Peter Drucker talks of two kinds of innovation strategies: "Being first with the most" and "Creative Imitation" Both of these can make for succesful businesses and we can apply the rules to succesful games, as well. Examples of the first kind include Magic: The Gathering, Castle Wolfenstein 3D, SimCity?, Tony Hawk. Examples of the second kind include WarCraft? (Dune 2 with humor and good marketing), Half-Life (Quake with excellent AI and compelling narrative), Goldeneye (Doom for the console), Diablo (Hack/Gauntlet hybrid), Final Fantasy (Ultima for the console). (Mark Nau points out that the first kind is not innovation so much as invention.)

Being first in the board game world gives you a pretty good shot at getting a lock on the industry. Being first in the videogame world you have to fight to maintain dominance, but you still have the advantage, as you probably made enough money on your first iteration to do a better job on your second, and you have name recognition.

A videogame franchise will eventually dwindle and fail. It can be milked for many iterations, but eventually people will get sick of it, no matter how highly polished the iterations are. If you look at sales data for titles, you'll notice that occasionally a sequel may spark up and do better than its prequel, but in general you can see sales that taper off on successive franchises.

Activision, as part of their concept greenlight stage, asks "Is the product sufficiently differentiated?"

There are a zillion ideas out there. Everybody who plays any game has an idea for making it better. (See BreakTheRulesAndPatterns.) The problem is this:

Is your original idea actually cool?

Consider *Die By The Sword* and *Homeworld*; they were innovative, but did anyone care?

How do we separate the cool ideas from the rest?

With that in mind, you may have more luck with creative imitation than innovation. Taking a title that almost worked and making it work, or taking a title that works and bringing it to new markets (Activision is about to do this with True Crime -- bringing GTA to the Xbox --), is simply less risky.