A week or two ago I bought a game called Game Dev Tycoon. It’s a simulation game that lets you control multiple areas of game development and marketing. At first you start off working in  your own garage, but as you become successful you advance further and can even hire more employees.

The first batch of games I created didn’t do too well. As I refined the perfect balance between artificial intelligence, stories, graphics, and game play, I started churning out really successful games. However, when my game company became more successful, the quality of my games started to decline. I was worrying more about funding, marketing, and employee training/vacations than I was about actually building games.

Then I started thinking about the implications of this. If I could forget my own roots that made me successful in a strategic game development simulation, could big tech. companies do the same in real life? It only takes one missed product (or game in my case) to start a chain of negative media attention and declined sales.

Let’s Examine Other Companies

In Game Dev Tycoon I started building games in 1980. So let’s take a look at some companies stock that were around that time and examine their success  Granted, for every example you see here you could argue a market boom had a play, and you could also find hundreds of counterexamples. Obviously some companies do well. But we’re interested in the ones that don’t do so well.

So if you look at Ford, AMD, Sony, Microsoft, or Toshiba you’ll notice some interesting trends in their stocks over the past couple of decades. They all had their success booms long ago. Take a look at Sony’s stock for example:


This seems to mimic the exact thing I experienced in Game Dev Tycoon. Just like I became successful and had to start worrying more about human resources, marketing, and funding, so did Sony. You can imagine when they had their big spike in 1999-2000 their focus shifted away from their products to their company.

How it Ties Into Apple


Apple’s success that started in the 21st century with the iPod and Mac line was simply unbelievable. However success like that is not only unsustainable but it’s also prone to cause a rift in a company’s focus like we mentioned.

Whereas Steve Jobs was once interested in giving consumers an upper hand in the music market with his break-through software, iTunes, his interests seem a little distorted a decade later. Last year the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed suit against Apple and six eBook publishers regarding an eBook price fixing conspiracy.

The government’s conclusion of law cites an e-mail in which Steve jobs was clearly bent on fixing eBook prices:

The government also mentions that Steve Jobs had reason for price-fixing because of the profits Apple would benefit from:


If that’s not a perfect example of contrasting intentions, then I don’t know what is. Apple’s outlook in 2000-2001 was to revolutionize the market. However as their success became more exponential, their focus shifted. Their focus shifted so much that they were willing to price fix eBooks, which is actually bad for the market!

The Plot Thickens

Apple’s also been hit with a class action lawsuit over it’s power button. Apparently Apple knew that the power button was caused by a defect in a flex cable but continued to sell the phones and not inform consumers about the issue. Isn’t this the same exact thing as fixing eBook prices just to make more profits? It’s certainly another great example of why shifting intentions are bad for a company. And as our stock chart tells us, consumers get wind of this, and so do investors.


Apple’s Stock

To top it off a 14 year old girl discovered that the magnets in iPads can cause heart pace makers to fail. Apparently there is no warning in the manuals that tell iPad owners about these risks. This magnet issue isn’t really an example of Apple’s intentions shifting. But remember earlier in the article where I said:

 It only takes one missed product (or game in my case) to start a chain of negative media attention and declined sales.

eBook price fixing, in-app purchase lawsuits, selling defective iPhones, and not mentioning that iPads can cause pace maker failure is certainly more than “one missed product.” Obviously you can’t fix Apple’s company, plans, or stock. But what you can do is learn from these types of mistakes. Whether you’re an app developer or a business owner, it’s important to hold true to your roots. These types of intention shifts can be seen in recent IRS lawsuits, oil price fixing schemes, and many other examples. Don’t sacrifice profits for your customers’ trust, because it never ends well.