Following fast

Some time ago, unfortunately I can’t cite the source, I read that one of Toyota’s major strategies was not necessarily to innovate but to be able to follow quickly in the footsteps of innovators. The point was, whether or not correctly attributed, innovation is overrated if you can copy someone else’s innovation quickly enough.

Well today I saw this article on Huffington Post… A sort of rant about why 2048 was a rip off of “threes!” and how you should go out and buy Threes! because they put effort into their game and the ripoff only spent a couple weeks being constructed.

I won’t comment on the justness component of the article, but I do think that it’s an excellent illustration of following fast. 2048 is indeed very similar to its predecessor. I’ve played both since my father-in-law first challenged me to beat his top score on Threes! and subsequently pointed me to the equally addicting and free game, 2048. However, 2048 does have some differences and for the casual game player it’s far less frustrating. So, should every company invest 14 months inventing a game, or is a two week knockoff done by a single person and given away adequate?

Particularly in game playing, the marketplace is a highly commoditized place. If you need an entertainment fix, almost any game will do, so while each game is unique, you’re not just competing against other games like yours, you’re competing against all other games which satisfy the same need.

For better or worse the free market is pretty indifferent towards fairness, so recognizing that and following fast may be the way to go. And oh, it has another advantage, one that was articulated by Tom Demarco in his work “The Deadline.” If you have an existing product to copy, specifications for how your product should at least mostly work are right there in the form of the existing software and user manuals.
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