The Nintendo Wii has shown the masses that motion controls are popular. Not just for those who already class gaming as a hobby, but also for people who have never even played or enjoyed a games console before. This has led to the Wii being the current leader in sales followed by the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Naturally both Microsoft and Sony have seen this success and now want a piece of the motion based pie. This has culminated in Project Natal, a camera based option, and the PlayStation Move combination from Sony, featuring a camera alongside Wiimote and Nunchuck style devices. So with both vying for the crown of the motion controlled world, which one has what it takes to topple the Wii? My money is on Sony’s offering, and this is why.
Unlike Microsoft, Sony are no strangers to the concept of motion centric controllers, with experience ranging from the EyeToy of the PlayStation 2 era to the forgettable sixaxis motion features in current PS3 controller. While neither of these truly redefined the way people played games, they gave Sony plenty of practice in the ways of the waggle and have led to the next big thing in gaming immersion – the PlayStation Move.
As you can see from the trailer below, the device works using the collective power of the PlayStation Eye camera and the motion stick to track movements on a 1 to 1 basis. This means wherever you move the controller the camera will track the glowing ball on the stick and tell the PS3 the angle of the device, the distance away from the camera, as well as the where it is on the x and y axis i.e. how far up/down and left/right it is. When you see it in action, it’s truly amazing how smooth and accurate it all is.
Some people will likely prefer the feeling of having a physical gadget in their hands and it’s clear that the Wii has inspired Sony in this respect. While this may not be a bad thing you can expect plenty of protests that it simply copies Nintendo’s idea while adding high definition graphics. This is true, but Sony’s level of motion matching is far superior with the inclusion of distance tracking through the camera. This means that no longer will people be able to get away with bowling through a quick flick of the wrist while sitting lazily on the sofa. The camera also allows players to feature in the games and can even overlay graphics so it appears on the screen as though that huge sword is actually in the real world. Combine this with the future 3D gaming and TVs to lead to a level of immersion that simply hasn’t been seen before.
Naturally all of this comes from viewing videos and reading up on other people’s feedback, but nothing will be definite about the way both Project Natal and Sony’s PlayStation Move feel until they are released later this year. Even then the success will be mostly defined by the games that support them as well as the publicity both receive. Microsoft will undoubtedly market the hell out of Project Natal (or whatever it ends up being called), but Sony will really have to raise the bar and not only get people excited for their product but also excited for the PlayStation 3 as, despite its progress, it still finds itself as the underdog in this generation of console wars.