Multiplayer online games aren't just for the "World of Warcraft" crowd these days. Business schools have gotten into the act as well. On March 28, the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands hosted the first Global Supply Chain Gaming Competition. During the fourhour simulation, teams of MBA students from around the world competed with one another to see not who could slay the most monsters, but who could run the most efficient global supply chain.
Each team represented a competing computer company and had to decide what types of computers to make, where to locate factories, where to source parts, where to sell their product, how to price their product, and how to transport the product. Market conditions changed in real time, as the teams forecast sales, placed orders, and tried to earn a profit.
"Players had to react quickly in the constantly changing Web environment, as each decision a team made impacted all the other teams—just like the real world for a global supply chain manager," says Sandor Boyson, co-director of the Smith School's Supply Chain Management Center and a developer of the game.
Organizers awarded prizes to the three teams with the highest profits at the end of the four-hour competition. First place honors went to the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. SooChow University in Taiwan came in second, and Nankai University in China took third place.
Developers believe the game has possibilities beyond use as a training exercise. "Not only is this a leading-edge tool for students in the classroom, but its potential is great for industry, too," says Alexander Verbraeck, a codeveloper of the game from Delft University of Technology. "This summer, we'll be taking the next steps to make the game available to other top universities, and we will be working with industry to use and adapt the game to specific client needs."