A framework for understanding risks when developing new games

Those familiar with Inspired: How to create tech product customers love, will recognise Marty Cagan's '4 Big Risks' of product development, related to value, usability, feasibility, and business viability.

Let's recap these risks for the purpose of this article:

Value risk - will customers buy this product or choose to use it?

Usability risk - will customers figure out how to use it?

Feasibility risk - can our engineers build this product with the time and resources we have?

Business viability risk - does this solution work for the various aspects of the business?

Matej Lancaric has already talked about the optimal soft launch strategy for mobile games in 2022, so I won't cover the same ground as he does, rather I'd like to think about launching a new game as an exercise in risk mitigation. and provide a framework to enable developers embarking on new games projects to evaluate the risks they face and how to address them.

In this article I'd like to consider how this general framework could be translated into one that more accurately reflects the challenges of developing new games.

At the end of the article I will have provided a comprehensive overview of where the risks lie when developing a new game, and how savvy games developers can mitigate these risks.

Different types of risks

Marty Cagan's risk framework covers the challenges faced when developing new products for consumers and consumers well, but in order to apply it to games development, it requires further elaboration. We'll progress by taking each of the previously mentioned risks and considering it from the lens of a company embarking on their next game, amending it as necessary.

Value Risk

This category of risk deals specifically with the consumer response to the product that is being built. For mobile games, the value risk is better defined as:

Will users play this game and retain for a sufficient period of time?

Let's break this down a little bit to understand it better, what levers are available when preparing to develop a new game that can promote gameplay and retention?

The first thing to think about is who is a user for you? In Inspired, the advice is to always build new products and features with a single persona in mind. In the increasingly crowded mobile games space, differentiation in terms of target customer is essential. So how might you mitigate user-specific value risk? 

This comes from customer discovery, understanding the answers to the following questions on your target user:

  1. What mobile games are they currently playing?
  2. How long are their typical sessions?
  3. When do they tend to play mobile games?