I'm doing a pre-incubator business class/program at the Genesis Centr
e here in St. John's, and I'm actually learning a fair bit along the way. At the moment my big challenge is proving the working model for Perfect Minute Games. This is a place where the artist/auteur in me comes up hard against the pragmatist: on the one hand, <b><i>I</b></i> want the products I aim to build. On the other hand, I am not the person who has to buy them, nor am I able to pay for their production.
The program focuses on a concept called LEAN
. This is apparently also a part of the Startup Weekend
model, although that part of the experience was not emphasized during my last crack at that particular can (we're working on it for this year's event). LEAN, in a nutshell, is the practice of proving your theories by talking to people you think will use your product or service. For Perfect Minute Games, that is some subset of gamers, but getting a precision slice of the gaming population turns out to be a bit tricky, so for now I've satisfied myself with simply interviewing whatever gamers I can find who are willing to give me the time of day.
It's an interesting approach. You set up a canvas that has a bunch of sections. The really key ones are Value Proposition and Customer Segment - these are the "heart" of your business. If you don't have a customer segment identified (I do, or at least I thought I did before I started talking to people) then you probably don't have a business idea yet. If you don't have a value proposition, on the other hand, you don't have a service or product yet.
In the program I'm doing, these are couched in the language of problem/solution. Perfect Minute Games aims to solve two problems:
- people have limited time to play
- they love deep gameplay but don't want to endure lengthy games
Which gamers have these problems, though? I started with myself as a market, so I figured they'd mostly be people like me - 30-some-odd, house, job, commitments. It turns out, asking different people questions about their gaming habits helps to open that up a bit. Some gamers just plain like short games; in particular, they find that long games run out of ideas. This is actually something I'd figured out for myself - you can concentrate limited resources on a shorter game much better than on a long one.
I didn't spool the idea all the way out, though. I didn't think about the fact that a gamer who only has limited time wants a game with save-anywhere play. A friend with whom I used to play pen and paper games likened it to those games - you can walk away at any point without losing your work. This is how computers should work, and games are no exception.
And there were things I really didn't foresee. My formative experience with coop was on Deus Ex; The Coop Project
, to which I contributed a small but nonzero amount of code, never really gained traction in that community. Apparently there's an easier way to make that work now
, so that's good.
Nearly every person I talked to during this process mentioned cooperative play. It's no longer something that you get to muck about with; you need to be building cooperative play modes.
The tool we're using for all this is Launchpad Central
, which apparently is only available in this kind of incubation setting. They're using their own stuff to decide that, or so I understand, which is at least nice to see.
The process has really given me some new muscles to target in the future, and I feel a little less overwhelmed by the concept of building a working business at this point. I'd love to hear from other devs who are trying this or any other method for planning the business side of things.