Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Seven Deadly Risks

One of my favorite takeaways was from Tim Chang at GDC 2012's "Pitching Secrets Revealed" session. He enumerated the seven risks of a pitch -- things to cover if you want to look really good when pitching your idea. I loved this clean wrapping of general risks because the considerations of a pitch are -- or should be! -- the same considerations for rolling out actual development.

I mentioned these risks in a previous post when talking about how I chose which idea to go with for my first independent project. They're listed below with a bit of commentary.

1. Team

Have you considered who's going to actually implement your idea? There's a reason recruiting agencies exist -- good talent is hard to find. Thoroughly think through your idea such that you know what personnel can feasibly carry your idea across a finish line.

2. Execution

How is what you want actually done? Do you know how other, similar ideas were done and where they failed or had difficulties? This is a universal risk that, though unpredictable, benefits from proactive mitigation.

3. Technology

Does your game's engine exist? Who provides back-end services to handle your grand features?

If all your idea's required technologies don't exist, guess who has to build that! If they're all available and ready for your team, guess who has to hook them up to your product -- doubtlessly without any bugs whatsoever from those technologies, right?

4. Market Risk

That isometric facebook game probably sounded like a fantastic idea! You know your demographic and are going to be successful once you give that niche market what they want in six months. Oh, Farmville came out after your first month.

By the time your product ships, your users could care less about your product and more about clicking cows and super meatboys. Understand the trends of the space your product is in and whether or not that shift can be mitigated or predicted.

5. Regulatory

Especially when releasing abroad, a change in laws can really hinder your product. At GDC 2011, I met a Shanghai native that told me bones, skulls, and pandas were all present in some of his other games... but World of Warcraft has had to rework loading screens, models, and various other regulatory costs.

6. Competitive

Just because your idea is great doesn't mean someone else won't do it better and before you do.

7. Scalable Business Model

Your product has released and you are doing fantastic. Your investor is wondering: how is your business model going to scale such that your company doesn't topple over? Even if you haven't hit your wave of success, there are lots of great talks from GDC 2011 where small developers learn -- the hard way -- that going from 6 to 12 to 24 people brings about huge changes in culture and communication.

Overall, this was a fantastic panel to attend. I recommend watching the whole thing on the GDC Vault, especially if you are an independent developer. In my case, having a catchy "7 Deadly Risks" helped convey exactly what my considerations were for my first project -- and I'll formally be considering them in my larger, future project.

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