Game Development Reference
unique futuristic combat tools like booster rocket packs and glue grenades.
But I didn't remove anything. I made the classic mistake of trying to copy a
successful game and placing shiny new baubles on top. The result was the
most predictable market failure ever. After 14 months of work by a team
of six and several released versions, we had exactly one public server, and
nobody played on it. The core gameplay worked well enough, but it didn't
have the years of iteration-driven polish of Counter-Strike . We had nothing
nearly unique enough to overcome the Matthew effect.
Match your ambition to your resources. Leading a large development
team, you could attempt one unique value, two superior values, and a
smattering of inferior values to round out the experience. On a smaller
team, you might have to focus on just one value to the exclusion of all else.
Because it's better to be the best at one thing than it is to be mediocre at
Nobody Knows Anything!
We use models like market segmentation and value curves to try to un-
derstand the market. But these models aren't reality—they're just our at-
tempts to pack the dizzying complexity of life into something we can draw
on a chart. They help us think about the market without being instantly
overwhelmed, but they don't come close to capturing its true complexity.
It's easy to feel too confident based on these analyses. In reality, they're
paltry attempts at understanding something of magnificent and unfath-
The market is everything. It is billions of people, all their relation-
ships, habits, culture, and technology, and the physical world around
them. It causes and is caused by natural disasters, Internet memes, fash-
ions, political trends, business models, technologies, individual choices,
and random chance.
Most of what goes on in the market is outside any model we can apply.
A celebrity who plays a game and happens to like it, a news story that
brings attention to a certain topic, or a politician looking for an issue can
all dramatically change a game's market performance. These aren't simple,
linear quantities that we can calculate. They're nonlinear causes that can
be amplified by sociological snowball effects into world-changing events.
For example, take Blizzard's 1998 RTS (real-time strategy) hit
StarCraft . StarCraft is a very good game, and it's been widely successful.
But in South Korea, it's gone beyond simple success. In 10 years, StarCraft
sold 5 million copies there. That is one copy sold for every 10 men, women,
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