You’ve been saying that the DS is not disruptive according to Christensen, but I wonder if you could go into details as to why it isn’t. You’ve said that the PSP wouldn’t have been nearly as successful as it is if the DS was a disruptive product, which I agree with, but I expected you to talk about the tech and the features of the DS too. While the touchscreen allowed for simpler controls, the DS has got more buttons than any other Nintendo handheld up until now. It’s also got better graphics. Aren’t these some of the reasons why the DS can’t be called disruptive?
Keep up the good work.
Disruption is about the disrupting of incumbent companies. It isn’t about disrupting technology, disrupting customers, or any of that. It is about removing the floor from the other companies.
There is a Shakespearan quote from Hamlet that keeps coming up in my head when talk about disruption is afoot:
For ’tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petard: and ‘t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines,
And blow them at the moon: O, ’tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.
This man shall set me packing:
I’ll lug the guts into the neighbour room.
Disruption is about the disruptor, innocently seeming, delving one yard below their mines and blowing the incumbent companies at the moon. The incumbent doesn’t see it coming until it is too late. The disruptor is just a ‘fad’. It is a crappy product with crappy customers… until it is too late.
The DS isn’t disrupting the PSP. For one thing, Sony wasn’t an incumbent in the handheld space. The DS also had many sustaining innovations over the Gameboy Advance. The touch screen and dual screens didn’t really change the nature of handheld gaming.
The brand name change from Gameboy to DS and the touch screen, microphone, and dual screens, allowed Nintendo to put software on it that could reach untraditional audiences. Brain Age and Nintendogs could not have been done wtihout those innovations.
There are major differences in how the DS and Wii are shaping out which further cements that DS wasn’t disruptive. Let’s go through them.
-Wii momentum depends on motion control games. DS momentum does not depend on touch screen games. (This explains why Nintendo completely dropped the ball in not having follow-up Wii games embrace motion controls well. Years later, and Wii Sports still remained the best motion control game. People realized Nintendo was not serious about transforming gaming which was why they bought the Wii in the first place. There is a benefit of doubt but Nintendo has run out of time which is why the Wii craze is completely gone now. Nintendo thought, like the DS with Nintendogs or Brain Age, they could just make a few ‘touch generation’ titles and make Gamecube Plus games. This belief proved disasterous with the Wii where everyone was expecting more motion control games better than Wii Sports which never came [until Motion Plus that is].)
-Hardcore have embraced the DS. Hardcore will never embrace the Wii. No matter how many ‘hardcore’ games, no matter how rich the Virtual Console is of classics, the Wii must be destroyed in the hardcore eyes. This constant hatred represents the heat the disruptive values are causing.
-DS didn’t change how we play handheld gaming. Wii totally changed console gaming (best illustration is a family, standing up, playing Wii Sports).
-Sony and Microsoft felt compelled to make motion controllers for their game consoles. Sony does not feel compelled to make a touch screen or dual screens for the PSP.
-PSP and DS co-exist nicely as demonstrated in Japan. Wii doesn’t co-exist with PS3 or Xbox 360. PS3 and Xbox 360 tend to share the same market and tend to cannibalize one another. But the Wii is a very different animal.
-There was no ‘fire’ in the core market of GBA users with the DS. However, there was a ‘fire’ in the core market of Gamecube users with the Wii.
People keep thinking disruption means ‘changing things’. It does not mean that at all. You can have a disruptive product that has no type of change. An example would be newspapers given out for free on subways where the revenue is collected by advertising. These type of newspapers are growing despite the prevalence of the Internet.
Think of a game of chess. Disruption is the check-mate, it is winning the game. Disruption is not an individual piece on the board. The queen, despite her power, is not a disruption. The pawns are not a disruption.
With the Wii, you can see other opponents around the chessboard in Microsoft and Sony. The queen piece could be motion controls. The bishop could be 24/7 connection (which oddly is never used by Nintendo. The only purpose of 24/7 I have found is to burn up my Gamecube memory cards). Disruption is not the ‘queen’ of motion controls. Disruption is the check-mate. The other players, well maybe not Sony, will not just sit there and let themselves be disrupted. They will counter-attack.
If Microsoft and Sony leave the console market or are forever marginalized, then we can say Nintendo’s disruption is successful. Otherwise, Nintendo could be countered and watch their disruption fail.
Now with the DS, there are no opponents at the chess board.
The DS’s innovations of touch screen and dual screen, while allowing it to get new users, never disrupted the PSP. What caused the PSP to fail is the same reason why every non-Nintendo handheld fails. Each competitor handheld thinks ‘better technology’ is the way to go. Sony tried to put a ‘console experience’ on the PSP with forgetting that handheld gamers want a ‘quick’ game experience. The handheld game needs to allow itself to be interrupted at any time due to where the handheld goes. PSP also did stupid things like UMDs which were a moving media which were painful to store (since they could easily get scratched) and caused the battery life to not be good. The cartridge route was a far better way for the handheld.
The Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear failed in much the similiar way to the ‘inferior’ Gameboy.