Great books for social game companies

I have hesitated in publishing a “reading list” because often when I see them on other blogs, they are little more than the author’s effort to get some referral income. As many of you know, I do not monetize this blog at all (there is no advertising and I have refused all sponsorship offers) and the links in this post are not tied to any monetization. With that in mind, I wanted to share some books that have made me much more successful and I think will help anyone in the gaming ecosystem (and probably any other business). Given that we all have very limited time, even to read, I have listed the books by how much of an impact they have had for me.

  1. Blue Ocean Strategy
    I have blogged several times about this book and consider Blue Ocean Strategy more useful than probably all business strategy books combined. It does a great job of explaining the value of creating your own market rather than competing for a piece of the pie in a competitive market. The book also provides an easy to use methodology for assessing and developing strategic initiatives.
  2. Thinking, Fast and Slow
    This book is great at explaining how people make decisions. I find it incredibly useful because it helps me understand consumer behavior, what other business are likely to do and my own decision making. In particular, it highlights the flaws in decision making, which has helped me improve greatly my and my company’s decision making processes.
  3. Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results
    This book is required reading for all employees at FiveOneNine Games. It not only shows the value in collaboration but explains how collaboration can help advance a company’s goals rather than having collaboration for collaboration’s sake. The book provides guidance in creating policies and hiring to optimize performance based on collaboration.
  4. Predictably Irrational
    Dan Ariely’s first book is by far the most fun to read book on this list but it is also quite useful. Like Thinking, Fast and Slow, Predictably Irrational shows flaws in people’s decision making (in a very readable way). Again, this is quite useful in understanding consumer behavior and your own decision making. Dan’s subsequent books, The Upside of Irrationality and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, are also quite valuable but I have tried to limit this list to one book per author.
  5. Competing on Analytics
    What Thomas Davenport does well in this classic is explain the value of using analytics for all decision making throughout your organization. While many social game companies are great at using analytic tools to optimize game performance, they often make other key decisions (fund raising, hiring, etc.) based on intuition. Competing on Analytics shows the value of turning your company into a data driven organization.
  6. Moneyball
    Just as Competing on Analytics shows the value of using data to drive decision making, Moneyball reiterates this point by exploring a real life example, how the Oakland A’s using analytics to compete and thrive against richer opponents. I found this book particularly insightful for the game industry, as many of the situations discussed could just as easily have happened in the halls of EA or Zynga as they could with a baseball club.
  7. Redefining Global Strategy
    I would put this book higher except many of the readers of this blog are not focused on growing international markets. Redefining Global Strategy does a great job of understanding the differences between markets and showing how a company can build an optimal strategy by territory.
  8. Social Media is a Cocktail Party
    There seems to be a new book published every day about social media marketing, Facebook advertising, etc. Some of them offer good advice but I have found Jim Tobin’s book invaluable in understanding how marketing through social media differs from traditional marketing and how companies should approach this opportunity. Given that social games are by definition on social media platforms, it is critical to understand how to market through these platforms beyond pure performance advertising.
  9. Steal These Ideas
    This is a much more practical, hands-on book than the others but very useful. It provides many tactical suggestions, such as the best color to use for marketing material, that can accelerate your business growth.
  10. Wait
    Wait is another great book about decision making. Given the importance of making the right decision for any business executive, the better insight we have to our decision making process and that of others, the more effective we will be as leaders.

There are many other useful books out there but I think these form the foundation of getting the most out of yourself and your company. Feel free to suggest others in the comments.

Predictably Irrational at Amazon

Author: Lloyd Melnick

I am GM of Chumba at VGW, where I lead the Chumba Casino team. Previously, I was Director of StarsPlay, the social gaming vertical for the Stars Group. I was also Sr Dir at Zynga's social casino (including Hit It Rich! slots, Zynga Poker and our mobile games), where I led VIP CRM efforts and arranged licensing deals. I have been a central part of the senior management team (CCO, GM and CGO) at three exits (Merscom/Playdom, Playdom/Disney and Spooky Cool/Zynga) worth over $700 million.

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