Writing Prompts: It Seemed like a Good Idea…

History is littered with ideas, plans, concepts and notions that often seem good and grand. Sometimes they prove to be exactly that, but on other occasions they founder against misplaced expectations, poor marketing, and bad execution. Technology is one field where this happens a lot, and Time Magazine has an article about 20 of the most spectacular technological failures. Two of them happen to be video games consoles, the Sega Dreamcast and the Nintendo Virtual Boy, which both flopped, but for different reasons.

The Dreamcast was Sega’s last hurrah in the home console market, and they hoped it would enable them to fight back against the rising power of Sony and Microsoft. Featuring built-in modems for internet multiplayer games, and even a small display screen on the controller, it was just wasn’t marketed well enough, and Sega were out-fought by their rivals. The Virtual Boy was Nintendo’s ill-fated attempt to tap into the VR craze of the 90s, and the device was said to be so awkward that it made players feel ill.

Both consoles represented a failure to properly assess the video market of the era. The companies persuaded themselves that their new devices would be great hits with consumers, only to watch them crash and burn. Both companies survived, but both could have done without the time and money wasted on these endeavours.

Another company to suffer greatly was Kodak. At one time, Kodak were famous for their cameras, but they failed to keep up with the digital revolution. Whilst a commitment to the classic photography film was admirable, Kodak greatly overestimated how popular this would continue to be, and greatly underestimated the rise of digital photography. They filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

A lot of modern, failed ‘good ideas’ come from a failure to understand how technology changes both businesses, and a person’s interactions with them. For better or worse, we live in a world where we can, in theory, easily consume media, from anywhere in the world, at a moment’s notice. People want to feel connected too, which one of the reasons why another video game giant, Atari, never managed to conquer the video game market. They operated with the idea that gamers preferred to be insular, and thus lost their fair share of the market.

How is it that companies, even today, can still fail to read trends? If I knew the answer to that, I’d probably be employed as a very wealthy consultant! I suspect a lot of businesses don’t put in the time, effort or money to speak to ordinary people. They maybe don’t employ enough of the people who make up their usual target demographic. In any event, banking on an idea being good, without doing enough of the right kind of research, is not generally a wise move, in any walk of life!

Please follow and like us: