Gameplay Patterns

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Gameplay are actions you can take to influence the market. Some people might call these “strategic moves” or “stratagems”.

Most of these actions are typical business activities, but some involve deception, misdirection, or even things that might be considered an abuse of power. Wardley has used a Dungeons & Dragons alignment system to help characterize each action.

From chapter 11 in the book:

...there exists many approaches that you can deployed in order to influence the map. These approaches depend upon the map and the position of pieces within it i.e. they are not universal and you have to learn when and where to use them.[1]

From the blog:

I need to emphasise Sun Tzu's five factors in competition - purpose, climate, landscape, leadership and doctrine - however unfortunately most ignore climate & landscape (a bit like trying to use Boyd's OODA loop but ignoring the observe & orientate bit). The problem with this is that whilst the game plays can help you manipulate the landscape, if you can't see the environment then they can be downright dangerous. It's always a good idea to look where you're shooting before you fire the rifle.[2]


User Perception

These forms are about influencing (or manipulating) the end user view of the world.[3]


Overcoming user inertia to a change through education. There are 16 different forms of inertia and many can be overcome directly with education. Don't underestimate this.

    main page:  Education


Hiding a disadvantageous change by bundling the change with other needs.

    main page:  Bundling

Brand and Marketing

This is traditional marketing. Target a message to a specific segment of customers persuading them that your product is right for them.

    main page:  Branding and marketing

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

Creating fear, uncertainty and doubt over a change in order to slow it down.

    main page:  Fear uncertainty and doubt

Creating Artificial Needs

Creating and elevating an artificial need through marketing and behavioural influence. Take a rock and make it a pet etc.

    main page:  Creating artificial needs

Artificial Competition

Create another business that seems to compete with you to present an illusion of choice. This can also be used to push other competitors down the list of alternatives, and make them less visible / relevant.

    main page:  Artificial competition

Confusion of Choice

Preventing users from making rational decisions by overwhelming them with choice and making things hard or impossible to compare.

    main page:  Confusion of Choice

Lobbying / Counterplay

Persuading Government of a favourable position.

    main page:  Lobbying


These enable you to accelerate the process of evolution.

Market Enablement

Encouraging the development of competition in a market

    main page:  Market enablement

Industrial Policy

Government investment in a field.

    main page:  Industrial Policy

Open Approaches

Encouraging competition through open source, open data, open APIs, open processes by removing barriers to adoption and encouraging a focus for competition.

    main page:  Open approaches

Exploiting Network Effects

Techniques which increases the marginal value of something with increased number of users.

    main page:  Exploiting network effects


Working with others. Sounds easy, actually it's not.

    main page:  Cooperation


These enable you to slow down the process of evolution

Exploiting Constraints

Finding a constraint and reinforcing it through supply or demand manipulation.

    main page:  Exploiting constraints

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

Preventing competitors from developing a space including ring fencing a competitor.

    main page:  Intellectual property rights

Creating Constraints

Supply chain manipulation with a view of creating a new constraint where none existed.

    main page:  Creating constraints

Dealing with Toxicity

Elements of your value chain can become irrelevant over time due to evolution. It is important to deal with these situations deliberately, because they can create a toxic inertia. Part of the problem is that these bits of your value chain will seem valuable in the short term, so getting rid of them will seem like a loss. Customers, shareholders, and internal managers will resist this, and perhaps punish you or your organization for it.[4]

These are methods for managing toxic assets

Pig in a Poke

Also known as “putting lipstick on a pig”, this is the process of creating a situation where others believe the toxic asset has long term value and disposing of it through sale before the toxicity reveals itself.

    main page:  Pig in a poke

Disposal of Liability

Just make a decision and get rid of it. This might mean shutting down a project, firing a team, or setting an end-of-life date for a product.

    main page:  Disposal of liability

Sweat and Dump

Exploiting a 3rd party to take over operating the toxic asset whilst you prepare to remove yourself.

    main page:  Sweat and dump

From chapter 11 in the book:

A mechanism of disposing of legacy liability onto a third party by exploiting their own inertia to change.[5]


Getting rid of something that looks like an asset may anger investors, internal stakeholders, or customers, so reorganizing the work may help. Isolating the toxic bits can reduce the number of people impacted when you finally divest.



Standards Game

Pricing Policy

Buyer / Supplier Power

Last Man Standing

Signal Distortion




Threat Acquisition

Limitation of Competition

Raising Barriers to Entry

Managing Inertia


Defensive Regulation


Directed Investment

Fool’s Mate


Press Release Process

Personally, I would not call it a strategic play. It is just a small tool, which requires you to do two things:
* write a press release for your hypothetical problem
* verify it make sense.
The point is that if you can write it and it does make sense, then the market is well developed and ready for the transition to the Commodity space. However, if writing a press release is difficult, and it cannot be understood by the wider audience, then there is too much uncertainty, and the market and you are not ready for the change. You have to wait.[6]

Center of Gravity

Playing Both Sides

Undermining Barriers to Entry



Two Factor Markets

Also known as a two-sided market.

From chapter 11 in the book:

A mechanism of bringing providers and consumers together and exploiting network effects and aggregated data.[7]


Sensing Engines (ILC)

Also known as Innovate - Leverage - Commoditize

From chapter 11 in the book:

A mechanism of being the first mover to industrialise a component, allowing others (the ecosystem) to build new industries upon it and then using consumption data to determine future candidates for industrialisation.[8]

Co-opting and Intercession

Embrace and Extend

Copy all the features of your competitor, then add more, so that you become at first a compatible alternative, then eventually a preferred solution.[9]

See also: Embrace, extend, and Extinguish

Tower and Moat

Build a tower of revenue in a space, then acquire any new companies that have adjacent, relevant features to grow that tower, simultaneously eliminating any nearby competition. This creates a moat around your business such that any customer who wants capabilities remotely like yours can only get it from you, and any competitor has a large investment to make to approach your capability.

Channel Conflict and Disintermediation




Fragmentation Play

Restriction of Movement

Reinforcing Competitor Inertia

Talent Raid



General forms of playing with the future market

Land Grab

Identifying and position a company to capture a future market space.

First Mover

Exploiting first mover advantage especially with industrialisation to component services. First Mover and Fast Follower sound like they would be complimentary approaches, but they actually apply to different parts of the map. While Fast Follower is about whether or not to invest in genesis phase research, First Mover is focused on whether or not to invest in taking a component from product phase to utility phase.[10]

Fast Follower

Exploiting fast follower advantage into uncharted spaces. Let others do the expensive and uncertain research in the genesis phase, and only invest for yourself after they have identified a valuable use case. This strategy comes with some risks of of IP restrictions by earlier movers.[11]

Weak Signal / Horizon

Use of common economic patterns to identify where and when to attack.


General forms of preventing others playing with the future market. If you can't capture then poison it.

License Play

Use of licensing to prevent future competitor moves.

Can be useful when dealing with hostile forks or when doing a hostile fork. The main goal is to use a licence that cannot be accepted by your competition because it will harm its business.[12]


Either through talent or misdirection, encouraging false moves in a competitor. Basically insert useful idiots into someone else’s process (e.g.on a standards board) that will slow them down.[13]

Designed to Fail

Removing potential future threats by poisoning a market space before anyone attempts to establish it.

Start your own open source project before one is started by any of your competitors. Assume it grows well initially, and then poison it slowly. Your competitors will face a tough challenge - they will be convinced that such an initiative cannot really work, and it will take a really long time (or unexpected courage) before they decide to use open.[14]