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Over the last few weeks I've been playing an idle game called AdVenture Capitalist. In this game, you play a businessman, running his various businesses from the comfy environs of your plush green lawn (and eventually your moon base). I realized this morning that, perhaps inadvertently, AdCap teaches a few very important lessons for people bootstrapping or starting up a business.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term "idle game", it's a genre where, after getting the ball rolling, you play a sort of managerial role. You usually can close the browser tab and come back minutes, hours, or days later and the game will have progressed in your absence. Kongregate has a whole category of idle games, containing hundreds of different variations on the theme.
AdVenture Capitalist begins with a single humble lemonade stand that earns just a few dollars every time you click on it's button. From there, you can hire employees, upgrade your stand, and expand into bigger and more profitable businesses. Among the clicktacular fun, there are a bunch of important lessons.
1. Multiple income streams are better than just one
After earning enough with your first lemonade stand, you can buy another one. Suddenly you have twice the profits for every click. After you earn enough with your lemonade stand empire you can expand into newspaper stands, car washes, hockey teams, banks, and eventually even oil companies. Each one of these businesses generates a different amount of profit every time you click on it, but together they throw off thousands, millions, and eventually tretrigintillions (10102).
The real life lesson is that, if you're running a business, it's important to have multiple diverse streams of income, so that if one goes south you're not left with nothing.
2. Take all the help you can get
AdCap starts out requiring you to actively click on a button every time you want to make money. Very quickly, though, you have the option of hiring a manager for your businesses. They take care of the nitty gritty day-to-day clicking and let you think strategically about your empire. In this case, the lesson are to hire out parts of your workload (bookkeeping, customer support, etc) so you can spend more time looking at the bigger picture.
3. Deploy capital efficiently
Another core feature of AdCap game mechanics is the notion of upgrades. After earning enough money you can upgrade your businesses to make the more efficient or enticing to customers. For example, the very first upgrade is "Little Umbrellas" for your lemonades, which triples your profits. In real life, you have to spend money to make money. Advertising, product updates, redesigned websites, all of these things cost money but, if you deploy your capital correctly, will bring in much more than what you've spent.
4. It's a waiting game
AdCap is, of course, an idle game. Just like your real-life business, you don't have to hover over it while making minute adjustments to progress in the game. All you have to do is wait for the results of your decisions. This can be pretty difficult sometimes, so AdCap gives you the option of "micromanaging" your managers, making them work harder but also making them angry in the process. If you work them too hard they'll quit, forcing you to rehire them for an exorbitant raise.
5. It's very easy to get distracted
"Oh, a new pizza place is only $10 trillion. click oh no, now I don't have enough to buy the next upgrade that increases my profits by 3x across every business!"
There are quite a few balls to keep juggling while playing AdCap or running your business. You have to keep your employees happy, balance cash flow needs with capital expenditures, and balance your capital between ten different business lines and dozens of upgrades to maximize your effectiveness. It's so easy to get distracted by the day-to-day mundane activities that you lose sight of your bigger goal. For AdCap, that's buying that final upgrade. In real life, it could be retiring at 40 and traveling the world, or amassing a huge fortune, or any number of other deeply personal goals. To get anywhere, you have to focus.
By playing a bunch of Adventure Capitalist I probably haven't been focusing on my own businesses as I should be. I'm going to get back to work soon, right after these next ten newspaper companies.