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Why Mills is wrong that you shouldn’t launch a minimum viable product

By on March 7, 2012
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In a recent interview with the excellent Hookshot, Inc, UsTwo CEO Mills said:

“Don’t release a minimum viable product. In two months we will be releasing what we should have released on October 20 2011. At that time, we released a product that was absolutely wonderful, but didn’t have the toffee. A game needs to be sticky and we created something that didn’t demand users come back for more. We created something that made them feel good, but they wanted more…much more… They needed a sense of pocket completion.”

I think Mills is entirely wrong, or perhaps more accurately, he is choosing to miss the entire point of an MVP.

Mills is absolutely right that it is best to launch a game filled with the features that your customers want and devoid of the ones that they don’t. Launching an MVP does not do this.

But nor does launching an all-singing, all-dancing product achieve this aim either. Most likely, you spend much money (2x to 10x, or even more) and still release a product that doesn’t hit what the customers want, only this time you’ll have run out of money to iterate after release.

The point about an MVP is not to be rubbish. It is to give your business the time to have the maximum number of attempts at creating a product that customers want before it runs out of money or time.

If Mills knew exactly what customers wanted from the very beginning, then yes, he could have waited to release the perfect version of Whale Trail.

Instead, he released an imperfect MVP and only now, after real feedback from players and the market, does he know what a full product should have looked like. He is underestimating the value of having a live product to tell you what the full product should actually look like.

An MVP is not an objective in its right. It is a tool for learning quicker than the next guy. I think UsTwo may have the MVP of Whale Trail just about right.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com
  • I’d agree with this post. MVP should not be seen as “unfinished” it should be seen as “no more AND no less than you absolutely need.”
    Launch with plenty of bells and whistles on you core gameplay track. Worry about alternate play modes and such like later on.
    Whale Trail is a lovely game, but there are still gameplay issues that prevent me from coming back as often as I might.

  • Chris Scales

    Mills is always wrong. He seems to come out with silly statements all the time. Ether he is really is 12 months behind on industry trends or he likes to play devils advocate in order to gain cheap PR. 

  • I think you’re right, it’s incredibly hard to guess how people will or won’t respond to something, and our history of thinking we can is why this industry has always been so volatile.  

    The right approach must be ‘minimum viable marketing’ ie save the hype up until you’re sure the game will deliver financially?  Very hard to be that controlled though, if you made something as great as Whale Trail and want the world to enjoy it.