One of the biggest problems I see in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area is the fallacy that fast following is a way to build a successful business. For those not familiar with this concept, it is identifying a successful business model or product, replicating it quickly and bringing the new company or product to market. There are some successful examples, none probably worth more than Microsoft’s fast following of WordPerfect with Word, Lotus 1-2-3 with Excel and Freelance Graphics with Powerpoint. This strategy generated hundreds of billions of dollars for Microsoft and its shareholders. This example is the exception rather than the rule, as fast following is more likely to sub-optimize or fail.
A strategy built on arrogance
A key indicator that fast following is a flawed strategy is that it is built on arrogance. Fast followers are saying they can take an idea or product and do it better than the original company or anyone else. The question then arises, “Why are you going to be better?” Continue reading “The dangers of fast following”
It all comes down to one word: simplicity. This sounds very easy but creating a simple game experience is one of the most difficult elements of game design. In the social and mobile space, the games that are most appealing to the mass market are those that are very straightforward, simple experience. You can understand the game and start playing in the time it takes to get a latte at Starbucks (and often for less money). If you think of the games that have defined casual and social gaming, including Bejeweled, Farmville, Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga, they are all easy to begin playing and simple to understand. Yet how many thousands of companies have unsuccessfully tried to quickly follow these successes with disappointing results?
Have fun fast
The key factor is that the player should be able to start playing and having fun immediately. They should not have to memorize an intricate system or go through a long tutorial. No long manuals, no Google searches, no emailing friends for instructions should be needed, or even considered, by the player. First, the player needs to be exposed immediately to the core game loop, that is the underlying mechanic the makes the game fun and keeps the player coming back. The quicker the player gets engaged with the core game loop, and not distracted by other features, the better. This engagement is seldom achieved through a tutorial, a convoluted story or mini-games. Design your game so the player can start playing quickly and understand what they are doing and their goals without it being explained to them. Continue reading “The secret of creating a hit game”
Great article about the importance of thinking about your customer when growing your product.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review, “Three Rules for Making A Company Truly Great,” pointed to three elemental rules that were consistently followed by exceptional companies. There are a lot of hyperbole and clichés about how to create great companies, but the research by Michael Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed (in the HRB article) shows that three fundamental principles are the keys to success. This finding was based on a statistical study of thousands of companies, so it is much more analytic than what business book happens to be at the top of the charts in a particular week. It is also apparent that these principles apply to social and mobile game companies.
Continue reading “Three rules for becoming a truly great game company”
The big buzz phrase in the Bay Area the last year or so has been “growth hacking,” and the ideas behind it can help significantly game companies. The underlying principle in the phrase is that modern start-ups should be focused on using the new tools available via technology to grow rapidly their user base rather than relying on older, sometimes outdated, marketing techniques. Growth—unlike marketing—usually encompasses multiple aspects of an organization, with the growth team not only bringing in users but also working with the product team to optimize the product for growth. It stresses the importance of product to growth and how the two should work together rather than having marketing set aside in a corner. The phrase itself was coined by Sean Ellis, CEO of Qualaroo and the first marketer at many great tech companies including Dropbox and LogMeIn.
What is a growth team?
A quora post from Andy Johns (currently on Quora’s growth team and one of the early members of Facebook’s growth team) described the typical people an early stage company would put on its growth team: Continue reading “Growth tactics for mobile game and social media companies”