Business Games That Make Work Fun and Hone Skills
You, too, can conquer foreign markets, make a movie, or run a plant
Entrepreneurs are so eager to succeed in business that they'll pick
the brains of complete strangers on the Web or attend motivational seminars
by self-appointed gurus. Business Week's Frontier Online suggests a more congenial option -- business computer games. We tested three to see if we could polish our skills: Stardock's Entrepreneur 1.5, Hollywood Mogul 2.01, and a beta version of Tsunami Media's Free Enterprise: Educational.
Though each game uses a different metaphor, all force you to make
tough decisions. Whether you manufacture screwdrivers or peddle advice, your ability to
make profitable choices gets tested and strengthened. Of course, what makes
games gratifying is that you see the results of your decisions in half
an hour -- and you don't loose your shirt.
Stardock's Entrepreneur might be up your alley if you have foreign ambitions. Gung-ho music and warrior graphics reinforce this game's goals: crush competitors and build a global empire. Players pick a product and a startup region. We launched a cola company in Central Asia
with $5 million in capital. Armed with profit-and-loss statements and graphs
comparing our revenue to that of our rivals, we saturated three countries in
under 30 minutes. But different regions respond to different cues. Health,
for instance, was a big selling point in one region. So we created a marketing
campaign to promote our cola's salubriousness. News flashes about competitors'
moves helped set our course for corporate domination.
We dealt with limited local resources and low staff morale. Graphs showed
how productivity suffered when we lost market share, and profits dipped as we
expanded too fast. Valid lessons. Of course, games have their limits. We
took Poland by storm with a push of a button. But Entrepreneur's premise
misses one point: For small businesses, cooperation -- not crushing
rivals -- is likely to be the key to fast growth.
The minimum requirements for this $29.95 CD-ROM are a 486 PC with
66-Mhz processor, 16 Mb of RAM, and a sound card. A demo version is available
Hollywood Mogul operates on a big scale, but for entrepreneurs who fantasize about the movie business, it's worth noting that the industry attracts huge numbers of small service companies. Here you run a studio with a $1 billion budget. We bought the rights to a thriller called Missing Anna for $2.55 million. We set the movie's tone -- in terms of violence, nudity, and foul language. Then, we hired a writer, the supporting actors, a hot-shot director, and a producer. Note: You can be turned down. Some performers won't do
nude scenes or stunts.
Even though we hired a low-budget crew, we still spent over $20 million before production started! On a tip from the hints box, we borrowed $70 million at 10%. The game kept a log of projects, including cost-to-date, delivery schedules, and the status of each movie. We even created an advertising campaign.
The minimum requirements for this $39.95 CD are a 486 PC with 8 Mb of RAM
and a sound card. To order, call 800 699-4263. You can download a demo
version and free upgrade at www.hollywood-mogul.com.
For entrepreneurs who really want education, there's Free Enterprise:
Educational (Tsunami Media also sells an entertainment version for $39.95).
Written for the corporate-training market, this program lets you play endless
what-if games with a manufacturing company.
Free Enterprise's opening screen is a three-dimensional overview of
a plant floor. We launched a digital-radio plant in Charlotte, N.C. We
hired and fired employees, and monitored their stress levels. We decided
how many products to make. Players adjust detailed tables of parts, cost
per unit, and selling prices. As CEO, you have access to complete financial
reports. You even control the company's checking and savings accounts and
make transactions. And when it came time to retire, the game compared
our net worth to that of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
The minimum requirements for this $69.95 game include a 486 PC (a Pentium
is recommended) with a 66-Mhz processor and 8 Mb of RAM (16 Mb is suggested).
To order, go to www.tsunamimedia.com or call 209 683-8288.
By Gail Gabriel in New York