What is the difference between a game designer and product manager?



Product manager to some extent are those who manage economy but my question is to compare those are P.M’s who don’t do that to a game designer. According to you, what is your opinion on the subject?


A product manager may be the guy who comes up with a vague idea for the game. He might ask the team to make, say, a shooter game with an exo-suit mechanic as one of the core mechanics and probably throw in Kevin Spacey because that’ll be good PR. Then, it’s upto the game designer to wrap the ‘idea’ with actual an game like the setting of the game, the gameplay, level design, possibly the story, etc.

The product manager is more concerned with the business side of things like marketing and less with the actual details of the game and the gameplay.

They can be the same person or different ones depending on the scope of the game and the way the team works and tasks are allocated.

Just my opinion. Of course there’s more to it. That’s just my two cents.


haha, well said. Also, in this scenario, it’s mostly the product managers who call the shots over the designer.


I have a slightly different opinion about this conversation. IMHO here’s how I see :
Product Manager (The number guy!) - who should be giving data and what it means, like

  • Who are our competitors?
  • How do they are market themselves at launch?
  • How do they keep providing sustainable/retainable new users everyday?
  • Who are our target audience?
  • What kind of games do they generally play?
  • What are their expectations of a new game from the currently favorite games?
  • Can we approach the same audience for user focus test? If so how?
  • What are the KPIs of success based on our competitors at launch?
  • What should be our game’s KPI then?
  • What is the minimum feature requirement list for a game, based on the market?
  • How do they make money?
  • How much do they make?
  • What are the perceived valuable assets for the players in our competitors’ games?
  • How can we validate that our designs are hitting on the same lines with competitors?
  • etc etc, this is just the tip of the iceberg!

I really don’t see the product manager as the idea guy - sorry product managers in the community - they are the realistic guys comparing the in-production game to competitive space and the business aspects behind it.

For a live project, here’s the communication I imagine between a PM and designer :

PM : Dude, from the start of the tutorial funnel till end of tutorial we have a drop of over 60%! Only 40% of the people move in the game!

Designer : Whoa! Do you know why is that?

PM : I have some theories looking at our competitors,

  • Our competitors have mostly 3-5 minutes tutorials, which is quite a quick onboarding and we have like 10 minutes!
  • Our competitors only explain the basics and they are mostly gameplay elements!
    I believe we need to start from there to match with the expectation of the market based on our audience!

Designer : I am on it!

In the above conversation, the PM exposed a problem based on data and again how the competitors are solving it based on data. He/she points to a problem with reason! Designers take the problem and come back with a solution to solve the problem under the constraints that the PMs set!

The moment a PM starts to give an idea (which means giving a solution), it starts to get messy because now they are designing and not letting the designer do his job of finding solutions!

PM’s confidence is definitely needed over a design solution, if data or some user test proves that the solution is not going to fix the problem, he/she can disapprove design!

Different teams and different companies have defined it in a way to suit their needs. This is my general observation…