Lunchtime Discussion: Motion Controllers

Motion controllers are big news right now. There’s the whole will it, won’t it over the Arc name (looks like it probably will), the possibility of a price being ninja announced for both Natal and the PlayStation Motion thingy, and of course the announcement of a date for Sony’s offering. Without bothering to do anything as ridiculous as actually counting I estimate that over 200% of our stories are currently about motion control. That’s right double the amount of stories we actually publish are now about motion control, so it would be insane of us not to put the topic to you guys.

So who are the players? Well you’ve got Natal over there in the Microsoft corner, Sony are coming out strong with there It-Might-Be-Called-Arc-But-We-Won’t-Tell-You controller, Nintendo seem to be punching way above their weight with the Wii Motion Plus (which is actually pretty good) and the Balance Board, and then you have Apple’s heavyweight in the form of the iPhone as well as all the other bantamweight competitors in the form of the non-Apple mobile phones and various console add-ons like the board from Ride. That’s right I used boxing as a metaphor, get over it. Don’t expecting any more though, I’m stretching my sporting knowledge as it is.

I’ve included the motion controllers from Apple and the others just to get a perspective of how big the market is getting, it’s certainly something that’s spread beyond home consoles. It’s always nice to have a sense of perspective in these things. Of course looking at the ‘main’ consoles, the Wii is the only platform that has dedicated motion control. Whilst I’ve not used the Balance Board from Wii Fit, I hear it’s actually surprisingly accurate. I have, however, used both the original Wii controller and the Wii Motion Plus. The added fidelity of input with the motion plus is actually impressive and worked surprisingly well when I used it in Wii Sports Resort. The ability to have what feels more like an actual fight, or to be able to add spin to a ball during table tennis is a significant advancement over the the first controller, which pretty much was all waggle. For me the Motion Plus nailed it spot on, I wasn’t left wanting any more or less.

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Of course I have no idea how either Natal or Sony’s controller handle. They may be great or they may both be horrible to use. Sony certainly have the fidelity, demonstrating a sub-pixel level of accuracy all the way back at E3, so it’s bound to have bells and whistles added by now. By contrast Natal’s technology was still a little raw at E3, with most of their demo consisting of and people complaining of input lag during the live demo pieces. Of the two I personally find Natal more interesting, as the implications of it, if it works, are pretty impressive and spread way beyond just gaming. I think Sony will have an easier time finding acceptance, and is likely to have a more stable and effective product.

Anyway that’s enough background and waffle, what do you guys think? Are you interested in any of this? Will the new contenders bring more ‘hardcore’ games to market? Is the Wii boring, or is it something fun to have around for boredom and parties (like Rock Band)? And what about the hand-held and peripheral market that I only touched on briefly?

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