Predicting the future with Game Dev Tycoon

Yesterday I played Game Dev Tycoon, which is a brilliant new game from Greenheart Games, another Queensland startup.

Game Dev Tycoon™ is a business simulation game available for Windows, Mac and Linux as well as on the Windows 8 Store. In Game Dev Tycoon you replay the history of the gaming industry by starting your own video game development company in the 80s. Create best selling games. Research new technologies and invent new game types. Become the leader of the market and gain worldwide fans.

Like my real life small business, the game starts out being run from the garage:

Running the startup from my garage

In real life, Octopus Deploy is growing every month, and it's an exciting time because I'm hoping to be able to have somebody to work full-time on the product with me in the next few months. That's going to be an important milestone for me.

Likewise, in Game Dev Tycoon as soon as you reach a certain level of cash, you reach a milestone and get to move to a new office and start hiring:

Now we've grown up and got an office

I enjoyed playing this game because it gave me some insights into how I run my own small business. In the game, time goes by quickly, so you get a very macro view of running a business. Here are some observations I made while playing the game that I think can apply to my own business:

  1. In the game, marketing can be important, but it's easy to blow time and money on. Getting the product right is the most important thing.
  2. Having a good idea for a game (topic/genre) is useful, but the difference between a hit and a flop is in the way you balance feature selection and resources. Execution is what really matters.
  3. It's easy to get distracted with contracting and other tasks in the game, but it doesn't really pay off. Focus on the product.
  4. At some point you'll need to invest in research and development or risk being obsolete.
  5. You focus all of your hopes and dreams on achieving a goal. When you finally reach it, you feel happy and relieved. Then, you focus everything on achieving the next goal. Satisfaction is only ever temporary.

While I've been able to progress in the game out of the garage and into an office, I haven't been able to avoid bankruptcy in the office yet. Here's hoping I can figure that out in real life :)

A picture of me

Welcome, my name is Paul Stovell. I live in Brisbane and work on Octopus Deploy, an automated deployment tool.

Prior to founding Octopus Deploy, I worked for an investment bank in London building WPF applications, and before that I worked for Readify, an Australian .NET consulting firm. I also worked on a number of open source projects and was an active user group presenter. I was a Microsoft MVP for WPF from 2006 to 2013.