Listening to feedback.

It's one of the hardest things to do for any entrepreneur. You feel confident in your decision-making ability, you have leadership skills and insight, and then customers tell you to go climb in a hole and stay there until you fix a problem.

You need more than thick skin. You need a suit of armor.

How you adjust to feedback is the one critical factor that separates good companies from great companies, and good products from those that stand the test of time.

For Hello Games, the problem is that their game, No Man's Sky, had so much promise and innovation before it debuted earlier this year. Then, gamers started to complain. The planets you visit all look the same. The narrative arc was disappointing. The repetitive gameplay seemed like it was designed by someone who played with too many red and blue Lego blocks as a kid and didn't experiment enough. Not only were gamers disappointed, they wanted their money back. Some were upset that the early previews of the game--which showed how you could fly to any planet and explore the universe--did not live up to the final game. And then, everyone forgot all about No Man's Sky.

This week, the developers released a free expansion that is a major step in the right direction. It allows you to build a base--a.l.a. another popular game called Minecraft or maybe SimCity--and even hire an alien to run things for you. There's an option to purchase a freighter so you can transport more of your inventory to other planets. Like the base on a planet, you can also expand the freighter. It's more than just "more stuff to do" in a game that already had plenty of busy work. It shows how Hello Games wants to expand No Man's Sky and meet the demands of gamers and not just accept defeat.

That's hard, though. Most companies might decide to move on and call a product a raging failure, one they'd like to forget about. Redemption comes through making something new and innovative all over again, not by making revisions.

No Man's Sky is trying to lure you back instead. I see some great potential to take the game even further. I imagine letting gamers build more spaceships and lead an entire squadron--bringing Star Wars to life. I pictured adding multiplayer so that gamers could then take their armada to another galaxy and take on other players. And, what about adding terra-forming for planets so you can design the gameworld itself, including the aliens and the creatures, the buildings, and every aspect of the game?

That's where the developers are heading, and it has made me want to go back to No Man's Sky after giving the game up for dead. Most companies don't do that. It's not a pivot as much as a chance to redeem yourself, to take your original vision, listen to complaints, and then prove you were right all along by making something even better. It's also not vindication. It's a way to motivate yourself to live up to customer expectations by going back to the drawing board and reminding yourself (and your team) about what you had written on the drawing board originally. It's redemption for your original vision.

Not many companies do this, though. I could see how Hello Games could have reacted when they noticed gamers were not happy. More than anything, they could have said: you don't get it. The original game was expansive and engaging, especially in how you would fly down to a planet and explore the surroundings. Even after playing the game for several hours at first, it was obvious to me that the game had untapped potential. That was my own disappointing discovery--what could have been. Now, with the expansion, called the Foundation Update, there is a silver lining in No Man's Sky.

Published on: Nov 30, 2016
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