When I research something and build a plan for it, I really get invested and passionate about it. Then, I hope to see it fruition so I can believe my instincts were correct. As we begin to see Microsoft open up its Minecraft platform and launch larger education initiatives, I look fondly on this deck I created while interviewing with Microsoft two years ago.
After seeing this article (Microsoft Is Launching A Portal For Teachers To Use Minecraft In The Classroom) about Microsoft’s push to get Minecraft into schools, this reminded me of the strategy I put together as I interviewed for a role with the Xbox Minecraft team a couple of months ago. Although I was rejected, I still feel I was on to some solid thoughts, and I wonder how much of my strategy will be in the real one. You can see it below:
Context: Today, Minecraft is used as a tool by students and teachers to learn different subjects. Awareness of Minecraft is high. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that we are launching a new education specific version of Minecraft that leverages Minecraft IP and can be downloaded to be used in the classroom. Let’s also assume that today we are in 100 schools. We need to be in 10,000 schools in 2 years.
Question: How would you grow the EDU business, taking us from 100 schools to 10,000 schools? You are not allowed to bundle. Everything else is on the table. In your answer, please (1) be specific about your strategy and execution, (2) quantify revenue gain, (3) be specific about your pricing/distribution decision – how and why you did you price the product the way you did, (4) highlight any risks that you see.
You are free to use any publically available data and to make any assumptions that you think are reasonable. Attached is a number of public sources on the entertainment industry. Friendly heads up – many are not applicable.
I am reading a Harvard case study about Netflix for a class at Kellogg right now and reading about its timing of switching to unlimited rentals in the summer of 2000 reminded me of when I first heard about the company that would become RedOctane, the producers of Guitar Hero (did you see: Rock Band is coming back) and a startup success story.
I remembere the exact article posted on April 17, 2000 at IGN: WebGameZone to Offer Import Rentals
Ever wanted to play the latest and greatest games out of Japan, but don’t quite have the budget to do so? There are many titles that are already out that deserve a good run through, but with prices floating around $70 each, one cannot afford to play them all. Well one online retailer noticed this and decided to start a bold new venture: renting import Dreamcast games Online.
WebGameZone is taking the high price of 70 dollars per game and changing it to a simple $4.99 rental. The company is already known for being the largest online videogame rental store, but until now has never offered the latest Japanese titles.
So what does a five dollar fee get you? How does 10 days of usage sound? That’s right… you get over a full week of gaming for the price of a typical fast food meal. After you are done with the game, you just send it back in the pre-paid, pre-labeled box that is provided.
Obviously, we can’t guarantee the quality of the site’s service, but it is certainly something import-hungry gamers may want to check out. Thirty import titles will be made available at first, with more and more being added as time goes on. This is truly a unique venture, and will be interesting to see if it works out.
Both Mike Won and I read the same article and while I am not sure exactly what happened next, one of us found out the company was in Sunnyvale (in Silicon Valley, 20 miles away from where we lived in San Jose), and I contacted them right away about internships. I would have happily worked for free, but got a quick response from Juan, came in a few days later, met the rest of the team (Kai Huang, Charles Huang, Dean Ku, etc.) and essentially had a part time job (probably at $7.50 an hour) at the age of 19 shipping game discs and learning about Japanese import games for the Sega Dreamcast. This probably all happened within 10 days. I was employee #9 or #10 until I left to finish my degree at UC-Berkeley in 2002, but my time there in that first stint is summarized in my LinkedIn profile:
In my first experience with RedOctane (formerly WebGameZone), I started as an intern, learning about shipping logistics. Over time, I was promoted to Customer Service and given complete freedom (and responsibility) to interact with customers and learn how to resolve issues without backup support in a loss limited structure.
Through these experiences, I learned vital lessons about the human psychology, empathy, effective communication, and stress management, critical lessons I still use on an everyday basis.
Promoted from Intern/Shipping Logistics (2000) to Customer Service / Game Inventory Buyer (2001).
Other fun links I found: (but couldn’t find the old logo)
I came home to the USA to see Max Payne leaning on the job. Apparently, many others have seen their special edition Max Payne 3 figures lean to the right in Michael Jackson Moonwalker impersonations.