Sony PS3 (& X-box 360) vs. Wii – an interesting study in innovation vectors

In the recent release and media hype of the two newest “next-gen” gaming consoles, the Sony PS3 and the Nintendo Wii, I found an interesting case study in innovation vectors. While we won’t know for a many months who the ultimate winner is (although there are early signs) it is clear there are two paths being pursued by the console makers. This is a clear reminder that innovation is a vector: you have to ask yourself not only how much innovation is required, but what direction is it headed in in order to understand what the outcome will be.
Sony (and Microsoft with their X-BOX 360 that has been shipping for almost a year now) are taking the “technical” innovation vector. The lead message for both consoles is focused High Definition images and sound and realistic animations. I’ve heard that Microsoft even requires that big box retailers to demo the XB360 hooked up to HD displays. Both Microsoft and Sony have based their innovation vectors on the hypothesis that the mind blowing displays and movie like game play is what customers want.
Nintendo is on a clearly different path. The lead message for the Wii is all about game play, family “togetherness” and even the health benefits of their new controller. If you look at the ads the are running on TV and the initial reviews, its clear that Nintendo decided that realism was not the first order of the day. Rather they have decided to base their innovation vector on the hypothesis that customers will choose their console based on game play experience, from the controller through each game’s plot.
I think as the market unfolds for these consoles it will be interesting to see how the innovations vectors play out.  That being said, with all the interest in innovation, companies need to make sure they are not only sizing the magnitude of their innovation investment correctly, but also making sure they are heading off in the right direction.






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