BCG Matrix as a Product Roadmap

BCG Matrix as a Product Roadmap

The Boston Consulting Group Matrix is a useful way of viewing the stages of development of a product line.

It describes 4 phases of a product’s life cycle:

  • QUESTION MARK: Low market share, high market growth
  • RISING STAR: High market share, high market growth
  • CASH COW: High market share, low market growth
  • DOG: Low market share, low market growth

Originally developed to analyze cash flow, I’ve found it helpful to:

  • Pin down a product line’s stage and where it may be going
  • Choose product strategies
  • Identify and allocate resources

Question Mark
When a product begins its life-cycle, it remains an unknown despite our best estimates about who will receive it and how it will be received. Product development is the most innovative at this stage: taking risks, learning on the fly and adapting rapidly. The focus of efforts is on developing PRODUCT KNOW HOW.

Some companies don’t manage this phase well, hoping to jump to the cash cow phase without making useful adjustments and improvements, or taking advantage of learning opportunities that arise during this time.

Rising Star
The product takes off: it’s starting to make money. Development still needs to be nimble and make creative decisions but now must stay within the product’s initial framework and identity (i.e., no crazy changes). This is an excellent time to promote the product line and establish the company’s expertise in the space. The focus is now on PROMOTING the KNOW HOW.

Cash Cow
This is the pinnacle of the product line; it’s got a positive, steady cash flow. For some, it’s both the most boring and most desired phase of a product life cycle. Product development at this point is the most conservative and by-the-book. The focus is now on MAINTAINING the KNOW HOW.

The end phase for the product line. Sales are declining, market is compressing. This is the trickiest time for product development, since the options are now distinct and drastic: a simple make-over, major plastic surgery or a casket. The focus now is on WHAT TO DO with the KNOW HOW.

Some companies fail to recognize when the cow is dwindling into a dog. As a result, inappropriate product strategies are still maintained, hastening the eventual demise of the line and perhaps even, the company.

Analyzing The Offer in Fallout:New Vegas

Analyzing The Offer in Fallout:New Vegas

Continuing from my post on The Offer, I looked at Bethesda’s wonderful post-apocalyptic RPG, Fallout:New Vegas and their treatment of offers from the start of the game.

A game that flows well responds to the player’s actions which are motivated by what information the game ‘offers’ to the player.  This is important in story-based games especially ones that are non-linear where the player can respond in different ways.

Below is the listing of the offers, responses and honors in Fallout’s first opening minutes.  Offers are in PURPLE; a player’s response to the offer is prefaced with the offer they’re responding to (e.g., MURDERER is a player’s response to the offer of ‘Find out who tried to murder me’);  RED indicates an offer that is not honored (i.e., the player’s action results in no new offer); GREEN indicates an offer that is honored (i.e., the player’s reaction to an offer leads to something else usually another offer).

There is a lot of information conveyed in the opening, but key items that I recall are:

  • The game is set in post-apocalyptic Las Vegas
  • A guy in a check suit executes me in a graveyard with a water tower nearby
  • A doctor patches me up who tells me to find Victor who found me and Sunny at a Saloon
The opening then gives me offers that I can respond to: 
  • Find my MURDERER
  • Find VICTOR
  • Find SUNNY
As soon as I exit out of the doctor’s house, I get a great visual offer of a water tower in the distance on a hill.  I respond to this offer by traveling to the water tower to find clues about my assailant.  When I get there, I find a clue.
MURDERER: I find distinctive cigarette butts.
This is a weak offer as I am not sure what to do next but at least I am rewarded for investigating the execution scene and I have hopes that this clue will lead me to the man in the checkered suit. But I have 2 remaining offers of talking to Victor and Sunny.
En route to the saloon, I meet with Victor and talk to him.
VICTOR: While the honor of speaking with him is honored, it does not lead anywhere.
I go to the Saloon to talk to Sunny.
SUNNY: After she gives me a tutorial on shooting, she advises I talk to TRUDY in the saloon.
TRUDY: She tells me that the man in the checkered suit was with a group called the Khans and that they went north through Quarry Junction taking Route 93 to the Strip. This provides me with a new offer related to finding murderer, QUARRY.

And so the game continues with offers, responses and new offers.

So many times in story-based games, the next goal or means to achieve a goal is not well communicated.  It’s even more frustrating when a player is not rewarded for following an offer.  At times, offers may not lead anywhere as in the case of talking to Victor, but at least the player is given the option.

Pinterest and Acting

Pinterest and Acting

Imagery is a great tool for an actor to develop characters, visualize textual images and establish a context for the relationships.

Recently I’ve started to use Pinterest to collect and display images related to the characters and scenes I have been working on. It’s great that it’s so easily accessible so that I can look at it during down times like riding on the bus.

The Offer

The Offer

Improvisers have a wonderful term called ‘The Offer’.  Essentially it is any content that informs the audience and other improvisers about the scene, its characters and environment.  Offers are treated like a precious treasure, a tiny delicate baby, a new lover and all efforts are made to maintain and develop that offer.  And those efforts in turn become offers themselves.

A good improvised scene contains offers that are clear and connected.  One of the many sins an improviser can indulge in is to ignore an offer.  Doing so confuses the action, stops the flow of the scene and enrages the improv gods.

This “lens” of the offer, as Jesse Schell might call it, is useful to whip out to examine game design.  What offers in the game narrative are not developed or never used?  Is there something tantalizing that is offered that players can never interact with? How are offers emphasized in game content?

And offers are not just limited to game content. Look at your game packaging and marketing materials.  What do they offer the users?  Is there sufficient support for these offers in the game? Or does your game, Age of Zombies, only show the living undead in a cut-scene at the beginning and then one in a dungeon 5 hours later?


Old Game Quotes

Old Game Quotes

I’m doing some revisions to an older title and came across these gems embedded in a system file.

We used to collect funny quotes that would invariably occur during long hours of production.  Here are some of the better ones:

Karen: Why do you smell like lighter fluid?
Donovan: I have a Zippo in my pocket.

So we’re getting a better squish? – Karen on our new codec

The only free cheese you get is in a mouse trap. – Alena bestowing Russian wisdom

I’m finger-oriented. – Karen explaining the smudges on her monitor

Take that out of your mouth, son. It’s not real. – Wayne’s fatherly advice

That’s a lot of mustard. - Jan misinterpreting a carafe of orange juice

But… you shouldn’t have changed my body. - Robert exerting too much ownership over an animation

I like a chair that’s already formed to my butt. - Kyle