As the new year begins, I’ve been thinking a lot about the past year. 2016 was a difficult year for our studio, and today I’d like to share a behind the scenes story of Choices… a great example of why I love the Pixelberry team.
By the time May 2016 was starting, our team had been working hard on Choices for many months. Our writers were deeply enmeshed in writing all three launch series, our artists were creating the characters and backgrounds for the game, our engineers were making the game come alive, our testers were hammering on the game, and our designers were tweaking features on the fly. The office was filled with a buzz, you could feel the energy as everyone pulled together to finish the game.
But despite our best efforts we knew that we weren’t going to have our first three books ready for a July launch. Only The Freshman would be done in time.
Normally, we’d push the launch back, but we also faced another problem. Pixelberry was running out of money. We projected that after we launched in July, we’d have only one month of cash left and we’d need that month as we waited to receive our first earnings from the game.
As we explored our options, I came up with an alternative plan that I presented to the team for a vote. We could launch in July as planned or if everyone took a 20% pay cut for several months, we could postpone the launch of Choices to August. We would take a blind vote and the majority would win.
An overwhelming majority voted to take the cut. This type of outcome is pretty rare in the workplace and the results were a testament to the team believing in both Choices and in each other.
Afterwards, multiple people approached me about concerns that even though they voted for the cuts, they were worried that a reduction in salary might be too hard for someone else on the team, especially those buying a home or with babies at home. I was even asked if they could cut their salary deeper to spare the cuts for others. We declined because leaders of the studio were already planning to spare from cuts those for whom it would be too much of a hardship. But it was so touching to see that people on the team cared for each other in such deep ways.
Thanks to you, our players, Choices had a great launch in August. A week after launch, everyone’s salaries were returned to normal and several months later, the cuts were paid back. Today, the studio is investing the money we are making into hiring more writers so we can create more and better stories.
And as the new year begins, we go into it knowing that the people we work side by side with every day genuinely care about Pixelberry, the game we're making, and each other.