Start Up 2000 is tycoon training

Start Up 2000
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I don’t often do reviews. John says it’s like pulling teeth to get me to give him copy. I tell him that running a small publishing house is more like pulling teeth and that he should try it sometime. He then tells me that if I think I’m so smart I should review this new game, ‘Start Up 2000.’ Exit John, looking pleased with himself.

Start Up 2000 is a simulation of the business world and the insanity that surrounds the world of high tech start ups. From the demands that your investors can place upon you, to the marketing, to the production and personnel decisions, Start Up 2000 tries hard to give you a feel for the game we’ve all been watching for the last 10 years.

C’mon. Who hasn’t seen Steve Case or Bill Gates waving their billions and thought, "Man, I could’ve done that. They were just lucky." Well, let me tell you. I’m president of a start up firm right now and it takes much more than luck to succeed. It takes brains, drive and inspiration.

Start Up 2000 suffers from being unable to require inspiration or drive (inspiration is already taken care of by the products you can develop and market and there’s simply no way to require drive in a game that pushes five years into an hour or two). Brains, however, you better have, or at least a general business sense and the ability to learn from your mistakes. And you will make mistakes. Trust me.

Start Up 2000 is a difficult game. It’s easy to neglect something basic and have your creditors destroy the firm. It’s easy to market improperly and have no one purchase any of your products. This may be the most realistic simulation I’ve ever seen. The simple fact is that 75 percent (maybe more but that’s still shaking out) of start up tech firms aren’t ever going anywhere in the real world because their business managers don’t really know what they’re doing.

The most important rule that Start Up 2000 brings to the boardroom table is that of balance. It’s very easy to play to your strengths in the business world and no different here. If you’re a whiz-bang at finance you can get all the backing in the world but find yourself with no marketing department to sell or, indeed, no product at all! If you’re deeply into technology (as I suspect most of my readers are so be warned) you can have the best product in the world (by hiring the best, most expensive engineers) but not have any sales department or overall plan to sell it. It’s all a road to ruin.

Monte Cristo Games specializes in management simulations and they’ve captured the essence of the new economy in a nutshell here in one important area. It’s more important in launching a new company or product that the marketplace (and the industry) knows you’re going to have a product, then it is that you have the product itself. Having an idea and bragging about it skillfully is more important that actually developing the idea; at least at first. Once you’ve gotten the concept into the marketplace, Start Up does demand that you deliver the goods (yet another step that frequently kills new firms).

Start Up 2000 will give the player a good feel for what it takes to survive in the new economy. It can’t turn you into a high tech dynamo of business management but it’s good enough that, were I teaching an entry-level Business Admin course in college, I might require all of my students to master it as a class project. They’d sure come out of it knowing that there’s more to it than dropping all your cash on a 60-second Superbowl ad, I can tell you that.

So, as a simulation Start Up 2000 is certainly worth playing. Simulations should (in their essence) promote a greater understanding of their concepts and ideas in the minds of the players. Like the all time greats (M.U.L.E., SimCity, et al.) Start Up 2000 gets the job done. It’s worth a go. But don’t expect it to be as easy as you probably think.

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