Why Great Ideas Can Fail

“Designers are proud of their ability to innovate, to think outside the box, to develop creative, powerful ideas for their clients. Sometimes these ideas win design prizes. However, the rate at which these ideas achieve commercial success is low. Many of the ideas die within the companies, never becoming a product. Among those that become products, a good number never reach commercial success.” – Don Norman

I do understand what Norman is saying here, and it’s really relevant to the games industry as well as design companies in general. The fact is that while it is fantastic to come up with a great idea, this great idea has to fit within a certain business context. Unfortunately I believe that within the video games industry this is realized at both extremes and there is no real balance of perspective.

Before Halo, there was no real console FPS to speak off, or at least none so memorable as this particular game and it at the time would have seemed like a terrible idea from a business stand point. However, as an idea, the execution and commitment to quality in the realm of video games allowed this particular idea to carve a space in popular culture guaranteeing its commercial success for the last 9 years.

But then again, this could be the phenomenon similar to that which resulted from the special design group at Lockheed Martin. In any case, the truth remains, there has to be some sort of consideration for how well an idea fits into the business life cycle. Apple’s success is completely the result of the company’s shift in focus from simply designing interesting and visually appealing consumer goods to incremental improvements on current products that already are used by individuals. Consider the Apple Newton in the picture above, and the iPad. Both were fantastic ideas, but one was designed and marketed without any real sense for the commercial success whereas the iPad was based on incremental design that grew from well established roots in popular culture.

What do you think?

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