Blizzard for example had mild success with Rock n' Roll Racing and Lost Vikings prior to Warcraft 2.
Nintendo made lots of arcade games since 1973, many being blatant clones of successful titles, before striking gold with Donkey Kong in 1981. Some of these may have sold fairly well, but the titles are ignored today so they couldn't have been all that good.
Pokemon developer Game Freak seems to have had it pretty rough prior to hitting the big time with Pokemon. The company has existed since 1989 and they put out a number of relatively unknown games before Pokemon in '96. Pokemon wasn't a strong seller at the beginning either.
According to wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satoshi_Tajiri):
"Pokémon Red and Green took six years to produce, and nearly bankrupted Game Freak in the process; often, there was barely enough money to pay the employees. Five employees quit, and Tajiri did not take a salary, instead living off of his father's income. Investment from Creatures Inc. allowed Game Freak to complete the games, and in return, Creatures received one-third of the franchise rights."
Yamauchi certainly deserves credit for realizing that playing cards was not going to be a growth area in the future and for experimenting in new areas that eventually led to toys and then to arcade games.
Taking ten years to make it as a performer or a even a craftsman is pretty common. Rovio clearly earned their success.
If the moral of the story was about expertise, you'd expect that any game developer with 20 years of experience could write huge successes like "Angry Birds" in 3 month, on demand.
Now, true, they're getting better at it over the years, but I don't think that this story belongs the "10 000 hours" category.
I don't have familiarity enough with any of the titles to say I had actually heard of them until Donkey Kong Country. Then suddenly virtually every game by them I knew of and liked.
Blast Corps was hugely fun. Golden Eye... Banjo-Kazooie. Perfect Dark. Now recently Viva Pinata.
Apparently Chillingo had a good relationship with Apple, and were able to get the game onto the "Featured Apps" list.
Edit: found a link: http://eye-tea-em.blogspot.com/2011/03/talking-about-softwar...
The fact is a set, X, (lets say 10) of things (games in this case) that are good enough to make it "big". For a combination of reasons the nature of which aren't important (possibly different each time, possibly random) one of them makes it. Then everyone tries to figure out why and copy them.
They are solving wrong problem/chasing wrong tail.
Instead make as many games as you can, serial startup as many companies, ask out as many girls, etc. The larger percentage of the set X are "yours" the larger chance you have of being right place / right time.
If you look (as here) you will find the vast majority of massive success is preceded by many "failures" and/or small success.
It's a motivational message, sure, but completely void of any substance or practical advice.
You can work as hard/smart as someone who achieved independent wealth and if, after ten years, you're not independently wealthy someone can say "well, you didn't truly work hard/smart". An objective definition of what hard/smart is would lead to a testable hypothesis.
When I write my articles for The Startup Foundry, I try to focus on what will help startups succeed. I've gotten some pretty sad emails from startups that think they're failures for not being huge in 6 months or less. I wrote this to make a point that it takes time for most startups.
All the best,
if you're not independently wealthy within ten years, you didn't work hard/smart enough.
One couldn't ask for a better example than "then/than". When I read the previous sentence out loud, the first "than" sounds closer to "then" than to the second "than".
@ iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tiny-wings/id417817520
Official Gameplay Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6pT_2E5xI0
Yes, the music is the same. I find this light-hearted tune very fitting to the graphics and gameplay.
To each their own, I guess?
Much more profound "success" of course.