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Is your problem in marketing, or in design?

By on February 13, 2017

I’ve been dealing with a number of clients recently who have challenges scaling their game. The game is good, the clients say, but we just need more scale.

That is true, to a point. There is a virtuous circle that comes in successful games from scale: getting more users = more players to show up the charts = more players to tell their friends = more users. It works well for successful games.

But most of those successful games are good, well-designed games that then become more successful with scale. Scale is not the solution, it is a benefit of being of being good.


Then I was reading a blog post from Tren Griffin, one of my favourite bloggers on how to grow a successful business and how to be a successful investor. He had this to say, quoting investor Andy Rachleff:

“A value hypothesis is an attempt to articulate the key assumption that underlies why a customer is likely to use your product.  A value hypothesis addresses both the features and business model required to entice a customer to buy your product.” <- I think this is the hypothesis “I have a good game”.

“A growth hypothesis represents your best thinking about how you can scale the number of customers attracted to your product or service. [What is] the best way to cost-effectively acquire customers?” <- This is the hypothesis “I just need to scale to make my game really successful”.

“Unfortunately many people mistakenly pursue their growth hypothesis before their value hypothesis”

The bit in bold is the key to me. There is no point in accelerating your marketing efforts until you have proven your core game. That’s why Key Performance Indicators are so important. That’s why we have soft launches whose sole purpose is to determine whether you can turn on marketing. That’s why successful companies like Supercell keep initial costs low and kill so many products.

So have you proven your value hypothesis, or are you chasing scale in the vain hope that this will turn your not-quite-good-enough game into something that will fly?

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: