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back to article Sony shows off PS3 motion-control magic wand

Hot on the heels of Microsoft's hands-free 'Project Natal', Sony showed off its own motion controller today at its E3 press conference. And that means all three major video game consoles will offer a motion control gadget. Playstation Motion Control, which is still in the prototype stage, is a wireless wand topped with a color- …

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Boffin

Two problems?

1) The chicken & egg problem of console peripherals does not appear to be the problem that it used to be; wildly popular games like Guitar Hero, Rock Band, SingStar, Wii Fit, Buzz and EyeToy all prove that. The PS3 wand, MS camera and Wii MotionPlus will also start from the same low base (MotionPlus only benefits a few games at the moment). Part of the reason is that the cost of software is approaching that of the hardware. Clever developers can either make the game usable without the add-on i.e. SingStar requires Mic's but will use an Eyetoy if one is present; or just target a niche market of people prepared to buy games that use them; probably more people have a Wii Fit board than had original X-Box or GameCubes.

2) "There are now three consoles with completely disparate motion control schemes". Er, and these consoles also have disparate CPU, graphic sub-systems, SDK's, and optical disk formats. At the moment, all 3 consoles offer different controllers anyway, with the PS3 DualShock 3 providing 3D tilt sensing, the Wii giving that +acceleration and rough position.. and the 360 giving bugger all. The cross-platform games; at least those across the PC/360/PS3 systems work through cross-compilers and good libraries that can hide some of the complex details. Dev's will get a hook into a data stream that feeds XYZ position and acceleration from whatever controller - its just in some cases it will more accurate than others. So may be better in the future when all offer accurate controller information, rather than as at present. The Wii is still the odd one out in that it doesn't have enough CPU or graphics grunt to to run simple ports.

"If you can't make a game easily ported to all three, you'll probably limit yourself to just one. And chances are you'll pick the console with the enormous user base guaranteed to have the right equipment: the Nintendo Wii"

If you are going purely on user base, you might target a PS2. Probably not, because, like the Wii, people doesn't buy rush out and buy many new 3rd party games for the PS2/Wii as with other consoles. Many of the Wii enormous user base appear to be using the Wii as a dedicated Wii Play device.

As for the right equipment, the Wii might have a Wii Fit .. or not, might have Motion Plus.. or not, and probably doesn't have the disk-space, CPU grunt or online play capability you might want for your great new game. Making a cross-platform game (PS3/360/PC) still makes sense.

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Alert

re: bootnote

1)"no one will target an optional controller"

well we have the remapping of normal controller funtion games:

guitar hero et al... epecially rock band (£150 for a smegging game with "optional" gubbins?)

*shudders at no guitar guitar hero*

driving games with steering wheel/pedal controllers

then we have:

light gun shooting games (virtua cop, duck hunt, time crisis, silent scope...)

so popular that the light gun is a *generic* console peripheral

wii fit

http://www.balanceboardblog.com/2008/06/guide-every-wii-balance-board-game.html

counts 48 either out now or in the pipeline, that use or require the ballance board

2)"pick the console with the enormous user base"

see your own comment about "tack on motion-control as afterthought"

how many ports to the wii are already like this?

how many games are vastly innapropriate for the wii? (even ignoring the performance difference - how many cert 18 games are there (for the wii)? )

My comment:

What may happen, is that an element of motion control will be expected as standard, rather than the frustrating gimmik (sp) it currently is. (*cough* touch screens on phones *cough*)

As reg readers will probably know,

all the controller interface stuff is squirrled away where the game engine doesnt have to worry about it. As long as i can *accurately* and *consistenty* flail innefectually at bad guys, and this be presented to the engine, it doesnt matter how the hardware is implemented. Unless of course the hardware doesnt meet the accurate and consistent test, in which case its not fit for purpose. (like er... the wii controller. but that might be just me)

So yes, there maybe some initial barriers to entry (like if the controllers cost as much as a wii, or if all the first wave of games are just wii sports copies), but i look forward to our gesture control future (think tony stark's cad/cam setup in iron man)

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Boffin

@grant

The games you highlight point out exactly the problem el-reg are getting at. You list several games, all of which come with their own gadget, because they can't rely on you having one of them already. The point was not that no games will ever use gadgets - instead, no game will rely on you having already bought a gadget from Sony, rather than buying it with the game. Clever developers sneak round this by using the eye... but honestly, you expect them to do motion tracking with the camera, and no known items in the world to track? The fancy pants new controller already needs the camera to track it!

As for seperate CPU etc, woop-de-doo, it's well known how to write a game in a way that's portable between at least XBox and PS3 - as demonstrated by the fact that 99% of games come out on both of them. The only time we ever see an exclusive is when games company is paid to do it. In the mean time, changing the control system of the game and as a result, the game mechanics is a much much more major change than just doing a port. Note also here, that your statement about all consoles having different controllers is just pure bullshit... compare an XBox and PS3 controller. Both have a central PS3/XBox button, surrounded by a select/start pair. Both have an analog stick either side, both have a D-pad on the left and 4 random buttons on the right, both have 2 analog buttons on the top, and both allow you to push the analog sticks in. That's it... they both use *identical* controllers other than the shape.

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Anonymous Coward

So, the smartest thing to do is bundle it with the console

as Nintendo did with the Wii. There hasn't even been the vaguest suggestion of what sort of direction the marketing of the wand will go.

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@Bootnote

Disagree with your comments, the motion controller by Microsoft is going to be a revolution, it just looks so much fun...

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Stop

Horses For Courses

'Gimmick' seems to be the word here. The Wii is nowhere near as powerful as the PS3 or Xbox 360, but it sells in droves because darn thing is so playable - particularly on a social level. It's also proved itself to be immense fun. Also on a social level. This is due, almost totally, to the accessibility of its control method. Sony & MS have spent huge sums of money developing controllers that their users find intuitive and usable and, personally, that's good enough for me.

My main console is a PS3 and I enjoy sitting on my fat arse wiggling my thumbs, but if I want to wave my arms around when playing games I'll just crank up my Wii.... Ho hum..

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Flame

Back to front

"There are now three consoles with completely disparate motion control schemes. If you can't make a game easily ported to all three, you'll probably limit yourself to just one. And chances are you'll pick the console with the enormous user base guaranteed to have the right equipment: the Nintendo Wii"

Er no.

Some Wii users have the stupid balance board, others don't. Some have two controllers, others don't.

None of them have a decent graphics processor capable of displaying anything better than we saw on the PS1 all those years ago.Yes, they all have the controllers that they got with their machines but those aren't much cop really are they?

If *I* was a developer, I wouldn't be making games for what is essentially a piece of 90s wank with some gimmicky controllers. Mums and Dads might play games on the Wii but in my experience they still think in terms of "that tennis game" "the driving game" etc. You might sell a lot of units to the gullible but you won't make a name for yourself - and there are so many other wanky gimmicky games on the Wii that you could quite easily be crowded out.

I've used the controllers on the Wii and I just found them frustrating. They didn't help me to play racing games or tennis games, they just annoyed me because they were too sensitive (or not sensitive enough, depending on the game...)

Having said that, I obviously have not used the motion controllers on the PS3 or XBox. However, both platforms are capable of showing something better than cartoony graphics and I have no doubt that games could be written to use more than one type of controller VERY easily...

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Alert

Bah

Come on el Reg you write about the PS3 magic wand but have seemed to completely bypassed Microsofts Project NATAL. Do you guys have no imagination?

And your book notes! The other comments show why those are so narrow minded.

To begin with there is not going to be a total switch from one controller method to another, a physical hand held controller will remain with us for some time, the motion capture will add another level of control. Sure there will be tons of shovelware developed for it just like the Wii but other developers will find ways of incorporating it seamlessly into our current play styles.

Imagine a FPS where you can give hand signals to your squad mates, stop, get down, flank, go or an RPG where you can manage your inventory and menu screens with a simple wave. Then think about something like Tom Clancy's EndWar and how you could control whole armies with voice commands and physically directing them around or driving games that you use your legs for accelerating and breaking.

Project NATAL could add another layer of immersion that goes far beyond what motion sensing physical controllers can.

Then consider plugging the same technology into your TV or your PC or your home, the possibilities are endless. If it actually works as well as Microsoft are saying what happens when they add it as a feature to a future Windows operating system bypassing the need for people to upgrade to touch screen monitors.

We will see.

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So Rock Band etc

"by making it only playable by those who've purchased a bonus (and potentially expensive) gadget."

So Rock Band, Guitar Hero etc don't count? Hmmmmmmm. Not a very good point to make really, Mr/Ms Journo.

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picless?

This is one article that needs a picture - I can't decide from your description whether it's like a kareoke microphone, or a conductor's baton held at the pointy end.

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Flame

Much more impressive that Microsofts "demo".

At least Sony were able to give a live realtime 1:1 demo of their technology. Turns out Microsofts "demo" was faked..

http://kotaku.com/5275204/testing-molyneuxs-milo-a-virtual-boy-with-yes-a-dog

"The Milo demo was partially being manipulated by a developer who was sitting nearby,"

However you can bet the press won't make such a fuss about Microsoft faking this and deceiving everyone than they did with the E3 2005 PS3 Killzone2 presentation...

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agree with AC

Add-ons for christmas 2010

1) the A777 simulator, half real size, in hygenic, non-toxic polyethylene. The 88 switches and 57 dials can be simulated with a USB keyboard, and 2nd screen (cheaper but less fun).

2) the nuclear power station (Sinclair vapourware, at long last realised for Wii)

Amazing how much one-game junk is competing for cupboard space, given the small size of the CGU.

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Ry
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looks good

I already have the PS Eye with my PS3, works really well although there are only 5 or 6 games for it.

The comments above do make sence but can you imagine if a game like mirrors edge used this tech, instead of jumping from one thing to another, use one controller as a grappling hook and the other as a firearm. That would be a really good game, it could be used in so many different ways.

FPS could use these if they updated the game - only if it worked well/ had enough buttons on the controller etc.

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Peripherals

'1) They weren't shipped with the console at launch. No sane developer is going to risk ruining a game's potential appeal to the public at large by making it only playable by those who've purchased a bonus (and potentially expensive) gadget.'

A hard disk wasn't shipped with all XBox 360s, but owning one has become almost compulsory. Those folks who didn't have a drive originally have been picking them up as it becomes clear the 360 is nigh-on useless without them.

Which brings me on to...

Wii Fit has been topping the British charts for months now, it is only now available in-store without pre-ordering. That's a major financial outlay on top of the price of the Wii and it only works with a single game. Yet hundreds of thousands have been sold.

So it does look like people will buy peripherals if they are compelling enough.

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Jay

Too little, too late?

Well, it all sounds nice, but both Sony and Microsoft are obviously a bit behind here! I'm a bit of a Sony fanboi, but I don't think I'll be bothering with this. Actually I think I'm still a bit of a controller luddite, as I don't even use the tilt stuff in the Dualshock. I did have a Wii briefly, but got rid of it when my girlfried decided she didn't like it, even though it was her idea to get one!

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Anonymous Coward

I agree with the bootnote.

I totally agree with the bootnote. Sony/MS will have to actually include this hardware with all PS3's sold from now on, or just wait for the PS4 and make it built in/bundled.

I'll be honest, I always thought motion control was tacky and usless. MS's Natal didn't wow me.

But when I watched the PS motion control demo I could see myself using it.

It's actually useful.

Imagine walking into pitch black, one controller acting as a torch and the other a pistol.

As you scan around the corners of the room looking for what you just heard something flashes by your torch. You instantly try to track it but its gone. Torch starts to flicker, you hit the controller and the light stops flickering. Then it cuts out.

You hear noises, you shoot the pistol frantically.

Sony better not fuck this up. Release it with the PS4.

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Felt sorry for the guys giving the demo

They seemed a bit embarrassed at first and the whole presentation looked like it was rushed and was going to be a bit of a car wreck. Once the guy playing though got over his nerves and actualy managed to do something other than swing unsuccessfuly at a ball it did look rather fun and impressive even if it has been seen before.

The problem Sony have though is its more peripheral than controller. With the Wii the controller is part of the console, you play games with it, you browse the web with it, you can turn it on and off with it without controller you are stuffed. Project Natal could ship with future 360's, maybe part of the elite package and while it wont work with current games you can still use the other functions of the console with it and can expect full integration and it could easily relegate the current controller to a secondary device you use to play games. Sony's effort just looks like its there for games which could prove its downfall. Ok so could be used to browse the PS3 menus but the Wii controller is like a remote, people use remotes all the time its normal, Natal will use hand gestures, just like in the movies how impressed will people be when they see you controlling your tv with just your hand. Sonys effort though would require two glow sticks in your hand doing little fish big fish cardboard box to queue up a movie.

Sony should of just kept quiet about it, and left it to CES. It would of probably been the finished product by then and it would then be released a few weeks later. What they should of done at E3 was announce a price cut, that would of won them the show and not doomed them to second place (Nintendo always get last place, not sure why they even bother turning up).

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Lex
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Back to front to back again

@ AC. If you were a developer you'd be losing money fast.

The Wii has proven that there's a huge market for people who rank playability and social gaming over hi-res graphics and surround sound. You can masturbate over frame rates all you like, but by investing in the human interface Nintendo has achieved the remarkable feat of taking consoles out of the darkened bedroom and into the family room.

These people aren't gullible: they want to enjoy a gaming experience with family and friends that doesn't require a steep learning curve to get to grips with the control system, that can be enjoyed across the generations, and is affordable to boot. Buzz, Eye Toy, Guitar Hero and Rock Band are all part of the same phenomenon - games real people can play.

I'm happy with FPS in a darkened room, but respect to the Wii.

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Meh

I can't see this kind of technology taking off. Don't get me wrong it looks amazing, and I'm sure I'd get a lot of enjoyment out of it... for a day or two, but then like the wii it would sit under my TV collecting dust until the next time I have friends or family around and someone challenges me to a game of virtual tennis.

I play games to kill time, I enjoy sitting back in a comfortable chair in a dimly lit room while driving around New York killing pedestrians and stealing police cars without so much as lifting my thumbs. Gaming is a lazy mans hobby. I don't deny that this amount of interactivity would be fun and exciting, but as a new gaming format it wouldn't stand a chance, not in the long run.

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Go

Some valid points in the bootnote

But, dont forget that the Xbox 360 is the only console right now with no motion capture built in. The Wii obviously does the whole Wii thing - and the PS3 has SIXAXIS (whether you think its good or not is neither here nor there).

So, to say that developers wont waste the time with a new fancy control system is a bit off. PES on the Wii for instance, is an example of a studio adding a new control system to a cross format game. In fact, all the games on the Wii that are available on different platforms are an example of developers choosing to do this.

The second point is the most interesting - could there ever be an agreed standard for console controllers? I am not sure there could - and why should there be? Manufacturers like Sony, MS and Nintendo only really care about their own hardware, why should they agree to make their controllers interoperable if they can be sure of dominance? Lets face it, right now, the PS3 and 360 rule the roost in the 'hardcore' sector, with the Wii owning the casual market. Both MS and Sony appear to want in to the casual market, and so will want to make as much money as possible there. So they wont want there platform to be compatible with someone elses, will they?

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Anonymous Coward

Sony aced the show

Even before the controller was shown, they already had enough desirable exclusives, but the controller demo did it for me.

Made Microsofts E3 showing look pretty shabby, and Nintendo's was an embarrassment all round.

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Anonymous Coward

Natal the eye toy clone

Project natal is an Eyetoy clone. Anyone with a ps2 or ps3 would know sony have already done a natal.. the actual wand is a new add on because "somethings just need buttons" there are a few games on PSN that use motion control with the eyetoy... plus the eyetoy doesnt cost $200

i see why they called it "natal" anyone in the right mind to pay $200 for this eyetoy clone will get post natal depression!

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Stop

Natal was less than impressive minus smoke and mirrors

http://news.cnet.com/crave/?tag=rb_content;overviewHead

A much-hyped software package that uses the Project Natal hardware, Milo was presented as a virtual on-screen boy who could recognize you and carry on an intelligent conversation. The demo video was impressive, but obviously shot in a tightly controlled environment with clearly scripted responses. Talking to several people who got a chance to try out talking to Milo in person behind closed doors, the responses were uniformly disappointed, describing the supposedly realistic Milo to a similar to a Tamagotchi virtual pet, with only very basic interactivity.

At least the Sony offering was real, and not faked.

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Coat

Re: Back to front

The Wii has much better graphics than a PS1, personally I'd say when coupled with an LCD TV via component video the graphics surpass the original XBOX and PS2.

Anyway.... I think to be honest as it shows with the Wii and the DS, there are a whole lot of people out there who aren't hard core gamers who want the latest and greatest installment of Fifa or the latest FPS. Fair enough there is a whole load of crap games on the Wii (those bloody cheap and nasty £20 party games which look like there are the same game with different graphics), but then there are some great games out there which really do make good use of the Wii controls.

On the other hand, it can be frustrating that some of the games and VC titles require either a Gamecube controller or Classic Controller to get reasonable play control out of them.

I think that if Microsoft and Sony can make a killer app for them then they may do well (I'm thinking an air guitar version of Guitar Hero or something like that?) but I doubt unless they sell in the millions then they're not going to be supported mainstream.

Still the Microsoft demo was impressive, shame it does seem to be kind of faked.

Mines the one with the Wiimote and PS3 buyers guide in the pocket.

Rob

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Doomed to fail

While I agree that other developers will probably steer clear of supporting these devices to begin with, both Sony and Microsoft produce their own games and will probably support the devices themselves first.

When cheap cloned versions of the controllers appear other developers might feel more inclined to support them, but I agree that this is unlikely given the differences between the 3 types of motion detection.

A few Sony-only, Microsoft-only games will appear though. And one or two of the larger developers will be charged with producing a game or two for each tech.

I think the more likely scenario is this will be viewed as a test bed for the next versions of each console, and if enough people buy the Sony / Microsoft developed games these controllers will come as standard with those.

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