Game Producer Christmas Calendar – Day 9 (Santa Claus and the Art of Product Development)

Happened long time ago in some place far away…

Santa Claus was having a big problem: he wasn’t sure he could deliver all the presents on time this christmas! It was only a few weeks to the deadline. The marketing department had done a heavy campaign: in some places christmas ads had been displayed for months already! This year the xmas would be better than ever (no matter what the critics would say). This time it wouldn’t be just shinier or better looking xmas. This time it would be Xmas with a big X. This time the packets would be bigger than ever and better than ever.

Santa’s customers always wanted more. The client weren’t prepared to pay much (well, anything at all to be exact). They just kept writing more about what they wanted (for free). Sometimes Santa was getting a headache because some of the clients simply couldn’t believe that Santa won’t get them everything they want (like jetplanes) for Xmas. Yes, they would have to stick with the toy versions.

The hardest part of course was that Santa’s marketing department was promising everything (“yes, you can write to santa and ask for anything – even for a yacht if you want!”) whereas Santa’s development team was trying to get the marketing department to understand that shipping a ship to far away country would lead to logistic problems, not to mention that testing the ship’s cruising abilities would probably be missed due deadline pressures. And – like always – the answer from the marketing team came: “Don’t worry! We can patch the ship later if needed. Everybody does that.”. Santa thought that was bad practice but couldn’t help it. People wanted more and he had to try to do his best to meet those needs.

On top of all this, Santa had heard rumors that some people were not believing in him. They wouldn’t think he’d manage to give all the presents to people on time. They weren’t getting what was promised (by the marketing department – not by the Santa), so there were times when santa was thinking about going indie. that way he could make his own promises about the presents. The packages might not be as big, but at least there Santa could do what he loves to.

…But now it wasn’t time to daydream about “going indie”. He knew he had promises to keep, and deadline was coming closer. It would make no good to blame the marketing department or some of the lazy elves. Santa had taken this job, so he would take all the responsibility.

Suddenly, santa heard somebody knocking on the door. “Yoohoo, santa? You there?”. It was Grimmy the Elf. Santa’s little helper. Well, Santa didn’t know where that word “helper” made its way to the title (he always thought Grimmy more like a pain in the arse), but at least the word “little” in his name was true: Grimmy was one inch long (or short) gnome, maybe one and a half when he was wearing his party boots. Grimmy was santa’s guidance on all international business decisions. This time Grimmy would have good news: “Santa, I think our logistics problem is solved!”

After a long discussion, Grimmy left with haste. Santa had given him orders regarding how to proceed with the logistics. Santa sat down and took a glass of deer ale (made of something you really don’t want to know) and looked in the mirror with a smile in his face. He knew he had made the right decision about the logistics. This year everything would go fine. No more worrying about whether he could deliver the packages on time.

Santa had worried much about the shipping of all the items to different countries, not to mention the actual delivery inside the target countries. Santa had decided to use foreign work force for the first time in his life: there would be Santa’s “clones” standing in every shop in all over the world. These fake Santa’s would travel from house to house. The shipping would be handled by a big 3rd party logistics company United Delivery Packages (or UDP in short). Santa had heard some rumours about dropped packets by UDP, but he thought he could always sent them later through another company: The Company of Packets, that had guaranteed delivery. Santa thought that alternatively he could give orders to Grimmy to make sure that UDP would resend all the packets that would got lost. That would probably work too. This decision meant that Santa could focus only on doing his core business: developing good presents and drinking deer ale.

Santa started pondering more about this fine solution: why not outsource the work force too? Marketing department was already doing things on their own. The development team – the elves – could be replaced with Irish leprechauns (they were known for their cheap salaries and hard working attitude, even though their speech was not comprehensible), and Santa’s Intelligence (the team of gnomes that handle spying) could be replaced with low-cost clurichauns (which would mean that Santa would need to buy heavier locks on his deer ale cabinet). Heck, he could even outsource the gift wrapping. The northern post office could pack everything to envelopes. That way Santa could really focus on his core business – the deer ale.

After a series of thoughts of even bigger changes Santa remembered the wise words of what his twin brother Billy Claus had always told (not many knew Santa had a brother – even though Billy had sometimes delivered presents to kids when Santa was ill: nobody knew the difference). Billy had once said: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. Listen to me, hammering Grimmy is not going to help you on this. Now, put down that ugly thing… No, I meant put Grimmy down.”

Santa realized he was almost going too far with all this outsourcing. Just like when he was about to use the hammer when Grimmy had once again pee’d in Santa’s glass full of deer ale.

Santa realized that outsourcing wouldn’t going to solve every problem he was facing. He would need balance. He realized that outsourcing the core business would not be a good solution. Outsourcing something could be a good idea. He realized that there might perhaps come some issues with those fakes santas. Maybe some of them would not ever appear where they should. Maybe some of them would appear after drinking too much deer ale. (His brother Billy was not only giving good advice, he was also giving good examples. Examples on what had gone wrong when he was visiting kids instead of Santa). Outsourcing could work in some cases, but might bring different problems too.

Santa decided to stop thinking about this matter any more, and stick to his current decision. He would not outsource any more than made sense. He would use some 3rd party resources which would enable him to concentrate on making better presents. He would use some reliable 3rd party resources but would make sure that the core business would stay inside his warm cottage.

And so would deer ale.

Juuso Hietalahti