MVP is a State of Mind, not a Version Number

Giff Constable social games, startups

I am not the heaviest of Quora users, but last week I saw three game designers I like and respect (Daniel James, Chris Carella, and Adrian Crook) answer the question, “How can we apply the idea of “minimum viable product” to online games? … What and where is the “minimum” of MVP reached for games?” Definitely check out their answers, but I wanted to chime in with a comment of my own.

A “minimal viable product” is about early validation (or invalidation).

A startup is never really validated until it is a smash success across both customer adoption and business model. Neither funding nor media hype counts.

I do not think of “MVP” as a single version or a point in time. Startups are not that binary. Rather, it is a state of mind and an ongoing process. Your goal is to validate/invalidate your ideas with reasonable confidence with the least amount of work, and “validate with confidence” is a moving target.

“MVP” is also entirely context-specific. It is not a tactic, or number of features, or level of UI sophistication. Your specific market/customer will define how much you need to accomplish before you can make your next wave of decisions based on user actions and feedback. However, be painfully ruthless with yourself and your product to-do list. It is insanely easy to convince yourself that you need more features than you actually do. Remember to focus on the core — what, at the very root of things — are you about? And how can you test that as simply as possible?