Free MIT simulation has students compete as video game moguls

Anyone with a web connection now can engage in the marketplace maneuvering, pressure-packed decision making, and inevitable price wars that break out among business students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

For four years, students in John Sterman’s business management courses have gone toe-to-toe in simulated business arenas, with the latest being a concocted world of video game companies looking for an edge in marketing and selling their gaming consoles and software.

The university announced Nov. 30 that the popular simulation, known as “Platform Wars,” would be freely available on the MIT Sloan Teaching Innovation Resources website, following the lead of MIT’s OpenCourseWare program, a seminal experiment in higher education’s sharing of open course material.

In “Platform Wars,” students set the price of hardware, negotiate royalty rates with game makers, and decide if they should subsidize the first few games for their gaming system.

Sterman, a professor in MIT’s Sloan School of Management, said the chance to employ out-of-the-box strategies in simulated business environments has proven more valuable to his students than strategizing in the real world.

A simulation “is a safe container,” he said. “Students choose strategies that may not work just to learn about it, and your actual bank account isn’t drained if you lose millions in the simulation. … Like a flight simulation, you risk nothing.”

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