For the past six months, I’ve been creating a connected network of minigames called Block Party that combines Mario Party-esque accessible gameplay with HQ Trivia-inspired timed events. While I think the vision met the “compelling, borderline crazy” bar to get people excited about it, it failed to find its stride for a few reasons:
- Overly Broad Product Scope: In the beginning of a product’s life as an idea, it can be easy to try to be all things for all people. Some of this comes from people’s (and especially my) tendency to want to say “yes”. Yes, it features an evolving catalog of minigames. Yes, some of those minigames are fast-paced skill competitions. Yes, others test your knowledge. Yes, still others test your teamwork with friends. Yes, you can earn in-game rewards. Yes, you can form clans with your friends. Yes, there’s a 3rd party developer ecosystem. And an esport. Yes, yes, yes… Before long, we ended up with a product backlog full of great ideas but with no clear focus on how to prioritize feature development.
- Unfocused Target Customer:
- Failure To : Finally, because our target customer and product requirements were so unfocused, . The thematic feedback we received as we were playtesting ideas was, “This online service / platform / ecosystem could be awesome in the future, but at the core, the games just have to be fun.”
Even more fundamental, because we were trying to be all things to all people, we spent a long time failing to deliver something that was really compelling for any one target group. Again, it was too easy to lump every potential player into the addressable audience rather than targeting one very specific niche and winning them over.
Solve One Problem Really Well
we failed to really solve one pain point in a compelling way that would keep people coming back and eager for more of the product
As things were looking more and more grim in my search for viable game concepts, I remembered that I wrote a clone of a classic competitive block-matching puzzle game a few years ago. Because it was a spare time project taken on more to see if I could do it, I didn’t make much of an effort to establish an audience for the game before throwing it over the wall of the iOS App Store where it received a laughable number of downloads.
But having grown up playing the game a lot, I know there’s a small, passionate community of people who still love the game decades after its initial release (audience). I know that while the gameplay still holds up, the presentation and supporting features are solidly out of date (problem). I know that a modernized, connected successor to the game could make for something that its most dedicated fans could really love (product). And given the real-world constraints around keeping this dream startup alive (business), we have the building blocks for a reshaped product vision and strategy.
Borrowing from Roman Pichler’s excellent post on the Product Vision Board, I came up with this as a starting point:
It’s intentionally brief and low fidelity to keep myself from becoming too attached and reluctant to change. It’s been a great tool to align the team around who the game will serve, what the game will become and how it will provide value.
I still believe in the bigger picture vision of creating a connected network of minigames, but this more focused strategy should be a good first step in that direction, forming the basis for the next few months’ roadmap. More on that in a future post.