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.
While this technology may not be as original or different as Natal, it certainly has some tricks up its sleeve that could potentially allow a far better experience than its camera led counterpart. The first being the fact that camera tracking is very much defined by the lighting. No matter how much you’d like it to be, not every gamer out there has the perfect lighting set up and regardless of how much technology they put in there, it will affect the experience. Movements may be missed and shadows or sudden bursts of light (e.g. from a lamp being turned on) may unexpectedly cause issues with the tracking. Sony have countered this issue by adding the lit sphere on top which will stand out in almost any situation and allow more consistent tracking of where the device is.
Secondly, not every game will require grand over the top movements. Driving games often need precise actions to navigate a corner while first person shooters repeatedly test players trigger fingers to the limit and Natal may not be able to handle these subtleties. On the other hand, the physical action of being able to push a button, as seen on Sony’s device, gives that opportunity to handle instantaneous responses when needed. Even better is the fact that the additional 'Subcontroller' features an analog stick to handle the games that need that extra input method. This allows the potential for hardcore games, such as the SOCOM 4 and Resident Evil 5, to take advantage of the technology as well as the casual side of things that Natal is likely to solely aim for.
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.
judging by the pic it looks like the wii and natal one