On Startups and Starcraft

I started playing Starcraft 2 about a month ago. I know I’m late to the party but I recently converted my HTPC into a gaming rig, and Starcraft became inevitable. If you’ve never played Starcraft before, this article may not make a lot of sense to you – sorry, here are a few links. Anyway, as I’ve been getting destroyed online (since I’m not very good), I’ve started to see some startling similarities to the strategies and tactics in Starcraft and those that we employ when building a startup. Fair warning, this is going to get pretty nerdy…

Starcraft and the Lean Startup Original Photo from kHovsT on Flickr


When playing Starcraft, you always have a rough gameplan going into each game, but you’ll rarely win by just keeping your head down and executing your initial plan. You need to constantly be scouting your opponent and adjusting your plans accordingly. The player who is constantly gathering information and adjusting their strategy will usually end up on top. Sure, you may get lucky and happen to blindly execute a strategy that ends up in a win, but it’s a longshot and you’re definitely not giving yourself the best chances possible for a win. Customer development, anyone? Which leads to the next subject…

Tech Switch

So you’re playing Terran and you’ve decided that you’re just going to amass a ton of marines and marauders. Honestly, not a bad strategy – but when you scout the Protoss player’s base, what do you see: Colossus and High Templars. Shit. You know your scant army of marines and marauders is going to get wrecked by this combo, and you need to change plans because your original plan is not going to work. It doesn’t matter how many marines and marauders you throw against those guys, they’re going to get shredded. Rather than panic and throw your army into a slaughter, you need to “tech switch” – so you start pumping out Vikings to counter the Collosus, and you build a Ghost Academy for EMPs to counter the High Templars' storms. A few things to note here: this would not be possible if you haven’t been SCOUTING! You would just be blindly running your army into a losing situation. Also, the time you spent building your Marine/Marauder army isn’t a waste, as you can more often than not reincorporate those units into your new strategy. You can’t get too attached to your initial plan, and you need to be flexible enough to switch it once you know it won’t work. Sounds an awful lot like a pivot…

Macro and Micro

If you’ve played or watched any Starcraft, you’ve heard the terms “macro” and “micro”. Macro essentially refers to the grander game mechanics including economy and unit production. It’s the big picture of what you’re doing. Micro is individual unit control – it’s the small, precision interactions. In Starcraft, no matter how awesome your micro is, you really need to have great macro as the backbone of your game. However, a player with great micro also gets a lot of small victories over the course of a game – an extra friendly unit saved here, an extra enemy unit killed there. As a startup, you have to have a solid strategy and a solid business model. No matter how hard you work, you need to be working on the right things or it doesn’t matter. However, if you have a great strategy and a solid business model, those small extras that you do every day can add up to a lot in the end. Macro is a necessity, but don’t underestimate how those micro interactions can add up in the end.

Ok, that’s all I got. Get out there and win some matches IRL.