5 Startup Lessons Learned from Call of Duty

Patrick Sheridan

March 5, 2013
codmw3

Playing XBox Live allows our distributed team to connect on a personal level and decompress. As our COD gameplay has improved, we’ve noticed that breakaway players have developed ‘cash management’ and ‘juggernaut’ strategies that allow for survival in to upper waves. From here, clear parallels into our own strategic planning conversations evolved.

1 – Know Your Map

mw3-map-funnels

Identifying and building your funnel can mean life and death. Every map has a choke point or ‘funnel’ that give the maximum advantage to the defender (you). Positioning sentries and selecting the right cover leads to massive kill streaks and cash bonuses. Picking a defense position equidistant from the Ammo, Air Support, and Explosives stores enables efficient resupply of resources.

Startup Lesson
Identifying advantageous market conditions matters as much, and sometimes more, than business model. Modus was founded two years before we expected HTML5 to be ready. This affected how we positioned the company AND the offers we rolled out as market conditions matured and HTML5 apps became a more viable solutions for enterprises.

2 – Conserve Cash and Ammo

Air support armory

Exploit the Funnel
Once your funnel is setup, the choke point on attackers leads to massive kill streaks and rampage cash bonuses.

Conserve Ammo
Saving the $750 on ammo refills is a huge advantage. Scavenging and exhausting all free attacker dropped ammo is a clear sign of a pro. Clearing as many waves as possible with dropped weapons positions you to have massive reserves when you need them against the real heavy competition.

Build a Juggernaut Warchest
Predator missiles cost $2,500 and do the job for sure, but why waste the dough when two flashbangs and $750 in ammo will also do the job? Saving money and heavy weapons for later rounds is key when attack choppers and juggernauts make expensive predator missiles a must have.

Startup Lesson
Revenue is water but cash is air. You can survive without revenue but will die quickly without operating cash. You don’t need the best office chairs or expensive PR firm to succeed. Spend your money on the things that matter. As a bootstrapped, “customer financed” business, Modus has been able to self fund growth by continually reinvesting in our business and building a war chest of cash reserves.

3 – Over Communicate

mw3-revive

Unrecoverable distance
In the midst of battle the last thing you want to hear is, “Help me out, I’m down over here!” Allowing an unrecoverable amount of distance between yourself and a teammate has ended many a good run. The more waves you survive, the less time you have to reach and revive a downed teammate.

Playing without a headset
Playing on XBox Live without a headset can be like flying blind when the going gets tough. Knowing where someone is on the map is not as valuable as knowing what help they need.

Startup Lesson
Your team cannot read your mind. Add distance with a distributed team, add communication overhead or suffer the consequences. Lack of “shared understanding” is the biggest reason why software projects fail.

4 – Pick Perks Wisely

mw3-perks

Match Perks to Maps
“Sleight of hand” or “Steady Aim” can make all the difference based on the map and the wave. They are expensive and offer significant advantages, but incorrectly chosen perks are a huge waste of money and offer little return.

Startup Lesson
Useless optimization kills products and businesses. Build feedback loops with your customers and practice a “near real-time” LeanUX approach to validate features and “delighters” on your product roadmap match to actual user needs.

5 – Triple Juggernaut Strategy

mw3-juggernaut

Single, Double, and Triple Juggernauts
By the time you are facing triple Juggernauts with riot shields, you realize you thinking has to change to survive. You can no longer use a ‘hold your ground’ approach and must find creative ways to lure Juggernauts into positions that give you the kill advantages. Multiple Juggernauts will actively move to kill your defenses before coming for you. Knowing this is not good enough, you have to act on it to survive.

Startup Lesson
“Pre-Success” and “Post-Success” strategies differ. Once you are taken seriously as a competitive threat, your should expect to face offensive and defensive moves by the incumbents you are attempting to disrupt.

Image credits:
http://images.wikia.com/callofduty/images/8/89/Map_Underground_MW3.png http://www.imodernwarfare3.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Airsupport-armory-443×371.jpg http://images.wikia.com/callofduty/images/3/38/Reviving_downed_Osprey_survivor_Special_Delivery_MW3.png http://gametechx.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/modernwarfare3perksscre-300×164.jpg http://images4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20111021012661/callofduty/images/7/73/Juggernaut_MW3.jpg



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