One expert’s journey through four decades in gaming

One expert’s journey through four decades in gaming

Michael Katz (Video Games Industry Expert) has spent over 25 years in the video games industry. He was President of Sega of America for the introduction of the Genesis 16 bit game system; President of Altari’s video games division during a critical period in the company’s expansion; and President of Epyx computer software from 1983-1985, during which time it grew to be one of the leading mass market publishers of computer entertainment.

His extensive experience led him to launch a consulting firm in 1994, helping businesses in the interactive software, multi-media and toy industries with executive search and strategic business planning. 

We caught up with Katz after LEAP 2024 to get a glimpse into the lessons he’s learnt over his years in the industry. 

The evolution of the video gaming sector over two decades 

From the 1980s to the present day, Katz has observed incredible shifts in the sector. When he started out, the cost of development for a new game was (at most) in the tens of thousands of dollars. Now it’s in the millions – with the current record for the most expensive game ever developed standing at a staggering USD $174 million

Similarly, Katz noted that in the 1980s, the size of a development staff was between one and four people. “At Epyx,” he said, “we had one programmer on Pitstop,” who was the designer/programmer/artist/sound guy – “all in one.” 

Now a development team might be made up of hundreds of gaming professionals. 

The number of games that were introduced to the market each year were much lower, too; perhaps a few hundred new games annually. Today, thousands of new games become available every year – with gaming platform Steam recording 12,068 new games in 2023 alone, for example. 

All of this means that gaming companies require much larger investments today in order to function. The amount of funding in the industry used to be in the low millions, but now it’s hundreds of millions, or even billions. 

And revenue streams have shifted too. At the beginning of Katz’s career, consumers would pay $40-50 to buy a game. In 2024, many mobile games are free or available on a low-cost subscription; and significant revenue is made, instead, from the sale of in-game virtual goods. 

While Katz was with Atari in the 1980s, the company sponsored an American video games team – but that wasn’t the norm. Esports was a minor niche in the gaming industry, but today the category is booming – “team play/competition is standard,” he said. 

What does it take to launch a career in the gaming sector today?

Gaming is a competitive space for career development, with high demands placed on professionals in a diverse and complex working landscape. We asked Katz what advice he’d give to someone with dreams of building their career in gaming. He said that a candidate should: 

  • Know games, and play them.
  • Know how to code.
  • Have some knowledge of engineering.
  • Speak English and Chinese or Japanese.
  • Seek a mentor within the industry.
  • Be willing to start as a ‘tester’ and work your way up if you’re interested in becoming a developer.
  • Be consumer-orientated, and try to understand what the consumer wants.
  • Understand the key elements in winning games – “easy to play and understand, difficult to master,” in order to offer sustained (and satisfying) game play.
  • Attend industry trade shows if possible to keep up with developments in the sector. You need to know what’s new, and what’s selling.

Speaking of trade shows…

OK, so LEAP isn’t just a gaming show. But Katz pointed out that LEAP is a great place to see new products and emerging companies, and “get a vibe of the industry.” 

You’ll get to meet and hear from “industry movers and shakers,” he added, and display your own skills and capabilities to potential employers, collaborators, or mentors. 

And importantly, you can use the experience of being immersed in the tech industry as it is at this moment in time to develop your own sense of what products or services could be different from (or better than) what’s currently available on the market.

We love gaming at LEAP, because it’s one of the most exciting spaces for exploring the potential of emerging technologies – without the limitations of daily life. So if you’re developing a game or building your career in this space, we’d love to meet you in Riyadh. 

Thanks to Michael Katz. See you at LEAP 2025. 

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