activities, and recently the Fortnite club has been the most active. Of course, the president is a gamer. I think that by having the president and employees play games together in the club, we can communicate easily and have an environment where it is easy to speak to the top management. I believe this communication is important to grow a service, but there are times when, depending on the phase, this communication might be difficult. In general, it is difficult for an employee to speak up, but we have created a system that allows all employees to give feedback as much as possible, and we try to reflect this by looking at the product once a week.
In addition, as we aim to “create a world where people can enjoy games even more”, we believe that “being good at games” is a good value. For example, we consider winning a game competition to be a valuable good thing, and we give awards every month to employees who win a game competition or achieve a high ranking.
Lastly, please tell us about your future plans.
After going public, it was quite a chaotic state we were in because everything was growing so fast, but we are now building an organization with a solid structure.
I think this is common to many companies, when an organization matures, the company can become strangled, the motivations of the employees can change, and the quality of the service itself can decline as a result of not looking at the users.
With the penetration of DX and other technologies, even companies that were not originally IT-focused, are hiring engineers to produce services in-house, but the lack of agility in development is becoming a problem. At GameWith, we are trying to move with a sense of speed as a startup company, while ensuring the stability of the system so that we don’t betray the users’ expectations, and with the awareness of keeping on improving the environment for all employees.
It may seem contradictory to create something stable while increasing agility, but I believe that by accomplishing this, we can establish a new management style that has not yet been seen in Japan.
As a measure to achieve this, all data related to user feedback and service quality, is freely available for workers.
We have made it possible to view and analyze all of the user feedback and KPIs within the company, so that we can share improvement measures online at any time.
We also hold a company-wide meeting once a month, where we share what the president has said and what other departments are doing, so that all employees can be aware of the company’s mission and vision.
We are still in the trial-and-error stage, but we are determined to establish a new style so that we can continue to deliver better services to our users.