You're reading the blog of

Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Co-Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

Startup Monopoly

I'd like to build a simulation game about tech startups for wannabe entrepreneurs and investors.<...>

My problem is that I have too many ideas at present, which means the gap between any one of those ideas and actually executing on them is growing.

That, and the fact that I have absolutely zero knowledge of how to go about building a game. Much less selling it and making money.

So in an effort to use the momentum of the idea to take action, I'd like to share what I have in mind here and maybe one thing ends up leading to another...


Background

As a kid, I used to love games like Transport Tycoon or Pizza Tycoon. I spent way too much time playing these games and I loved being an uber-capitalist in my pursuit of victory.

It's also this same capitalist-approach that had a massive influence on my gameplay when I got stuck into strategy games like Age of Empires, Command & Conquer and Warcraft later on. I loved compiling as many resources as possible and then implementing them in the best way possible to overpower an opponent. (Suffice to say, I was really shit at accomplishing specific missions.)

Later on in my life, I stumbled into another black hole when I was introduced to Championship Manager 97 / 98. This proceeded to consume so much of my time as I started building dream teams that could conquer the world.

I used to wait in anticipation as every new, annual version of the game was released, because that meant updated statistics, players and leagues. I also have to be honest about the fact that I've invested more than 100 hours into playing Football Manager 2014 during my pause. It's addictive okay.

By now though you should see a recurring trend: these games combined fantasy with real-life simulation in a way that totally appealed to my own ambition and interests.

It's now this same itch that I'd love to scratch by creating a game that involves tech startups.

What would the game do?

At present, I have two different ideas for the game and depending on how extensive the project ends up being, it's possible to combine both of these ideas into one:

  1. In a "Startup Tycoon"-type game, you'd be the entrepreneur that starts a new business. You'll have to decide whether you want co-founders, how you're gonna fund the business (VC or bootstrapping), who to hire, employee stock options, product feature prioritizations etc. The ultimate goal being to create a company that you can sell to one of the big boys.
  2. The alternative would be a "Startup Monopoly"-type game that uses similar game dynamics to the Monopoly board game. Here you'd be an angel investor with the goal of investing in startups and building a budding investment portfolio.

The combination I mention in the first is intruiging to the extent that you can found your own startup, sell it and then invest that cash into other startups.

The Possibilities of Real Data

The last couple of editions of EA Sports' FIFA franchise, have included an interesting game mode called Ultimate Team. The premise of this is that you build your own (dream) team locally (in a type of card trading game) and then you compete within leagues online against other players.

Similarly, they've also been linking in-game players' attributes and ratings to actual, real-life performances. So if Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo had shit games for their respective clubs on the weekend, they'd have a decreased rating in the game if they're on my team.

Both of these have interesting applications to either a tycoon or monopoly style game.

My mind immediately moves to existing API's like AngelList and Mattermark. Imagine building a startup investment game that uses real (and real-time) data.

The other possible application is to do a Tycoon-like MMOG of sorts, where you can start building your own startup and then you trade cards (employees, products, algorithms, opportunities or investments) with other players. Again using an existing API or creating an API specifically for the game (to fuse it with real data) could be really exciting.

The Format

My gut-feel would be to do something web-based with really slick mobile versions, instead of investing heavily in native iOS or Android apps. I'm also cautious of targeting either iOS or Android (with a preference for the former) exclusively.

I'd also look to include a big social component to this, without necessarily building the game on top of Facebook, instead preferring to create my own ecosystem.

The one lingering thought I have though (that completely contradicts the notions above) is to actually create a board game instead. Yep, a physical board game. No real-time data; just something like Monopoly, which is a classic that people still enjoy today.

Who's Gonna Play This?

Well, I'd love to play this game. :)

Beyond that, I can see a younger generation (read: kids) who have an interest in tech startups play the game as a way to expose them to something that they can realistically do themselves in the future. That probably sounds ridiculous considering that we've seen entrepreneurs raising millions of dollars in funding at the tender age of 16. (I feel old.)

I however also see existing entrepreneurs and startup people play the game. The trick would however be to find a balance between fun (allowing the players to escape the world within which their jobs live) and realism (this isn't purely fantasy either).

Building The Thing

I wouldn't be able to comment on the technical aspects involved, so there's no way that I can gauge (at least at this stage) what kind of time and cost investment is involved in something like this.

That said though, pushing this to Kickstarter seems to make most sense. Kickstarter seems like the kind of platform where an idea like this will either get a lot of traction or it won't, which is good either way.


So What's Next?

You can consider the above a brain dump.

I love the idea and I'm sharing it with the hope of actually getting some feedback / traction (in whatever form). I don't think it's the most unique or the greatest idea ever and I certainly don't feel like I own the idea. If anyone thus decides to run with it, please just e-mail me when your V1 is ready. :)

Seriously though, if anybody is keen to work on something like this, send me an e-mail. I have great connections, a nice audience and some cash that can help make this a viable project.

Join 3,000+ rockstars who get my best content directly in their inbox: