A related comment from this months Wired, to the question “What’s the most overhyped tech trend right now?”
“There are plenty of tech trends that are clearly overhyped, but none so much as the idea that we need ‘the next big thing.’ We’re always looking out for what’s next and never taking the time to fix what’s broken. As soon as we notice that some technology hasn’t lived up to its hype, we become distracted by the next shiny thing. For once, it would be nice if the promises were kept, the bells rang, and the whistles whistled.”
As CG mentioned, there certainly doesn’t appear to be any revolutionary gaming innovations presented in the new XBOX. The wireless controls, media center capabilities, and improved graphics are only what we should expect in this generation of gaming console. The removable front covers are nice, but we’ve all seen the idea in other product categories for years, so that is difficult to consider truly innovative. ‘Innovations’ such as improved manufacturing & distribution, and the removable hard-drive (allowing multiple price points) are probably more significant to Microsoft than the end consumer. In Microsoft’s bid to gain market share, likely the most innovative aspect of the product is just that they’ve gotten to market first, and right before Christmas. If the product had reached the market at the same time as the Revolution and PS3, the device would likely not do as well as it probably will in the coming months.
In contrast to the XBOX, the Revolution is the most exciting and most innovative (read: quantum leap innovation) gaming product that the market has seen in a long time. Microsoft’s product may be “just right”, but then it is just right for average first-person shooter style gameplay. With the Revolition, Nintendo introduces a new style of gaming, something that is closer to real ‘play’. They are effectively saying that the existing style of gaming isn’t right to begin with. I’m a bit worried, however, that the new controllers may be too revolutionary, and alienate many players. Is the market ready for this, or are gamers too invested in the gaming status quo? The product is a quantum leap, but that doesn’t always translate to mean disruptive. The Revolution could save Nintendo, but it may very well break them for good.
In regards to incremental improvements, I do believe that they can set off revolutionary change. This is clear in the strategy of the fruit company that shall not be named. Incremental innovation is not as easy as it sounds, because it requires a discipline which many companies do not have. It is usually easier to introduce new (marketed as revolutionary) features to mask other shortcomings.
Finally, “just right” products are not necessarily a byproduct of incremental innovation. Innovating the wrong features only leads to feature creep, and a staid product category. Every now and then, the market needs a new player like Google/Nokia3210/MotorolaStarTac/NintendoRevolution to shake things up.