Recently I played a game called Big Pharma. It seemed interesting because it is a business simulation. It was so interesting that I stayed up until 4AM playing. If you are interested in business simulations and you have extra time or on an airplane, I suggest you give it a try.
As I played, I started wondering if this experience is similar to what it is really like to being the CEO of a real pharmaceutical company. I imagined that much of it is quite similar…perhaps if you removed all the boring meetings and time wasted dealing with lawyers.
Then I started thinking how figuring out how to succeed in the game is very similar to figuring out how to succeed in real life. Try different things out, set up goals, develop strategies, do research, etc. I wondered how the developer created such an engrossing and interesting game.
On his blog, there are many hints of success in the development of the game. It was also interesting to note the reasons that his previous game did not do well.
One big learning is that you have to know how to market your product. It doesn’t matter how great your product is – without marketing nobody will know about it or use it. In the case of computer games, marketing is largely done by 3rd party YouTube game reviewers. If you can get these reviewers to enjoy and value your game, millions of would-be customers will find out about it.
Another key learning is to manage the initial experience. If your new users cannot understand and enjoy the game right away, they will not invest the time and energy to get into it. Specifically, this means that you need to create a tutorial that works well for new users. It took three iterations of the tutorial to get it right. FWIW, the tutorial worked for me and I quickly got hooked.
For people who are not familiar with game development, the tutorial may seem like an insignificant detail. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Without a great tutorial the game has little chance of success. Furthermore, if you study some of the most successful games in recent years, most of them had great tutorials.
The point of this whole post is that success is not an accident. Designing a successful game is not different from designing a successful business. Part of the magic is to look beneath the surface and dig deep into the details. It’s the interaction of many tiny details that separates a smash hit from a forgotten game.