When I first started consulting, my boss talked a lot about "ante in" product offerings. These are the kinds of things you are required to offer your customers in order to be taken seriously in the market. With iPod and Zune leading the market, anyone else who wants to sell and MP3 player needs to offer a rechargeable battery, a color screen, and basic in-player playlist control. If these are the only features they offer, though, it's not enough. These are the features we expect them to offer, so we'll gloss over that description to seek out what truly makes the new product purchase-worthy.
Ante-in offerings are used as a standard by the market, but so many would-be marketers miss the point in their communications. They begin advertising these expected features as points of differentiation. It's frustrating to see "cable ready" listed as a differentiating feature on a new plasma TV. More so, the idea that integrated wi-fi will set your new laptop apart in the world of iPhones, wi-max, and netbooks is almost insulting to the customer.
Last week I was introduced to the new PlayStation Move by Sony. In isolation it sounds like a great idea. It's a new controller that gives you the ability to play motion-sensitive games like baseball, tennis, or bowling by swinging the remote and capturing the motion. With this new product, I think Sony is definitely stepping forward and advancing technology beyond any of their competitors.
Wait a minute ... Nintendo released the same technology with the Wii almost 4 years ago?
Considering Sony's PlayStation 3 already featured motion-sensitive controls it's a surprise that it took this long for them to come up with a Wii-like control system. After all, they essentially pioneered the technology when it comes to video games, but it was Nintendo that made it viable and, most importantly, insanely popular. Now Sony is playing catch-up with a technology they pioneered.
It's ironic how a feature (motion sensitivity) that once set a game system apart from the herd is now considered an ante-in offering when further developed. The PlayStation Move even looks like the Wii controller and has an optional attachment that functions like the Wii nunchuk device.
I have no doubt that Sony will be able to sell plenty of these devices to existing PlayStation 3 users. But an initial survey of the new games they're releasing specifically for use with the Move is less exciting. My brother has had a Wii for 2 years, and I recognize almost every new Move title as a knockoff of an existing Wii title. It's as if Sony is trying to tell everyone, "Don't forget how cool our system is. We even have a motion capture remote, too!"
I wouldn't be so disappointed with this announcement had Sony taken steps to improve Nintendo's technology rather than merely copy it. But for those of you envying the innovative new product your competitor just released, let this be a lesson. Don't ever copy an existing feature in the market and try to sell it as new and differentiating. You'll only perpetuate the cycle of shouting "me, too!" at the top of your lungs during trade shows.