A smarter way to play: Video games industry analysis, reviews & insight.
The video games industry is going through a period of radical change, thanks to the advent of mobile games, social games, free online games and more. While many exciting developments continue to happen on traditional systems such as the PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita, much more is going on in the world of free to play titles, iPhone and iPad apps, digital downloads and other arenas. Naturally, gaming insiders are working hard to adapt as Facebook games and zero-cost applications continues to take over – a topic we explore in the following video on the future of video games.
Looking for more information on where video games are headed in terms of both design and as a business? Check out Game Theory‘s website, chock full of articles, hints, tips, advice, news, trends and videos on the wild world of gaming.
Although it’s quaint to think of working together with someone online on a document or video project as something that can be done while sitting side by side on the same computer, most online collaboration involves the sharing of data and information across separate computers. And whether it’s a problem with large files or trying to decipher multiple edits being done in a parallel, the need for streamlined online file sharing is important for families, individuals and businesses. Thankfully, a number of apps, cloud computing solutions and Web services can teach you how to share data online in seconds flat.
Remember the old trick you used to use where you would e-mail yourself important documents prior to a presentation or meeting to make sure you could at least access them somewhere electronically should we need to make edits? There’s no need anymore, thanks to the rise of wireless networks, mobile devices and cloud services, which make the practice seem woefully outdated. Here are 7 better ways to share data online that don’t involve e-mail attachments.
- GoogleDocs – All you need is a Google account, and you can collaborate on documents and spreadsheets in the cloud. Google Docs eliminates worries over “version control” with quick, automatic saves that ensure that anytime anyone access the document, they’re seeing the most current version. The main drawback with Google Docs is that the functionality of their document and spreadsheet programs is rather limited, although the service does a good job of providing basic functionality and similarity to Microsoft’s popular Office products.
- Microsoft Office Web Apps – Since many folks are most well-versed in Microsoft’s Excel, Word and PowerPoint programs, it’s great that the company has found a way to allow these to be shared online collaboratively. Using only a Windows Live ID (and a valid license for Office products), you can store, edit and share your documents online the way they were created.
- Acrobat – Adobe’s file sharing solutions are less focused on group collaboration and more on interaction. Although the firm does allow for manipulation of their proprietary .PDF docs, it also provides a robust suite of web forms, online signing apps and even large-file sharing services that make it simple to share data online. Although each service does offer a free, limited trial, there are paid versions which allow for deeper and unlimited form creation and sharing.
- Dropnox – Dropbox allows users to upload large files and e-mail a link to others where they can download them, or collaborate and share using cloud folders whose contents synchronze across users’ desktops. It offers a decent amount of space for free (2GB), with bonuses for referring new sign-ups. Depending on your usage, you can update to 50GB or 100GB plans for around $100 per year or $200 year respectively, or choose a more serious, customizable option if your needs are greater than that. Dropbox makes file sharing extremely simple, and doesn’t require passwords for your recipients to download.
- YouSendIt – A service that lets you upload large files then send them to coworkers and family members as simple web links. YouSendIt’s paid programs are more impressive than the free service, although if your file is less than 50MB big, then YouSendIt Lite is a nice version. But for files larger than that, you’ll need to spend either $100 or $150 per year to receive greater storage, control over expiration dates, and even tracking results in the YouSendIt premium ProPlus package.
- Box.com – Box.com offers 5GB of free file storage, and offers a number of other user-friendly features, such as the ability to upload entire folders with of data and files at the same time. It also offers apps that are maximized for mobile devices, and provide online document collaboration as well. This is a great solution for businesses large and small that need a common drive for their materials that can be accessed by many different people from many different locations. Plans start at $15 per user per month, but the company also provides customizable options and quotes for businesses and users with greater needs.
- Google Drive – Google is attempting to make “cloud storage” simple, easy and understandable for casual users with Google Drive. Its simple drag and drop interface and connection to users’ Google e-mail accounts just may help them succeed. It’s a great free option, with up to 5GB for free to store photos, resumes, school projects and more.
For many businesses and startups today, less can actually be more. Credit the increasing popularity of minimum viable product (MVP) theory, a business strategy which advocates shipping smaller and more polished, yet less expansive and robust products more rapidly. Using its principles, businesses are able to rightsize products or services, bring them to market faster and more quickly generate stable income that can be reinvested into new iterations. Unlike crowdfunding (a popular form of online investment), MVP theory doesn’t ask consumers for funds; it does, however, provide considerable opportunity to solicit feedback and generate excitement among smaller target groups, letting you build better businesses and products.
According to advocates, it’s far preferable to produce a less complex product that’s built around a few artfully-realized features versus spending time and money on a far-reaching venture that tries to be all things to all people. By doing so, proponents say, you’re able to produce sharper results on tighter turnaround, offer more timely responses to market developments, and bring cash in the door faster, allowing for healthier, more organic growth. Moreover, once on the market, initial products can be used as an interactive focus test unto themselves, providing the chance to source consumer feedback that can be directly incorporated into future iterations.
Here are a few hints, tips and strategies for designing a product around this philosophy.
- Plan Extensively Up-Front and Keep Production Cycles Manageable — When scoping out a product and plotting a production calendar, by all means strive to innovate and push boundaries. However, a lot of companies undeniably kill their products through over-ambitious designs – a problem more commonly known as “feature creep,” or trying to cram in too much. One product can’t hope to please everyone though, and focus produces enhanced results. It’s far better to serve a niche with a brisk, but polished product with a handful of innovations than it is to produce an incredibly complex product that does many things poorly. Before entering active production, make certain to trim every bit of fat from concepts and designs, and allot extra time for building and testing prototypes that offer a vertical slice, or working sample, of the end product. This will allow you to quickly get a sense of how well concepts are coming together, create a working demo that’s ready to wow onlookers, and ultimately produce a clean, polished product that makes consumers happy and gets them talking. Be sure to source customer feedback as you go too, so that you can make adjustments to product designs and craft marketing strategies accordingly.
- Release in Parts Versus One Big Whole — Spending upwards of 12 months to develop a grand-scale product means that you’re taking a huge gamble. The virtual equivalent of reading tea leaves and hoping you’ll correctly divine where the market’s headed months hence, you might as well throw darts at a board and hope they’ll land on the correct guesstimate. Stakes are higher than ever today for those speculating on cultural zeitgeists as well. Fail to accurately interpret market forecasts, and your product effectively exists in limbo burning overhead for no good reason, only to flop when it’s eventually released. Instead of attempting to project so far out with ambitious designs, consider releasing more limited versions of your product in waves over the course of the same time period. That way, consumers can have access to the product sooner rather than later. This allows you to discern if a project’s connecting out of the gate at less expense, start the process of brand building and bring in revenue streams more rapidly that can help fund future projects. Moreover, a more piecemeal release schedule makes it far easier to respond to breaking developments in the marketplace, and tailor future versions of your product around direct fan feedback. Too many entrepreneurs spend millions up-front creating lavish websites, apps and services that hinge on consumers pressing a single button or answering a specific call to action. As MVP strategies illustrate, perhaps it’s wiser to see if you can cause any action whatsoever first before committing to thousands of man-hours of production, or piling more expensive functionality on the back-end.
- Expand Only as Progress Dictates — It’s important to get a polished, functional version of your product into the public eye as quickly as possible. But from there, you should also make a point of growing organically according to actual cash flow, and criticism and compliments from consumers. Expanding too fast or launching a huge product with a “bang” can potentially overwhelm your financial wherewithal or overwhelm the customer. Instead, it’s often smarter to grow at a slow and steady pace so you don’t needlessly inflate head count or monthly burn, and give a product the chance to evolve and find its core audience. Too many companies start with an overambitious plan which they’re pre-committed to adhere to, or push too far too fast in the hope of growing rapidly to meet investors’ expectations. The wiser goal: Work to build a small, loyal fanbase and stable recurring revenues, then reinvest in expanding your product and company. Once stability’s been established, you can see what’s working and adjust strategic roadmaps and plans for expansion or acquisition accordingly. Military theorist Carl von Clausewitz once observed that “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” As battle-hardened executive generals leading their troops to war well know, being flexible and able to turn on a dime is crucial to survival, today moreso than ever.