So you have the skills to build something in this world. And hey, maybe you can make a few bucks too! Well, before you start ramping up production, here's some advice..
Be different. Create NEW things. Don't just copy what you see, just because you can. ADD to the world, instead of SUBTRACTING from it.
In this way you're providing value by solving new problems or creating better products.
One More For The Road
Over the years we continue to find unique elements of some of our product designs copied. Odds are, if you're someone that drew "inspiration" from our products and recreated your own to sell without really adding anything substantially new, we're probably aware of it.
This seems to be the norm for product creation, unfortunately. Years of being in-business creating niche items have been... enlightening, to say the least.
How do we know without a doubt a product has been copied? There are unique elements we've added to designs, including shape of board, silkscreen drawings, components used or new features. Those elements then create something that is uniquely ours. When we see a product pop up with those same elements, we know where the idea came from. Believe it or not, often enough our product and/or business name actually gets linked or mentioned.
We've been aware of probably a dozen cases of unique things we've done being copied. It sucks, but it is what it is.
What's Getting Copied?
Anything you put into the world that has even a remote chance of making a few bucks. Somewhere, will eventually copy it. Expect it.
New product features that really differentiate your product from others on the market. Pricing. Ways of bundling in freebies or extras. Product descriptions. Information or techniques of making a product easier to understand. Marketing or advertising styles.
Amazingly, the copying goes beyond the physical product itself.
After years of seeing this happen, all we can do is laugh a bit about it. These pinball products DO NOT sell in very high volume. And yet there are more and more people offering them. Beyond that, it's apparent that originality isn't so much the norm, as it is the exception.
Still, we think things could be different. And now it's our sole responsibility to convince at least one other person that it's possible to create in a different type of way! ;)
Business Doesn't Have To Be A Zero-Sum Game
What we truly wish more people understood is -- business DOES NOT have to be a zero-sum game where person has to LOSE for you to WIN.
You can create DIFFERENT things. Things that never existed before. Or you can improve products so significantly that there's no doubt to the market (or in this case the pinball community) that you're offering something that is actually ADDING to the world instead of subtracting from it. In this way you're not really directly competing with anyone.
And you know what? It's possible. It really is. But, you can't be stuck in a zero-sum way of doing business. You have to BELIEVE that you can succeed in far greater ways by operating on the more positive-end of the creative spectrum.
Positive Benefits to Positive Creation
The benefits of a positive view of creation are enormous..
- Eliminate negative thinking and fixation on other people as being your road block to success
- View "competition" as co-creators that are all helping the community in what they're offering
- Think in terms of what will create a unique selling points to differentiate what you're doing
- You get to set the price on your products because they're unique
- You're not fighting over sometimes what amounts to a few dozen sales a year
- Over time, you create YOUR audience. People that resonate with what you're all about
It just feels so much more positive to operate in this way.
We're Positive Creators In This World
Part of our core philosophy
in what we've chosen to create has been to offer "something different." Products that didn't exist before or products that have such major improvements over what else is out there that there's no doubt we've ADDED something to the market.
We also try hard not to slander or insult other people's ideas or products anywhere to make our products look better. There are ways of showing people that your product IS different and may be the better fit for them, without adding to the already abundant hate or negativity in the world. Without insulting other creators who are dedicating their time to their own businesses and also helping many people, just as we are.
Is it easy to adopt this style of creation? Heck no! Especially if you end up on the opposite end of someone else's zero-sum view of doing business a few times. But, the alternative is adding more to an already negative world and hurting yourself in the process. So, we choose to operate in the positive spectrum of creation, as much as we can help it.
Markets Are Only So Big
Here's a truth bomb for you. In the pinball world, the market for products is a relatively small number of units per month -- especially circuit board products for older games. You're lucky to sell a handful a month & some may only sell a handful a year. There are exceptions of course -- led bulbs, mods for newer games, products that work across all generations of solid state pinball from the 1970s through the early 2000s (and beyond). But the market for many products is pretty small.
Markets get saturated. Especially within small niche markets like pinball. Yet new people make assumptions about what sales might exist, create their versions of products that aren't selling that much for someone else, and the market gets even more saturated.
If you want a product that can actually make you money, it's best to go with what has a large audience and in pinball, that's a product that works across many generations of pinball machines or a mod that can easily sell for hundreds of dollars because it's a mod for a new game that cost $8,000 or more.
Be Different & Get Different Results.
Create something different or new, and guess what? The competition doesn't exist. You've created something that's not available anywhere else. Or a different alternative that some people may like better because of the aesthetics, functionality or new features.
Will people copy or try to copy what you did that was different? Probably. But they won't always do it in the same way, they won't have been the first to do it, and they'll likely mess it up somehow (so your product is still unique). Besides that, there's really no way for someone to gain 100% of the market no matter how hard they try.
Our Advice For Creators
If you find yourself a bit guilty of zero-sum thinking & you're in a business that creates products or services similar to others, here's our challenge to you..
Try thinking of people that you might otherwise perceive as competition or "the enemy" as fellow creators who are deserving of your respect to not have products copied verbatim, as much as you'd also like to have your contributions respected. If someone did something different than what else is out there, let it be different. Let it exist without a copy. Design something new, of your own. That's going to be the best chance you have to find success anyway. And it feels much better knowing you created something new that never existed before.
We believe in a more positive way of creating in this world. We hope we can convince some other creators to join us in that belief!