A follow up to the industry leader question. Do you know of any competitor that has unseated an industry leader? Any insight into how that happened?

Sure. It isn’t a common occurrence, but it has happened before. Here are a few examples:

  • Pro Evolution Soccer lost out to EA’s FIFA as the genre leader
  • NBA Live was unseated by NBA2K
  • PUBG was eclipsed by Fortnite
  • The original DotA was overtaken by League of Legends
  • MySpace was replaced by FaceBook
  • We may be seeing this happen with Cities: Skylines replacing Sim City

Generally speaking, I believe that replacement is possible when two or more of these conditions are met:

  • The genre and leader are still relatively new, so the lead has not yet been fully consolidated
  • The leader has a really bad product launch that causes huge numbers of the audience to seek alternatives
  • The publisher of the competitor has already carved out a strong and established presence within the genre
  • The publisher of the competitor is willing to put a huge amount of resources into development in order to compete
  • Some other special condition, like how DotA was only a mod and League was a fully supported game without all of the legal Warcraft 3 baggage

There are probably others I’m not thinking of, but the general requirement is that there has to be an opportunity open up and there has to be a strong contender willing to take the (financial) risk in order to take the lead. The longer and more established the genre leader is, the harder it becomes to unseat them. This is the biggest reason why industry giants like World of Warcraft and Call of Duty remain such juggernauts - they’ve got so much momentum already that getting ahead of them is almost impossible.

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