By Evan Narcisse and Peter Ha
FOSTER CITY – For every generation of video game hardware, one particular console manages to infiltrate the public consciousness and become the shorthand for an entire industry. In the 80s and early 90s it was Nintendo. In 1994, Sony roared onto the scene with the PlayStation and then again in 2000 with the PlayStation 2. For an entire decade, the PlayStation was king of the hill.
Poised to continue its reign through the 2000s and beyond with the release of the PlayStation 3 in 2006, Sony stumbled out of the gate with an overpriced console and games that failed to generate excitement. Then, long-time rival Nintendo turned the entire industry on its head with the Wii. Despite wimpier hardware, the House of Super Mario won over millions of non-gamers with the intuitive motion control of the Wii remote in its flagship Wii Sports title.
(More on Techland: The Techland Interview: Nintendo of America’s Reggie Fils-Aime)
Fast-forward to March 2010, at the Game Developers Conference when Sony unveiled their answer to Mario with Move, a wand-and-joystick combo that pairs with a camera allowing gestural inputs into a variety of PS3 games. At first glance, onlookers criticized Move as a blatant follow-the-leader tactic but the folks behind PlayStation say that they – not Nintendo – were the first to bring motion control to the masses. And they’re right. The EyeToy, a motion-sensing webcam that attached to the PS2 debuted in 2003. Peter Dille, Senior VP of Marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment America, says “Playstation was at the forefront of developing new and innovative ways for user input and player experiences with EyeToy. Motion gaming is something that we’ve always been interested in. There’s ample evidence now that it’s something that people are interested in. We feel we’ve got a unique point of difference to bring something new to the table.”
(More on Techland: Sony Officially Unveils PlayStation Move)
Still, claiming the role of trailblazer doesn’t stop people from thinking, “Isn’t this the same thing as the Wii?” Not exactly. Hands-on time with Move demonstrated a greater level of accuracy than in most Wii games and a host of clever, eye-opening applications that could change the way players interact with games and entertainment. One member of Sony’s R&D team showed how a user could open and manipulate multiple windows and then populate them with content from a website, a game or a YouTube video. During a demo of the upcoming EyePet title, a virtual critter cooed and yelped as the Move controller was used to wash, blow-dry and taunt him. The intuitive nature of the interface makes a player forget that they’re waving a controller over a section of carpet; instead, you’re looking at your EyePet chase soap bubbles across the screen.
It’s that intuitive control–along with the already extant hi-def, web-connected, Blu-ray features of the system–that SCEA thinks will expand the PS3’s appeal. Motion gaming isn’t the only part of Sony’s expansion strategy. 3D, the entertainment industry’s current favorite seasoning, figures broadly into the PS3’s future as well. Killzone 3, the forthcoming installment in the company’s flagship sci-fi shooter series, will feature 3D graphics that make its giant weaponry seem like it’s looming ominously ahead of you. Dille offers that, “I think we’re going to be driving a lot of the interest in 3D; we’re not going to wait for the market to show up. Gaming will be a big, big part of it.”
Sony’s bet is that motion gaming and its plans for 3D will prove irresistible for new console buyers when Move debuts this fall. It’s already been announced that the initial cost for the Move controller set (and an included game) will be around $100, and Dille says that about two dozen games will be debuting with the glowing accessory. “We’ve got Blu-ray, we’ll have a motion-control solution and a 3D solution, too. I think it’s a really safe bet for consumers. No matter where you look, our bases are covered.”
But Sony isn’t the only one with a motion-sensing system coming out in time for the holidays. Microsoft debuted Project Natal, a controller free full-body motion sensing camera add-on to its popular Xbox 360 console, at last year’s E3 game conference. This year’s E3 conference will run from June 14-17 and it’s shaping up to be a slugfest between the big three. Game on.
(More on Techland: In Which We Demo Project Natal)
And here’s a list of titles that will launch with Move. There’s one or two you haven’t known about.