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Atari and Centipede games unearthed from a 2014 excavation of a New Mexico landfill. taylorhatmaker/flickr, CC BY-SA

Lucrative ideas are often copied and replicated to capitalize on successes—both by the company that created the original and by imitators. There are, for example, more than 20 sequels to the Marvel movies “Avengers” and “X-Men.”

When Atari games were growing in popularity in the early 1980s, entrepreneurs jumped in, copying and modifying the code to create knockoffs such as Phobos, Pushky, Quarxon, Yahtman, Catterpiggle and Diggerbonk. As imitators copied the original and then copied the copies, the initial coders—who created pioneering Atari games including Pong, Combat and Super Breakout—were no longer directly involved. Their creativity and innovation were diluted by the sheer number of game designers copying one another.

138883_A-14-41001-1.jpgR. Alexander Bentley, a professor of anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is a part of an international team of researchers who study this phenomenon, called the dilution of expertise. In a recently published study they examine how replication and imitation affect a product by asking whether there there are measurable warning signs before the collapse of a multimillion-dollar market, as Atari saw. They believe that the results of this research may help investors and consumers better understand the trends and cycles of creative products. Read the full article on The Conversation. The article was translated into Spanish.

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Lindsey Owen (865-974-6375,