Managing by values

A lot of traditional companies have posters on the wall of the office with written value statements (like honesty and innovation) that are often vague and ignored. Most people in those companies don’t even know about these values or don’t understand why they exist. Usually the executive team review and writes the values once a year and think that that’s enough for the company.

Values are the things you do and live by. It’s also important that the values communicate with the purpose and mission of the company. At Cupcake, our values influence every decision we make and how we manage the company on a daily basis. Because of that, it’s important for everybody to know, understand and live the values of the company.

The Cupcake values are:

  • Focus on the player
  • Be goal oriented
  • Keep it simple
  • Use data to learn
  • Be a team player
  • Self managed

Here’s how we use them to manage the company.

Focus on the player

First of all, it’s important to know who your users are. If you have more than one game, it’s very helpful for all of them to have the same users, so you can learn with all your games. If you have a game for young men and another for older women, it’s complicated to balance the learnings. This is very important specially for gaming companies that are starting.

Focusing on the player means having a great game where they have fun or having great customer service. Every interaction with the players must make them feel special. You should focus to not make something that will hurt their experience, even if that means making more money. Revenue is the result of a great experience.

At Cupcake, most of our users are women over 45 years and most of them play all of our games. In the end, it’s our customer that is our boss. If they are not happy with us, they are going to spend their money somewhere else.

Be goal oriented

The best way to get to somewhere is to have a goal in mind. If you don’t know where you want to go, anywhere is enough. It’s important to know what you want with your game or even a feature inside a game. It’s not good to build something just because it is cool.

If you want to make a living or have a impact in the world with games, you have to take a step back and think about what you want to achieve. Having a goal in mind, now you got to plan how you are going to achieve it. A goal without a plan is just a wish. Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Everything we do at Cupcake is related to a goal. Our goals help us achieve our mission of being the #1 casual brain puzzle games company in the world. The bigger the goal, the more challenging it will be. Continuous improvement is key to achieving those goals.

Keep it simple

It’s very common for a game developer to want to start building something that is going to take years to be ready. It’s also very tempting to be polishing the game for a long time instead of just launching it. A game is never perfect, that’s why done is better than perfect.

We are very careful with this at Cupcake. We like to use the Pareto principle (80/20 rule) that says that 80% of a outcome comes from 20% of the actions. If you are building a prototype, it has to be fast. If you are building something for the final user, you have to focus on what is going to make the most impact for her.

What you decide not to do is as important as what you do. If your goal is to build great puzzle games and you have an idea for a shooter, are you going to build it? I hope not. Focusing is about saying no. Time is a finite resource so it is necessary to focus on the long term objective. Keeping things simple allow you to learn faster and delivery a better experience to your players.

Use data to learn

This is something very important specially for F2P games. If you don’t have data to measure, you can’t learn and improve your game. When you build something, you got to measure it and learn from it. It’s the build-measure-learn feedback loop. Just gut feeling is not enough.

You can also use data to see if there is any technical problem instead of hoping everything is ok. You can see how your goals are doing and decide what needs more attention. You can even measure the happiness of your team and find ways to have an happier environment at work.

There is no guessing at Cupcake. Decisions are made over data. If you want to learn something, you have to check the numbers instead of making assumptions.

Be a team player

Game development is a multidisciplinary activity. It’s hard for someone to be good at more than one thing and that’s ok. It’s better to have a very good programmer instead of a so so programmer/artist. You have to build on strengths instead of weakness.

In order to make great games, it’s important to have people willing to help one another, the team and the company. Communication is very important. There can not have space for selfishness.

Everybody at Cupcake do home office and we have people all around Brazil. For us, it’s very important to find smart ways to interact with each other in order to have things done.

Self managed

It’s better to work smart instead of work hard. If hard work was all that was needed to achieve success, construction workers would all be millionaires. There is a lot about working long hours in the game industry but that’s not healthy in the long term. That’s why it’s very important to be organized and have ownership of the work.

People need to know when they are more productive and how to accommodate time for each of the tasks. We expect people to figure out the best way to get things done, as well as to step up when they need help from the team.

We also don’t like the type of environment where it is necessary to have a boss saying to everybody every little detail of what has to be done. Great people are self managed. They don’t need to be managed. Once they know what to do they will figure out how to do.


Everything we do at Cupcake is focused to improve the experience of our users (Focus on the player). For that, we need to understand how their experience is doing (Use data to learn) and work on goals on top of what to improve (Be goal oriented). To reach those goals, we need to focus on what really matters (Keep it simple). We also need to work as a team to reach the outcome (Be a team player) and know how to be productive in order to finish what needs to be done (Self manage).

Author: João Vítor de Souza

CEO of Cupcake Entertainment