Lesson 13 of 15
In Progress

Purple Cow

Matthew Colon June 1, 2022

Product used to be sold on merit: this soap gets your clothes 13% cleaner than other leading brands.  That stopped working when tail fins on cars went out of style.  The new model is to be remark-able and tell a compelling story. 

Key Principle

Learn the fundamentals of marketing.  It isn’t copy writing or creative ads.  It’s baked right into the essence of the product.

Key Verse

Proverbs 22:29
“Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.”


  • Read the entirety of Purple Cow
  • Identify a non-AAA game (AA or below, made for less than $5m, or less than 25 full time people) that is a purple cow. Come prepared to explain your choice and describe, in detail, it’s otaku.  We’ll dedicate some time to sharing these analyses.
    • Example Purple Cow: Crusader Kings 2 by Paradox Interactive
      • Purple Cowness
        • Grand strategy game
        • Marketed as “This game is probably too hard for you”
        • Lineage with thousands of NPCs and story events
        • Sold 2m copies, 2.5m expansions. 5.5m cosmetic DLC
      • Otaku
        • Thousands of people have posted thousands of stories of what happened in a play through of CK2
        • Wikis guides and videos all just to learn
        • People play average 99 hours
        • One guy played 10,500 hours in 3 years
        • 3 years later 104,000 monthly players
    • The objective is AA or below because AAA comes from an established studio/brand and has the marketing (or brand power) to sort of force itself into being popular.  Using WoW as an example.  It was remarkable, but with such established brand and lore behind it it’s differentiator could simply be its reach, sort of like Walmart’s real genius is their distribution system not the stores themselves or the product selection.  WoW is the vanilla of MMO’s.  Until WoW there were games you would either love or hate, like pecan habanero ice cream.  But WoW came out with the “everybody” MMO, the Tide of games.  You don’t have to agree with this assessment, its just an illustration of why the objective is AA or below.  For those to take off and be center stage they had to be purple cow-ish.  And it will be easier to see.

Purple Cow Sharing

Each person shares what their purple cow game is, expresses why it is one, and then explains the otaku.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the major point of the book?
  2. How do you reach you?
  3. What did PUBG do in light of purple-cowness?
  4. How does Nintendo implement purple cow?
  5. Many of the examples from the book (circa 2003) are dated, like the cell phone.  And yet, is it?
  6. “People buy painted walls not paint.”  This is a great example of what is now called Design Thinking.  What are some examples you can come up with in games?
  7. “Safe is risky” How does this apply to game design?
  8. “Don’t be boring (or vanilla)” How does this apply to game design and/or game marketing?