How We Apply Business Logic To Sega’s NHL 95

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From The Strategy Desk,

Here at the BNOTIONS office, there’s a semi-large group of us who have become fanatics of the NHL 95 video game for the Sega Genesis. Our love of the game is not just because we’re a bunch of 26-32 year old males who grew up playing the game. We love the game because it’s a throwback to what makes a perfect game and an excellent user experience:

1) It’s only two buttons: on offense, it’s pass and shoot, and on defense, it’s body check and change player. There are no complicated movements or gestures.
2) The game allows you to make it as simple or complicated as you want. We opt for the former, turning off penalties, offsides and line changes.

Simplicity is what brings the game to an addictive state. You’re not inundated with decisions about how to tailor the game–it’s simple and the same for everyone. By limiting the variables only to what is core to the users’ experience you submerge them immediately into the thrill of the game.

Beyond NHL’s 95 excellent game design, its lessons can be applied to general business and product strategy.

The Benefit Of Delayed Gratification:

Within leadership texts, most notably Ray Dalio (, there is a lot of talk about how delaying gratification is the key to long term happiness. The same is true in NHL 95. On defense, it may be enjoyable to go for the big hit (especially if it’s on the bane of my existence Alexander Mogilny), but this will usually take your defender out of position, leading to a one-timer in the slot. As in real hockey, poor defensive positioning will lead to lots of goals and lost games.

The same can be said of product decisions. At BNOTIONS, rather than making “me too” decisions, we preach taking a long term view. We focus on building products for where the market is going, avoiding the short term wins that could leave us in a poor strategic position for the future.

Establish Your Moats:

Great companies build large moats. Moats, as espoused by Warren Buffett (, are the things you build to protect your business from competitors. In NHL 95, your moat is your best player and how you use him. If you have a sniper, then your moat is the ability to create passing lanes to get him one timers. If you have a great goalie, then your moat is your ability to stay in the slot to ensure he only faces weak shots. If you have speed, then your moat is holding onto the puck to ensure your opponent can’t get shots. The better your moat, the less of a chance you’ll lose.

Similarly, when making product decisions at BNOTIONS, we look to see where the competitors’ moats are weak: What areas we can exploit, where we can take market share, and what moats we can create to ensure share can’t be taken from us. We realize that in technology, the battle is for usage, which is a function of time (there’s a finite amount of hours in a day with which to use a product), and the battle for users’ time is fierce. Understanding what moats are and how they’re built and destroyed is core to our client recommendations.

Recognize Your Terrain:

In the legendary text The Art Of War, Sun Tzu speaks often about recognizing the terrain you are on and evaluating it to make decisions. Talk of terrain can be taken, as it is in the Art Of War, literally or figuratively. In NHL 95, it should be taken literally. On defense, it doesn’t matter if you’re draped on an offensive player if you don’t have inside position. You won’t be able to intercept passes, you won’t be able to stop breakaways, and you’ll sit there wondering why you’re always losing. The same is true for physical position: a strong player controls the slot. If you can’t control the slot, then you can’t win.

Likewise, at BNOTIONS we constantly look at where a product is positioned in the market and identify where we feel competitors are weak. We build products to ensure we’re protecting our own slot while providing us with ample opportunity to attack on the offensive end.

(It should also be noted that NHL 95 is an awesome game, raises morale and is something that every company should adopt. It should also be noted that Alexander Mogilny is an unstoppable force who consistently runs into the immoveable object of Al Iafrate.)

John Maden | Product Analyst