Instructor’s Guide to Running the Base Positioning Sim Game


strategy, sim game, analysis, positioning, product management, new products,

Lecturer Information

This article discusses how the instructor can coordinate and manage the “logistics” of the marketing and positioning Sim Game. This fun and engaging teaching activity is available for free download on this website – please see the article on the simulation game itself.

Please note that this article does not discuss how the game works – that is discussed in this article.

Instead, it is an article that provides classroom management tips for running the game.

NOTE: It is preferable to provide the student groups with direct access to their own copy of the spreadsheet. This will greatly enhance the engagement in each group and lead to a much better learning and teaching outcome. This can be achieved by uploading each round’s spreadsheet to your LMS or by using a few blank USB memory sticks to pass around the file after each decision round.

This can be easily achieved by using a computer lab room if available, or alternatively if the students tend to bring their own laptops to class. If direct access to the spreadsheet is not possible, then the game can still be played – however, the instructor will need to spend more time projecting the results onto the screen and going back and forward between the various outputs as required.

Steps in Running the Sim Game In-class (or online)

Step one

The first step in the game is to explain how the game works. There is a video available on this website and on YouTube which highlights the mechanics of the game. There are also some PowerPoint slides that you can download and add to your presentation, if you would prefer to discuss the game directly.

The spreadsheet also includes visuals – of the positioning map and the various cost structures – that you could print out and provide to the student groups. Generally, you find that some students grasp the concept of the game virtually immediately, whereas other students will have a series of questions.

The best way to handle this is to provide, where possible, the student teams with direct access to a copy of the simulation game – which runs on Excel and is easy to use without much spreadsheet knowledge. Therefore, after discussing the general principle of the game, provide time for the student groups to “play around with the spreadsheet” and for the group to try and discuss and further understand how the game works between themselves.

At the end of this period, you should call for any questions on how the game works as part of the overall class discussion. As an estimate this first step of understanding the mechanics of the game would generally take 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the age/level of the student group.

Step two

The next stage of the simulation game is for groups to make their first decision. In many cases this is the hardest decision because it is a decision made without any knowledge or understanding of what the competitive teams will do.

When students have direct access to the spreadsheet, they can scenario test various possible approaches. When the groups have made their positioning decision, they need to fill in a decision sheet for “round one” and hand it to the instructor.

You will need to provide a time limit for this and every other decision – otherwise some groups will keep changing their mind and asking for more time. Depending upon the age/level, 10 to 20 minutes per decision round would be appropriate.

If you notice any groups making very quick decisions, it is worthwhile checking in with that group. If that is the case, there is a possibility that they do not really understand the game and are just making quick general decisions.

Step three

Once you have the completed decision sheets for all groups, then you enter it into your “master” spreadsheet. The spreadsheet has a built-in “budget check” (which is discussed in this article on how simulation game works) – therefore, a budget check issue may indicate you have keyed in the wrong decision or that you are playing the game “manually” and the student groups have miscalculated budget.

Either way this situation needs to be rectified. You should then project onto the screen the decision page only. You then ask each group to confirm if this is their correct decision. This is to check for any potential keying areas that the instructor may make.

It is important that only keying errors are corrected at this stage. Do not allow student groups to change their decision because they can now see the other teams/competitors decisions. You will need to go back and check their decision sheet – if they made an error that is their concern and you can highlight that businesses make mistakes in real life too.

Step four

Once you have confirmed the decisions are correct – if the student groups have direct access to the spreadsheet, then they can enter the same decisions, so everybody has a live copy of the current state of the market/game.

You then need to project onto the screen the market results/sales/profits. And before the teams get carried away in making the next decision, ask the teams to confirm that they have the same results as the ones that you are projecting, in order to check for any keying errors that individual group may make.

Alternatively, if you have access to some live learning management system, then you could actually post the updated game result spreadsheet – saving it as “game round one” (for example) – that the individual teams could then download.

Step five

Once each team has their own copy of the results – or if you’re playing manually they have written down the key results – then teams need to make the next decision. At this stage, the teams now have access to some basic competitor information.

However, the budget is often reduced because they have usually “invested” in positioning that will take several rounds to achieve payback. However, usually at this stage, all the teams have a good understanding of the mechanics of the game.

Therefore, you can now repeat the above steps over and over. The simulation game is set to run up to eight rounds – but you can stop early if required. Usually various an element of competition and if the results are close, most teams want to continue the game until the end.

Step six

This is that the conclusion of the game, we you should engage in class/group discussion as per some of the ideas listed in this article. There are numerous marketing topics that will be identified by the students, so usually the discussion is relatively rich and engaging – particularly if you give the groups time to formulate their ideas prior to a full class discussion.

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