Spore has recently been featured in The New Yorker and Sunday magazine of the New Your Times. Actually the articles are more about Will Wright than Spore. Both are wonderful articles and Spore sounds like fun. (Evolution apparently is off limits in our theocracy so we get to experience it in a game instead. In reality, monotheism explains all things great and small. Now that Georgie is not completely in control perhaps biology will survive as a subject in the class room.) There is a post on GigaOM about Spore and they are wondering aloud if EA is banking on Spore becoming a big hit. This is interesting from the point of view of the Long Tail. I would contend that we still live in a hit driven world notwithstanding Amazon, Netflix and YouTube. Fundamentally, I don’t agree that there are an infinite number of niche markets (if by markets you mean something that has a sustainable economic eco-system). The Long Tail makes sense in works of art (books, music, films) but seemingly is not universally applicable. What’s unique about those categories is that they have a pretty long shelf life. People are still reading Shakespeare. However, consumer electronics have very short shelf life and a pretty huge upfront investment.
This is largely due to the upfront investment being so large that manufacturers depend on massive volumes to generate a profitable ROI. Further, consumer electronics as it pertains to media are more and more about walled gardens (iTunes/iPod, Zune/ZMP, VCast/Verizon devices). The point here is that digital media is not the same as books or even CDs. It cannot move about and comes from a single source. This is not necessarily bad. I subscribe to Yahoo Music Engine and it is a great deal. However, I am not sure that there is a Long Tail in this market. Things that prevent it from being so are:
- The devices have a short shelf life.
- Device technology has a short shelf life (both hw and sw).
- These eco-systems are walled gardens.
Going back to Spore. I believe game consoles do not fit into the Long Tail metaphor. And the game space is hit-driven. Perhaps this was obvious to everyone else but I just started thinking about it.
More to come on this and related subjects.