The new console battleground

by Alistair Gray on 2 July 2010

The dust has settled after another year’s E3. All the big games companies were there, announcing/confirming all manner of shiny projects.

As a result it’s clear where the new battleground in the console war is going to take place – motion control. Both Sony (Move) and Microsoft (Kinect) have released more details on their differing attempts to steal the Nintendo Wiis thunder and significant market lead.

Nintendo Wii

The market leader. Most people will have at least have played one in the (approaching) 4 years since its release. Players interact by waving a controller around, with the movement being picked up by a sensor bar on top/below the TV.

The main advantage Nintendo hold over their rivals is it’s ubiquity. Many many people have one (around 5 million have been sold in the UK alone). People will be reluctant to buy a new piece of ‘motion control’ hardware unless there’s a compelling reason to do so.

Problems include complaints over it’s accuracy – poor motion tracking has ruined many a putting chance for me on Wii Sports Golf. Perhaps more significantly there have been surprisingly poor sales figures for non-Nintendo developed games. Developers and publishers are now thinking twice before developing games for the platform, as no 3rd party developed game seems to sell well.

Sony Move

Sony Move seems to be a more accurate Nintendo Wii. Players hold controllers as the Wii and are tracked by a camera on top of the TV.

From a purely hardware view, Sony’s running the risk of confusing it’s less tech savvy customer base. Each game appears to need a different combination of it’s controllers. I predict annoyed customers returning games/equipment after purchasing the wrong set, especially initially.

It’s a safer bet than Microsoft, most players will know the drill having played with the Wii. Also with a similar interaction style to the Wii developers can carry over existing knowledge and experience in development more easily than with the Kinect. I predict this means games will be developed quicker and with less pain for the Move than for the Kinect. This may result in Move’s success, as more games will hit the platform (both Wii ports and news games building on Wii mechanics).

Microsoft Kinect

Microsoft has taken a bigger risk than Sony. With no controller at all, the interaction is entirely through body movement. This both opens up and restricts interaction. Sometimes a button is the easiest interaction, how do you select without pressing A/X? At the same time it should remove a barrier of entry to the platform for players – people no longer need to be adept at button pressing (and many people aren’t) in order to play.

Developers making games for the Kinect have to start from scratch – no interaction like this has really happened before. This makes the development of games that much harder. But on the positive side, with no controller to hold, the Kinect won’t be restricted by previous interaction templates – the designers/developers can really push the boat out. If they have the imagination to do so. I’ve yet to see evidence of this though…

Conclusions and predictions

So there you have it.

Both Move and Kinect require players to interact with games in unfamiliar ways… but the Move builds on players previous experience with the Wii, the Kinect is entirely new (even before we get an idea of how well the system works).  I think the Move will do well, as building a good user experience around familiar, existing systems is always easier than starting from scratch. What do you think? Have a browse of theMove games and Kinect games and tell me which you think will do well.

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