January 30, 2011

Kinect, Move, Wii and hardcore gamers

The motion-sensing technology used to make Kinect what it is today is something Sony was shown four years ago. John Koller, director of hardware marking for Sony Computer Entertainment America, believes his company's competing motion controller — the PlayStation Move — offers something Kinect can't: motion-controlled gaming for hardcore players.

While the Wii has been criticized for having frustratingly inaccurate motion controls, the Move motion-control system has quite the opposite reputation, and for good reason. Sony's motion control system combines the PlayStation Eye camera with a wand-like motion-sensing controller (the one with the lighted ball on the end of it) and a navigation controller. With the camera and the motion-controller working together, the system tracks the controller's movements and replicates them on screen with a high degree of accuracy.

Hardcore gamers by far more games than the casual players. Casual buyers might just buy the initial games that came with the unit and then use it to connect to Netflix. Gamers also do not want a controller and games where the time they are investing to develop skills is not rewarded by the gamer being totally superior. If a novice can come in and be competitive because the controller is not accurate enough to capture the gamers skill the the hardcore gamer will not play that system.

"My group evaluated it. We decided not to go there, and there are a few reasons for it," he said. "The technology is very interesting so I don't want to say that it wasn't. But when you look at the types of games that can be played, it was somewhat limiting. And we talked to our developers and we ran it through our engineering group and a lot of them said, 'You're not going to be able to play a lot of the sports games that you want to do, and you're not going to be able to play the shooters and the action games.'

Consider Nintendo's motion-controlled Wii. Yes, it has sold by the millions and inspired all this motion-control madness. But core gamers have also abandoned the machine in droves, aggravated by the lack of games that cater to their interests.

Certainly, Kinect has hogged the gaming spotlight since it launched. It has not only drawn in people who didn't play games before, but has drawn intense interest from a hacking community who enjoys tweaking the gadget to do all kinds of unusual things. Still, Koller has a point.

So far Kinect games have been targeted at casual and family gamers. From "Kinectimals" to "Dance Central," there's little to no Kinect-controlled gaming that would fall into the hard-core shooting and action categories. And with Kinect not using any kind of hand-held controller, it's difficult to imagine how some of the tasks in the more complex action games could be accomplished with nothing but the waving of hands, arms and legs.

Back in November, Sony announced that they had shipped 4.1 million Move devices to retail in the two months after it launched. But the competing Kinect device for the Xbox 360 — which uses no controller and instead reads the movements of the player's entire body — was a big hit during the holidays. Earlier this month, Microsoft announced that it had shipped 8 million Kinects during its first three months

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