Disruption is big business, but video games were disrupting entire alien armadas before many modern moguls or mavens were even born. Your next project might not be “Defend the Earth from the Robosaurs of Xang,” but gaming gadgets like Microsoft’s Kinect can still teach you a lot about online success and failure.
Moving Ahead of the Hardware
The Kinect motion-sensing hardware promised a stylish Minority Report future. It looked cool, captured the imagination, and enjoyed multi-million dollar support from one of tech’s biggest businesses. But it simply didn’t work well enough. Instead of airily swishing through menus players had to carefully guide wobbling cursors across the screen as if they were using the world’s largest and least accurate invisible mouse. With the Force. While drinking.
By their very nature, disruptive technologies will be new as companies race to produce the first working product. But before that one, there will be dozens of ambitious and expensive failures. Trying to push something as soon as it’s sort of working instead of waiting for perfect polish just frustrates people.
Seamless Sounds Better Than Spectacular
We all dream of a Star Trek future in which we speak to our computers, but no matter how many tech demos show people smiling and speaking to their systems on stage, the reporters are still tapping away at touch keyboards. Because voice activation is fun when it works, and causes phone-flinging frustration when (not if) it doesn’t.
The Kinect’s attempt at voice controlled gaming perfectly demonstrates the problems. In exciting situations a player’s voice can change, and in that same exciting instant computer response is the difference between success and failure. Frustration kills a new product even faster than alien plasma mines.
Many disruptive products talk about utterly changing their users’ lives, but most users don’t want their lives changed. They want them simplified. The second a service adds annoyance instead of ease is the second that user is lost. That’s why video games still have buttons: pressing “A” sounds simple, but it always works.
Don’t Force Your Customers
Forcing something on your customers doesn’t just waste time and money, it wastes goodwill. Microsoft were kings of the console industry with their Xbox 360, and thought they could use this to make their new product succeed. The Kinect was bundled with every console but instead of creating an instant user base it fostered widespread resentment. Customers resented paying extra for an optional gadget they didn’t ask for.
Instead of backing off, Microsoft doubled down with early announcements that the Kinect would be required at all times for their next console even to function. Customer reaction forced them to backpedal, and after years of major promotion Microsoft has been forced to sideline the system, bowing to consumer demand to offer an Xbox One without the Kinect attachment. Meanwhile the Sony PlayStation 4 has soared ahead in sales.
We see the same thing in many disruptive models, rapidly expanding businesses confusing popularity for power and trying to force new requirements on an existing user base. But it’s important to remember that the customers can always stop playing your game.