Doing the Impossible

I spent the last week doing a lot of reading, as well as getting our game site updated. If you haven’t seen it, check it out at http://www.vnext-game.com/ I’m really proud of the work our team did putting that together and publicizing it. We had some stalls, namely that we promised an update by Mid-March, but didn’t hit it until almost the last week of the month. I take the blame for that, as I didn’t communicate the expectations to the team, nor drive the proper results. We got something great out, but it was behind schedule. As an organization that will deliver content on a set schedule, this is something we need to fix, and we’re going to fix it before launch. That’s our promise to the customer.

As for the reading part, I started with Peter Thiel’s “Zero to One“, and am currently finishing up Ben Horowitz’s “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.” One thing that strikes me about both of these books is the idea that to be successful, a company must do something ten times better than the current best implementation on the market. It’s something that resonates with me highly, because of the two things we’re trying to do with our first game.

I’ve gotten a lot of pushback about the idea that we’re going to release episodes weekly. Some have said that the only way to do this is to burn out the team. Others have recommended that we scale back to twice a month, or every other week for an episode. Still others have simply said “it can’t be done.” ┬áDon’t ever tell me it can’t be done.

Television shows put out content every week, some, like talk shows, every day. Radio, podcasts, comics, newspapers, and plenty of other media have solved the weekly cadence problem. Why should it be impossible for games? Right now, DLC for large AAA games is released about three months after game launch. The best episodic content out right now is about 10-12 weeks between every episode. Every other week is only a 5x improvement. We have to be weekly to hit the 10x goal. If television can do it, so can games.

We also know that there’s that emotional and psychological benefit to a weekly cadence. When every morning, the same day of the week, kids in the cafeteria or coworkers in the break room are talking about what they saw on the latest episode the night before, they build a routine, and that builds an interest in those around them. It’s an organic audience builder. The in-group is having a shared experience and people want to be part of the in-group, so they start watching or playing too. If the content is great, and regularly released, the audience grows. If we can back that same experience with some technology that can help us figure out what people like and dislike, we can improve every episode, until the actual released final episode is far better than we could have created if we did so without audience input. Then we have a loyal fan-base that is incredibly eager for the next season. It’s what every creative team craves.

Going from Zero to One means making something that no one else is making. It’s not just some tiny efficiency. It’s building something that no one else has built. And it’s not just one game, it’s an entire series of interactive experiences that are delivered on a predicable cadence. If we do this right, we can be the AMC of interactive gaming. That’s the goal. Maybe that makes us a media company instead of a technology company. That’s fine.

Is it impossible? No, we’re not trying to turn Lead into Gold. Attitudes can change. Stories can be told. Player and customer bases can grow over time. Now we need to build it, and get our players talking. Never tell me something is impossible, unless you want to see it accomplished beyond your wildest expectations.

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