Building impact

Thinking back on the discussion these last few days, I’m thinking that invention and impact are radically different things. You can be the person who first invented something, and yet your invention by itself may have very little impact. If your goal is to have impact, then you need to work on maximizing impact.

And I’ve come to realize that the discussion about who did what first, on a technical level, may be nearly irrelevant when discussing the adaption arc of the Oculus Rift. Their major accomplishment lay in how they led the conversation.

Various VR “solutions” have been around for quite a while, but until now nobody managed to convince the entire game development industry that a credible consumer level platform would be arriving within a year. And the way Oculus did this was particularly brilliant.

They not only made a highly plausible platform, but then they sold development kits for the same low price that a final product would cost. Keep in mind that if you only make a few thousand of anything, your per-unit costs are far greater than if you make millions of something — often by an order of magnitude or more.

So it looks as though they were subsidizing their dev-kits, spending capital from their investors to create the illusion that the product was already a mass-market item.

It worked spectacularly well. Thousands of game developers bought the dev-kits at low cost, and then collectively spent perhaps a billion dollars to build various games. So the idea that “this is the commodity platform of choice” became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

At least in this sort of commercial space (building a new platform), the key is not just to spend money. It’s to get lots of other people to spend their own money.

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