What it Takes to be a Product Manager Outside of the Typical Job Description
A Product Manager (PM) is a position that exists in countless industries and companies. PMs, regardless of their industry of employment, all have the same responsibility: guide a product’s development to their organization’s maximum potential. Across the board, the best Product Managers are excellent strategists, analysts, leaders, and decision-makers. The only real difference between them stems from their unique industry knowledge and passion for it. So, what is the first prerequisite to being a Product Manager in gaming outside of the typical job description? Knowledge of video games and the industry itself, of course!
The gaming industry itself is extraordinarily dynamic and fluid. And because of this, exciting ideas and reliable strategies can come from anywhere within the industry, regardless of game genre. Kongregate creates mobile-first games frequently, but that doesn’t mean that its PMs only study and administer strategies taken from the mobile industry. For example, the concept of a Season Pass is not foreign to anyone who plays console or PC games, but we recently added Season Pass systems to our mobile game Animation Throwdown and have seen great success! The best and fairest version of a Season Pass for mobile could well exist on console/PC! This is just one example, but the overall principle is important for a PM who works with games.
Aside from industry knowledge, a gaming industry PM should have years of experience playing games. Industry experience will come automatically as you grow in your field. But you need to be a gamer! Not necessarily a hardcore, 24-hours-a-day gamer. But you need to have a love of games and a connection to them — playing Mario Kart with friends at a sleepover, teaching yourself how to play guitar because you wanted to learn the Gerudo Valley song from Ocarina of Time. Developing games is an industry, but it’s also a form of art and expression.
Video games are the amalgamation of multiple disciplines of human creativity. The building blocks of games are art, music, narrative, and engineering. To me, there is nothing more incredible than a team of various interests and backgrounds coming together to create an expressive and entertaining experience. The ability of a PM to engage with each member and department of their team is a difference maker in developing games. You do not have to be Mozart to discuss ideas with an audio engineer. You do not have to be Picasso to give suggestions to artists and designers, but you should have an appreciation for them, their disciplines, and the work they do. They are your team and I guarantee they will appreciate talking shop