Friday, December 3, 2010

Disruptive Business Model: Level Editing

In my work I have lots of conversations with companies that consume 3D visualisation technology. I am noticing that these companies have a habit of investing in such systems using a business approach of purchasing the visualisation as one large artifact, lock stock and barrel, and in the process being charged exorbitant amounts of money for every modification and new feature to be adde. In addition, some of the extensions are to me trivial, and not worth the money paid.

This reminds me of the old school processes used in software production, when I was a callow youth at La Trobe University in the late eighties. It was noted then that bespoke creation of software was prohibitively expensive, and that new packages were being created to facilitate the easier and cheaper process of "configuring" a shrink wrapped package to be the company's information system, especially for small enterprises.

I teach a lot of students in games project units at QUT, where students will take the position of a level designer for the project team. Once content is created by the animators/artists to fulfil the look and feel of a game design, it can then be reconfigured via simple(r) scripting by the level designer, who may have limited programming skill sets, but can develop event models of gameplay for the environment.

So why are companies purchasing such enormously expensive bespoke systems, when they could hire a graduate to reconfigure present systems for a potentially cheaper price? Strikes me that there is a disruptive style business opportunity due to three reasons:
  1. Cheap technology can cope with this task - there are lots of game engine level editors out there that can do this work easily, which contain low barrier to entry scripting languages.
  2. Skilled workforce is available - universities are teaching this technology as part of games and simulation degrees. Lots of non-programming people have also participated in modding communities, doing similar tasks with games like Half Life 2.
  3. Content is much more easily available - Google Sketchup Warehouse et al. has delivered a lot of content for people to use, at cost or even free.
We'll see what happens over the next few years in the business visualisation/simulation space, but I expect these forces will bring about an even greater dispersion of such technology, to the point that 3D virtual worlds and related components will become affordable to SMEs in many new application domains. Might make a good research topic for an IS PhD. :-)


1 comment:

jimmy said...

Hi Ross, I suspect it doesn't happen because most companies want a turn key product - making the savings and getting the benefits you rightly mention probably just seems too *hard* in the scheme of things - it would feel very "non-core" to most, even if in reality the case is compelling.

My guess would be the smaller the company, and the more autonomy/personal accountability given to senior management, the more likely they'll be to use your approach. Pure conjecture on my part of course!