From oct 2010 my educational posts are published only on Pip

27 apr. 2010

When to copy and when to differentiate...

When getting the offer 4,5 years ago to join a friend to develop a site for girls, I didn’t hesitate for a second. There was a gigantic gap on the Internet, a black hole to fill for girls. There were so many entertaining places for guys to hang out, places where the girls just didn’t feel comfortable to even knock on the door. Someone described it so well from a session in World of Warcraft, when she got the question ‘are you really a girl’, she confirmed ‘yes’ and got the reply ‘Do you need help?’.

Girls are almost always permitted to participate in games, but they are not expected to, and the expectations of the gaming skills are low. This mindset is disturbing, devaluing and enforces bad confidence for many girls – not a very good gaming experience.

Either you can develop a game where girls are not degraded in any matter and hope that both girls and boys will join, or you can develop a game where girls are safe to be girls, a place where it is doubtless and clear that girls are welcome – any girls, all girls.

As we had Liisa’s 200 amazing dress up dolls and their audience to presuppose, the choice was to target girls. We had the opportunity to create a unique place on the Internet where pink, glitter and stardust was highly valued - where the graphics were just as qualitative as in any 3D war zone.

This 2D/3D issue was quite a big discussion for a long time though. Guys tend to appreciate the reality sense of moving around in a spatial area, while girls prioritize identity building and creative displays. As games in general are made for guys according to their own preferences, it had not been proved that 2D works great for girls and that it is required to achieve the level of details in illustration needed for the best fashion/identity experience.

The next big issue was real life photos or not. There had lately been huge successes for sites that allow uploaded images and it was a long process to accept that real life images would in fact destroy the entire game of a fictive world of fame, fashion and friends. You can’t pretend to be whoever you want to be when at the same time showing your real life looks.

After some years of doing the same as everyone else, i-dressup, stardoll, gosupermodel and my divadoll don’t differ that much from eachother, and then Aaaaaah! Facebook app Dress me up copies the entire concept, adds some new learnings from the Facebook advantages and how can anyone compete with that???

Youngme Moon, Professor of Business Administration on Harvard business school, says “despite the fact that most companies are deeply committed to the concept of differentiation, at any given moment they are also intensely aware of what their competitors are doing, and it is this competitive vigilance that ultimately pushes them down a path of conformity.”

It's a balance between to keep unique and interesting while not getting behind. I guess you need an extremely sharp talent to know when it is time to see what to copy, and when to not to. And it’s probably often a battle in between.

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