Software Inc. 


Software Inc. is a complex, multi-layered business simulation game from the software industry. It is interesting for economic learning processes in so far as hardly any start-up capital is needed and yet rapid growth is possible. This means that the game can not only be used to shape the start-up and initial growth phase, but also to manage a large company, which poses completely different challenges. Not only can own software be developed and marketed within the game. In addition, you can take on different orders for other companies, research new technologies and trade in shares of other companies. For all this, financing must be secured, employees must be hired and qualified, premises and office equipment must be made available and the competition must be taken into account.

Due to these - here only hinted at - possibilities, Software Inc. is comparatively difficult to learn, which requires specific considerations for use in (semi-)formal learning situations (see below). Because of the greater degree of abstraction and complexity, Software Inc. is more suitable for teenagers and adults than for children. The replay value is quite high in view of the numerous game options and different levels of difficulty.

Currently (as of July 2019) Software Inc. on Steam costs 14 Euro (reduced 11 Euro) and is not yet fully developed (early access), so that further functions and changes in the balancing can be expected. Software Inc. is initially only available in English, but there are mods on Steam that provide a German translation. The game is available for Windows, MacOS as well as Linux and has low hardware requirements, so that it should be applicable on most school computers.

Software Inc. is a single player game that can be played without an internet connection.



Areas of competence


A) Decision and rationality


B) Relationship and interaction


C) Order and system






Division of labour/cooperation




Efficiency/cost-benefit thinking




Oppurtunity costs








Conflict of aims



+ littl    ++ medium    +++ much


Business contents:

- Human resources management (personnel requirements planning, ensuring employee satisfaction and productivity as well as hiring, firing, qualifying, organizing in teams on a project-related basis, ...)

- Marketing (pricing, product mix, communication, distribution, customer care, market analysis including consideration of the competition)

- Cost accounting

- Strategy (focus on specific activities and product groups, company takeovers)
Work organisation: workplace design

Game description

Software Inc. is extremely multifaceted: For the development of new software, the first step is to create the appropriate conditions. Rooms must be rented or purchased, office equipment must be purchased and ergonomically arranged, and employees must be hired, qualified and motivated to work productively in suitable team compositions for the tasks. In addition to the product development consisting of several phases (design, programming, error correction), this must be flanked by marketing and support tasks. The success of the product on the market is again determined by numerous factors. In addition to product quality and price, these include the level of marketing, the company's reputation, the spread of competing products, the degree of innovation and the general interest in the product category.

In addition to developing its own products, the Company may also take on various assignments such as programming activities, software development, marketing and support for other companies. Furthermore, it is important to keep an eye on the financial situation and to take out loans or purchase shares if necessary.
A game proceeds in several stages, which are shown here in a typified form and discussed in more detail in the worksheets:

  1. Creation of the avatar (appearance, skills) and selection of the level of difficulty
  2. Selection and furnishing of business premises
  3. Processing orders to increase financial resources, experience and reputation
  4. Hire additional employees and, if necessary, qualify them in order to be able to process more orders and develop own software
  5. Rent or buy additional premises if required
  6. Develop and market own software
  7. If necessary, have the building cleaned and the computer repaired

As the game progresses, there are more options available, but these are only mentioned here and are not described further:

  • Taking over tasks for other companies (e.g. support, marketing, product development)
  • Move into own buildings and design them quite freely according to your own ideas
  • Automatic project execution by senior staff, which is particularly useful for large companies
  • Researching new technologies and receiving royalties
  • Trading in shares of other companies and buying up companies completely

Learning potential

As with other business simulation games, Software Inc. can be used to promote above all economic skills that are relevant to the living situation of employed persons. By taking on the role and perspective of the company founder, Software Inc. is able to make a significant contribution to entrepreneurship education. Also in terms of content, the areas of workplace ergonomics, human resources, production and product development, marketing and cost accounting/financing address important business contents that are relevant to working life:

  • Personnel: Depending on the current and planned activities, suitable employees must be found, hired and qualified. In addition, the personality of the members of a team must be taken into account so that they work well together. Software Inc. can also influence the satisfaction and productivity of employees, for example through workplace design (materials, noise, social spaces), remuneration or activities that match the qualifications.
  • Product development/marketing: The development and marketing of new software is a core element of the game. Depending on the available employees and their specific qualifications, but also on (announced) competing products, the size of the potential target group and the degree of technical innovation, it must first be defined what type of software (e.g. operating system, office software, game) is to be programmed with what functionalities and at what price is to be offered. Parallel to product development, attention must also be generated through marketing measures such as writing press releases.
  • Cost accounting/financing: The game ends as soon as the account balance is negative for more than a month, which is why the costs must be kept in view. A cash flow overview showing the income and expenses of the game rounds helps to do this. To a limited extent, (high-interest) loans can be taken out, while surplus funds can be invested at a fixed rate of interest or used to acquire shares in other companies.

In addition to this content, several economically relevant categories can be addressed with Software Inc:

  • Division of labour/cooperation: Since the numerous tasks require specific qualifications, but the employees have different profiles, adequate productivity and product quality can only be ensured if several different employees are available and are deployed in line with their respective skills. Care must also be taken to ensure that people who work together harmonise with each other.
  • Need: Especially when developing new software, but also when processing business orders, the needs of customers or clients must be taken into account in order to be successful in the market and to build a positive image. In addition, the needs of the employees (e.g. food, pleasant working atmosphere, social contacts, attractive remuneration) must be kept in mind to ensure their satisfaction and productivity.
  • Scarcity/Efficiency: In Software Inc., not only is money scarce, but also employees and time, as some activities must be completed within certain deadlines. This suggests efficient action or the use of available resources. For example, the available space and technical equipment (e.g. servers, printers) should be used and employees should always be kept reasonably busy.
  • Cost-Benefit Thinking: Software Inc. promotes cost-benefit thinking, especially when it comes to the question whether certain jobs should be accepted. For example, some orders (e.g. support services) are sometimes so poorly paid that the personnel costs required to process them exceed the revenues. Conversely, it can be useful to hire additional staff to handle more lucrative orders.
  • Opportunity costs: Due to limited resources (employees, money), not all opportunities can be taken advantage of. In this respect, the player has to set priorities and weigh up which option he chooses. For example, the development of own software is at the expense of the ability to take on external orders (and vice versa).
  • Risk/uncertainty: The greatest risk is the question of how well a developed software sells, as the financial development of the company is particularly affected by this factor. If software developed at considerable expense falls far short of sales expectations, this can quickly lead to insolvency. Smaller risk factors exist with regard to the question of whether employees fall ill. This can be problematic if they are needed for the time-critical processing of external orders that cannot then be completed on time. Another risky element of the game is the possibility of trading in shares of other companies.
  • Growth: Since the (implicit) goal of Software Inc. is to make as much profit as possible, growth is an essential aspect of the game. One challenge is not to aim for too fast growth. If, for example, a large number of employees are hired and premises rented at an early stage, the resulting leaps in costs can quickly lead to insolvency. This is particularly true if forecast sales figures are not achieved. However, sustainably financed growth is also accompanied by challenges, as the numerous employees or teams have to be sensibly employed and adequately supported. To facilitate this, managers can be hired to automate a number of processes so that the player can then focus on strategic decisions.
  • Competition: The success of one's own products depends - at least at higher levels of difficulty - considerably on whether there are competing products in this area and if so, how expensive, widespread and good they are.
  • Conflict of goals: In Software Inc. there are various conflicts of goals to manage. In the personnel area, for example, it is necessary to weigh up cost minimization and employee satisfaction. Another conflict of objectives arises between high chances of success and security; for example, developing one's own software is riskier than processing external orders, but if successful, it is also much more lucrative.

Technical errors

From a technical point of view, the game is hardly objectionable. Although there are numerous simplifications, these are basically unavoidable in games and not too serious in Software Inc. that this would encourage misconceptions. Only the interest level is clearly too high in a range of up to 5% per month. Furthermore, some correlations in the game are not yet optimally balanced, so that some decisions do not have the effect that would be expected. However, according to the developers, this is only the case in the early-access version and will be optimized.

Teaching assignment

In view of the many possibilities and complexity of this game, the question arises as to how it can be dealt with in time-limited (semi-)formal learning situations. A good way to save time and facilitate the start is not to let the learners play freely and from the beginning, but to give them a predefined score and clear work or analysis assignments. One possibility is to provide the learners with a game score in which the first game decisions (especially the definition of the avatar including its appearance and characteristics, difficulty level set to easy) are made and in which the workplace of the company founder is equipped in a small office. This enables the learners to deal directly with the essential aspects of the game:

  1. At the beginning, a rough basic orientation via the start screen, the movement of the camera and the most important menu items including the cash-flow overview (Worksheet 1) is useful.
  2. As the first active moves in the game, the students should process their first external orders, which will earn them money and improve the qualifications of the company founder (Worksheet 2).
  3. A suitable employee would then have to be hired in order to be able to process further orders and later also develop their own software (Worksheet 3). Suitable office furniture would have to be purchased for this employee (Worksheet 4), which would allow the players to get to know the construction mode. In this context, decisions about specialisation and division of labour must also be made.
  4. Finally, own software can be developed and marketed (Worksheet 5).

On this basis, depending on the learning objectives and the time available, the game can be continued in very different ways, for example

  • Development of further and possibly more complex software
  • Move to own premises, where the building can be designed according to your own ideas and needs
  • Dealing with profits, e.g. buying shares and whole companies, fixed-interest investment
  • Establishment of several teams, which implement projects semi-autonomously
  • Generation of different incomes, for example through server services or taking over marketing, product development or support tasks for other companies.

Since players should now be familiar with the basic mechanics of the game, detailed instructions are no longer necessary. Nevertheless, there are some hints on worksheet 5.
After the game phase or possibly in between, the game process should be reflected upon and possible learning effects should be worked out. The model on which the game is based should also be questioned with regard to its realism. Here are some examples of possible questions for reflection:

  • Which measures lead to a high level of game success?
  • What do you need to pay attention to so that employees contribute to the success of the company?
  • What significance does the cash flow overview have for the success of the game?
  • Which measures have a good, which a bad cost-benefit ratio?
  • Give examples of risk or uncertainty in the game.
  • What is important to pay attention to when growing the company? What challenges are associated with growth?
  • What is the importance of competitors?
  • What do you find unrealistic about the game?

software inc arbeitsblaetter (PDF, 1,30 MB)
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