"Every perception is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination."
-- Gerald Edelman, Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge
4 Why isn't there more work on tools for thought today？6 Why isn't there more work on tools for thought today？Why isn't there more work on tools for thought today？How can we develop transformative tools for thought？2020-10-18Journal
It's illuminating to contrast with video games. Game companies develop many genuinely new interface ideas. This perhaps seems surprising, since you'd expect such interface ideas to also suffer from the public goods problem: game designers need to invest enormous effort to develop those interface ideas, and they are often immediately copied (and improved on) by other companies, at little cost. In that sense, they are public goods, and enrich the entire video game ecosystem.
But there's a big difference between video game companies and companies such as Adobe. Many video games make most of their money from the first few months of sales. While other companies can (and do) come in and copy or riff on any new ideas, it often does little to affect revenue from the original game, which has already made most of its money In fact, cloning is a real issue in gaming, especially in very technically simple games. An example is the game Threes, which took the developers more than a year to make. Much of that time was spent developing beautiful new interface ideas. The resulting game was so simple that clones and near-clones began appearing within days. One near clone, a game called 2048, sparked a mini-craze, and became far more successful than Threes. At the other extreme, some game companies prolong the revenue-generating lifetime of their games with re-releases, long-lived online versions, and so on. This is particularly common for capital-intensive AAA games, such as the Grand Theft Auto series. In such cases the business model relies less on clever new ideas, and more on improved artwork (for re-release), network effects (for online versions), and branding. . While this copying is no doubt irritating for the companies being copied, it's still worth it for them to make the up-front investment.