The game plan of making a small game and moving up to a larger game makes perfect sense. This is actually the way that truly successful startups operate. You need capital to create budgets and grow a business.
I’ve been listening to an audiobook, repeatedly, by Peter Thiel - one of the Paypal co-founders and friend of Elon Musk called “Zero to One.” It’s really got some potent advice for startups, and honestly the I-Novae engine makes me think that you could be looking at a potentially incredibly popular and valuable game.
- Paypal dominated the small market of Ebay power sellers - about 20,000 people - by marketing to them first. Then those people trickled the product down, and the rest is history and paypal is an institution.
- Tesla dominated the “clean supercar” market of rich people by making a car that’s actually good.
- SpaceX started by launching the small Falcon 1 rocket used to secure a NASA contract so that they could build Falcon 9 in its most basic form.
So, Battlescape fills a niche and mastering that niche first is what will lead to success that will allow you to build the MMO. But you have to identify and market to that niche.
Basically, Peter Thiel’s main point is that you have to master these following questions:
The Engineering Question: is your product ten times as good as the competition? This is where you win by concentrating your forces in a small, niche market. The combination of everything you do must yield that 10x result. That is, you don’t need to have a singular piece be 10x as good, it just needs to end up about that good overall. Incremental improvement doesn’t justify the expense.
The Timing Question: big moments happen only once. The next Google won’t be a search engine, the next Facebook won’t be a social media site. I worry about this one the most with Star Citizen on the horizon. So, don’t take them on directly - not yet at least.
The Monopoly Question: plays into the 10X question and needing a niche market. You need to monopolize the correct area by just being better. Competition eliminates profits, which eliminates the ability to develop and expand. Don’t exaggerate your uniqueness - this is the biggest failing point of a venture.
The People Question: I think this one seems pretty good from the outside. This community is great and the devs are great, you all get along well. Which is actually his point - if you don’t like working with people you’re not going to give it your all. When hiring people in the future, make sure that people are in it because they want to be a part of it.
The Distribution Question: You’ll be fine on this, it’s software distribution, which makes distribution ultimately easier.
The Durability Question: when you grow, will the competition actively destroy you? Will your source of income actually be something sustainable? Present value formula determines your present value based on future cashflows. Future cash flows need to be based in reality.
The Secret Question: basically, IP that gives you an edge. The I-Novae engine is that secret and you need to use it to dominate a market that Star Citizen doesn’t operate in. Not everyone wants to spend all day on an MMO.
I’d listen to the book:
It’s just like a very long lecture by a guy whose actually built several billion dollar industries who has worked with many others who’ve done the same. He has several contrarian points that end up being pretty insightful.
Finding the Right Market
This is the hardest part since video games are saturated as hell, and there is a lot of overlap, which makes it hard to compete. I think that markets that are easiest to differentiate are as follows:
Space Game Market
Competitive Multiplayer Game market
A lot of businesses fail because they don’t make something new, but just cross existing crap together in a new combo that isn’t actually very unique because it’s just a mashup. The indie market will only carry you so far - it fails the durability question. You have to transition out of that market and into a more mainstream one.
The Space Game market is pretty packed, but the I-Novae engine is one of the few that lets you fly in and out of atmospheres. This advantage is not enough on its own - everything else must work as well.