Niche markets are a specialised market type that attempt to create a product which will fill a gap for consumers and are often target a specific demographic. Globalised corporations, such as Amazon, are a prime example of companies that do not cater for niche markets, but instead will either ignore the niche demographic altogether, or purchase the company to gain access to that market (Kim 2014). A side effect of targeting niche markets is that it can catapult a company to becoming the market leader for that particular market. An example of this is provided by the heavy vehicles industry in which Volvo has gained almost 10% of the market in Australia and close to 50% in some EU markets (Chapman 2020; Volvo Trucks 2019). In the video game world, we also see the market dominance in niche markets captured by some companies. In Grand strategy games Paradox Interactive has released four of the last ten in this genre in the last five years, with no other company having released more than one. For a list of games see Table 1 below.
|2016||Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII||Koei||Win, PS, Switch, OSX||Steam link|
|2016||Hearts of Iron IV||Paradox||Win, OSX, LIN||Hearts of Iron IV|
|2016||Stellaris||Paradox||Win, OSX, PS, LIN||Stellaris|
|2016||Civilisation VI||Firaxis||WIN, OSX, LIN, SWITCH, IOS||Civilization VI|
|2017||Supreme Ruler: The Great War||Battlegoat Studios||WIN, OSX||Supreme Ruler|
|2017||Dominions 5: Warriors of the Faith||Illwinter Game Design||Win, OSX, LIN||Steam link|
|2018||Age of History II||Lukasz Jakowski||Win, OSX, LIN||Steam Link|
|2018||Making History: The Second World War||Factus Games||WIN, OSX||Steam Link|
|2019||Imperator: Rome||Paradox||Win, OSX, LIN||Imperator Rome|
|2020||Crusader Kings III||Paradox||Win, OSX, LIN||Crusader Kings III|
Grand strategy games in this sense can be defined as niche games. These types of games can have a single campaign that could run for many tens or hundreds of hours. A Forbes report in 2019 showed that on average gamers would play seven hours per week (Anderton 2019). This niche also encompasses the PC market as every game listed above is almost exclusively available on PC, with only three out of the ten available on different platforms.
The first task is to take on a city management style game, heavily influenced by game series such as Sim City (1989), Tropico (2001), and the Rollercoaster Tycoon (1999) series. These games are known to be the genre defining games of city management games and have influenced many games to varying levels of success over the years. Because of the large number of games that have been designed and developed in this genre, templating and running a working prototype would be quite easy to research and develop.
An appealing aspect of this project is the amount of funds that would be budgeted by the client to complete the project, paid out at specific times throughout development. Further, the tools that are developed to make the game remain the property of the software company and upkeep for the game is not required. This allows the company to enter a negotiation after the release of the game if they would intend to continue support of the game. However, as the project requires the use of our tools, progression can be slow to start off with while these tools are being developed, particularly as design and development is expected to be carried out in close consultation with the client. Secondly, the management of an online system would also require ongoing research to develop, along with a cost to setting up and maintaining the leader boards. Another issue within the proposed project is sourcing the art for the title and looking into the cost of hiring an artist vs purchase of premade assets. The online hiring employment agency Seek (n.d) claims that the average price for artists currently falls around $70k per annum. Therefore, the art for this game poses a risk to the overall budget.
As the client has requested a mobile application for IOS and Android, Unity would be the most suitable application to use for development. This is due to the fact that he tools within Unity are easy to manipulate for mobile development and are supported with online documentation and tutorials for crafting a game within the mobile asset (Unity Technologies 2021).
It can be surmised that from a financial standpoint that this project has the most undetermined costs of the three proposed products. The $50,000 contract provides a great incentive to choose at the start, but when broken down the project has many components that would need to be fleshed out to understand the overall costs to complete the project. The games IP would also not be owned by the software company; therefore, future profits would also not be available unless further negotiated. A development time of six months also means that timing may be difficult to manage and could create a crunch towards the latter stages of the project.
The second task is to take on the development of a VR walk through game like application for a local real-estate company. The game allows the users to choose an unfurnished apartment and then make decisions about the colour schemes, appliances, and furniture items to decorate the space with and share screen shots with other users to get an idea of what the finished product of the apartment could look like. Currently, there are a few companies that offer a true VR experience, with a majority of companies using the 360-camera setup instead, such as FKD Studio (n.d) and Odlo Interactive (2021; Turner 2017).
One of the reasons to select this project for development is the ease at which features such as selecting and changing colour schemes can be achieved. The scene would only need to be drawn per apartment to showcase with the items loaded in and out as selected by the user. The minimal upfront costs of the project are another great reason to consider this contract. However, issues that may arise include licensing certain pieces of furniture or appliances. As a developer, the company would require some guidance into the laws and rules surrounding the commercial use of other companies’ products or consider using generic, unbranded designs. Another potential issue will lay in the availability and purchase of the hardware itself. The hardware per unit within Australia is $479 (32GB) and $639 (256GB) respectively, along with shipping costs. Additionally, the hardware itself will require thoroughly cleaning and sanitisation given the current global pandemic.
As with the first project, the preference for development of this game would be Unity. The reason for this choice is based on research and documentation for the use of Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality (Unity Technologies 2019; Unreal Engine 2021). Unity projects have also more recently gathered some high-profile clients that use the interface, including car manufacturer Audi, who use it with engineers to show individual components of all the parts of their vehicles (Taner 2018). Furthermore, Unity is the preferred language of the community, as development of VR tech has naturally been integrated within to .NET/C# framework (Microsoft 2021b).
Overall, this contract is an interesting choice and would provide an opportunity to work with exciting technology. Two of the main identifiable problems will be sourcing both content and designs from the companies that would allow for their products to be used within the apartment scenes, along with the sourcing the headsets for both development and use at the national marketing launch. An advantage of this project is that a lot of the tools produced, especially in the XR world of development, would be tools that could be readily reused.
The third task involves developing a game like application to aid in the management of personal finances, with the possible inclusion of other life tasks such as mental fitness further down the line. The development of this application would require interfaces that need to be able to support databases and display the data in either text or graphical charts for the user to manage. The database should be online with an account so that users can access the data from multiple devices. It will also need to incentivise habits and promote goals to allow users to feel rewarded for working towards them.
Currently on the market, the closest applications that fit the current brief are:
Mint (2006); Raiz (2016) and Goodbudget (2009). These applications would be extremely difficult to compete against as they are the top of the marketplace. Not only do these applications provide monetary commentary for the users, but they also provide things such as super investment (Raiz 2018). Moreover, the financial sector within Australia has also incorporated the personal finance of clients details within its own bank apps. The new features track spending, saving, and can even track upcoming reoccurring expenditures. Ideally, the application should incorporate more than just the finance aspect.
In the short term the project would not need the use of any high-end game engines and could be developed within the .NET framework as they have many graphic interfaces to invest in, along with deployable application access that can be run from Azure (Microsoft 2021a). It would be hard to calculate the growth of the application without having money spent into advertisement, as growth is not a known calculation. Therefore, in the long term, growth will be dependent on the scope of the project, which could arguable be ongoing for months or years. This project would involve a substantial amount of work that would be difficult to undertake as a solo project and would require some additional skillsets to be developed for such things as data security and online data retrieval. Getting infrastructure to store the data would be an ongoing cost and in a small capacity would be extremely difficult to do without the backing of a major service provider such as AWS (Amazon) or Azure (Microsoft).
This project would be the hardest undertake of all three projects as the other companies that are providing similar services are at a considerable advantage compared to what is available to start the project with. It would also necessitate understanding many disciplines outside of the world of programming and could require quite a bit of money to start up the program. However, if commercially successful, the financial gains would be much higher than the other two projects.
After evaluating the three projects, the one with the most potential would be the financial application. The project has a scale that could grow out of scope very quickly, has many unknown variables, and competes with an extraordinarily strong emerging market in this category. It would be hard to gain commercial success without first putting many hours and a lot of self-financed funds into it. In contrast, the higher appeal of project one is that it would be the easiest of the three to implement. The resources for building this type of game already exist, therefore having a working prototype would be the fastest to concept. But as stated previously, the ongoing costs are undetermined, and it has a chance of costing more than the funds allocated would be. Another point to mention is the loss of the IP after the project as the finished project would be owned by the company, and not by us.
Ultimately, the second project would be the product of choice as the VR project provides the most certainty of the three proposals. The scale of the project is achievable, even with the potential of scope creep in the six-month project, it has a guaranteed income and dependent on the work, has the potential for large scale commercial release. While like the first project the chance of gaining further work is not ensured, being able to adapt many of the resources for further projects in VR will go a lot further than the tools built in the first project.
Anderton, K 2019, Research report shows how much time we spend gaming, Forbes, viewed on 18 February 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinanderton/2019/03/21/research-report-shows-how-much-time-we-spend-gaming-infographic/?sh=76514c163e07
Chapman, R 2020, 2019 Australian truck sales – who grew, who didn’t, Trucksales, viewed on 16 February 2021, https://www.trucksales.com.au/editorial/details/2019-australian-truck-sales-who-grew-who-didnt-122323
Chris Sawyer Productions 1999, RollerCoaster Tycoon, PC game, Hasbro Interactive.
Dayspring Partners 2009, Goodbudget, Mobile Application, Dayspring Partners.
FKD Studio n.d, 360, 3D & Virtual Reality, viewed 19 February 2021, https://fkdstudio.com.au/vr-virtual-reality-architecture/
Kim, E 2014, Amazon buys Twitch for $US970 million in cash, Business Insider Australia, viewed on 16 February 2021, https://www.businessinsider.com.au/amazon-buys-twitch-2014-8?op=1&r=US&IR=T
Maxis 1989, SimCity, PC game, Electronic Arts.
Microsoft 2021a, Azure, viewed 17 February 2021, https://azure.microsoft.com/en-au/
Microsoft 2021b, .Net, viewed 17 February 2021, https://dotnet.microsoft.com/
Odlo Interactive 2021, 3D virtual tours, viewed 17 February 2021, https://www.odlointeractive.com/
Patzer, A 2006, Mint, Mobile Application, Intuit.
PopTop Software 2001, Tropico, PC game, Gathering Developers.
Raiz Invest Limited 2016, Raiz, Mobile Application, Raiz Invest Limited.
Raiz Invest Limited 2018, Raiz Invest super, Mobile Application, Raiz Invest Limited.
Seek n.d, How to become an artist, viewed 18 February 2021, https://www.seek.com.au/career-advice/role/artist
Taner, S 2018, Audi uses modular solution for virtual reality training, viewed 17 February 2021, https://www.audi-mediacenter.com/en/press-releases/audi-uses-modular-solution-for-virtual-reality-training-10767
Turner, A 2017,Virtual reality helps building plans feel like home, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 18 February 2021, https://www.smh.com.au/technology/virtual-reality-selling-virtual-reality-estate-20170628-gx02fg.html
Unity Technologies 2021, Mobile, viewed 18 February 2021, https://unity.com/features/mobile
Unity Technologies 2019, XR documentation, viewed 19 February 2021, https://docs.unity3d.com/Manual/XR.html
Unreal Engine 2021, Virtual reality development, viewed 19 February 2021, https://docs.unrealengine.com/en-US/SharingAndReleasing/XRDevelopment/VR/index.html
Volvo Trucks 2019, Volvo trucks retains largest market share in Sweden for 3rd successive year, Volvo Trucks United Kingdom & Ireland, viewed on 16 February 2021, https://www.volvotrucks.co.uk/en-gb/news/press-releases/2019/jan/pressrelease-190109.html