Shipping software at 20% completion

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I just read this very interesting article from The Economist about two very innovative game companies from Japan called DeNA, which has become famous for an addictive game called “Blood Brothers” and its rival GREE.  They’re both mobile game companies that allow you to download their game to your smartphone or tablet for free, but charges for add-ons that increase your chances of winning.
 
Combined they have posted revenues that has already exceeded Facebook and unlike the game company Zynga famous for Facebook games such as Farmville, are turning serious profits (DeNA made 20.4 billion yuan last quarter which will exceed all of Nitento’s yearly profits this year alone).
 
Most interesting for us as Agile project leaders is their model of production deployment:
 
The secret of their success, they say, is their head start in Japan thanks to fast mobile-phone networks that made it easy to play games while commuting, or during spare moments. By studying their customers, they learned a lot. DeNA, for example, found that the average user played for seven minutes, five times a day. So casual gamers need shorter, punchier games than do hard-core gamers who goggle at big screens for hours at a time...
 
DeNA first puts out its games on browsers rather than applications, which allows for “tweaking and tuning” in real time, says Mr Moriyasu. A Japanese game may be only 20% completed when it is made available to gamers. Its developers believe this enables them to finesse it, so that it stays popular for longer.
 
So going by Agile standards, they probably run a iteration or two when the game is at a “potentially shippable product” state then deploy and constantly tweak the game based on tracking and customer feedback all the while generating revenue from add-ons that allow customers to continue on with the game.
 
It has become so addictive that Japanese regulators are scrutinizing practices such as users being allowed to collect “randomly generated tokens that the regulator likened to a slot machine.”
 
In any event, this example shows how the mobile gaming industry which is growing by leaps and bounds is pushing the envelope with respect to Agile practices and methods.
The secret of their success, they say, is their head start in Japan thanks to fast mobile-phone networks that made it easy to play games while commuting, or during spare moments. By studying their customers, they learned a lot. DeNA, for example, found that the average user played for seven minutes, five times a day. So casual gamers need shorter, punchier games than do hard-core gamers who goggle at big screens for hours at a time...
 
DeNA first puts out its games on browsers rather than applications, which allows for “tweaking and tuning” in real time, says Mr Moriyasu. A Japanese game may be only 20% completed when it is made available to gamers. Its developers believe this enables them to finesse it, so that it stays popular for longer.
Posted on: November 23, 2012 02:32 PM | Permalink

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