Sony showed off a smorgasbord of games coming for its Sony Move motion-sensing controller, which debuts this fall.
The big question about this device is whether it will really carve out a unique place for itself in the video game accessory market. Microsoft’s Kinect uses only a 3D camera to detect motion, leaving you with that magical feeling that you can control a game with your body and no controller.
But Sony’s handheld Move controller isn’t quite so revolutionary. In fact, it isn’t necessarily that different from its predecessor motion-sensing game controller, or from the Wii, particularly since Nintendo introduced the new Wii MotionPlus accessory.
The Move controller is like a wand. It has some familiar Sony controller buttons on it, and a big glowing bulb at the end that changes colors. It has vibration feedback and its motion sensors are coordinated with the PlayStation Eye universal serial bus camera that plugs into a PlayStation 3.
The controller bundle will sell for $99 when packaged with a controller, a Sony Eye motion-sensing camera, and a first-person shooter controller, called the Move navigation controller, or one free game. Move controllers themselves will cost $49.
Peter Dille, senior vice president of marketing and the PlayStation Network, told me in an interview that the added accuracy is the Move’s raison d’etre. The Move can detect subtle movements such as the twist you can put on a ball in a table tennis game, Dille said. And as Electronic Arts showed at the Sony press conference, you can wield a golf club in a Tiger Woods game and Move will determine whether you’ve hit the ball squarely with your swing, or shanked it the right.
“We are excited about what the camera can do with a controller,” said Dille. “We beat that to death at our press conference. It allows us to make games with a lot of precision.”
Dille pointed in particular to Sorcery, an upcoming Move game where you use the wand-like Move as a magician’s wand. This game is really suited to the strongpoint of the Move. You wave it around to cast spells or stir it around to mix a potion. When you play Sorcery, you will be much happier playing it with a Sony Move than with a Nintendo Wii MotionPlus or a Microsoft Kinect System. But, again, how many games are like Sorcery?
I played Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword game with a Wii MotionPlus controller and the sword strokes in the game were accurate and fun. So that puts the ball in Sony’s court. I need to see more games that make use of the Move’s precision accuracy, because Nintendo’s accuracy is not necessarily all that terrible.
At E3, I watched a number of Move games in action. I also tried a hands-on demo of Sony’s TV Superstars game (see the video below) and I also played a little SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy Seals, which allows you to shoot a gun with the Move controller and its accompanying Move navigation controller in the other hand. I like the fact that Sony is trying very hard to produce great hardcore games that work with the Move controller.
With the party games such as TV Superstars, the Move is just like the Wii controller. It is more accurate, but you may not appreciate that. When I was playing TV Superstars, I was thinking more about how absolutely ridiculous I looked while running and swinging my arms up and down.
The SOCOM game was disappointing. I could shoot with the wand in my hand just fine. But the navigation controller in my left hand was shaky and imprecise. I couldn’t easily target anyone with it. So while the Move may be precise, the navigation controller kind of spoiled it.
I suppose I might get better with the navigation controller (pictured right). But it’s very similar to Nintendo’s Nunchuk extension for the Wii controller, and I have never been good at targeting anything with the Nunchuk. The software could also be made better, with built-in stabilization that accounts for your shaking hand. I saw, for instance, that the archery game with the Sony Sports Champions Move games was very precise.
I point out these problems as potential problems for the Move. I will have to await further hands-on time with the Sony Move, but I’m not terribly impressed with my first impressions so far. Dille said he is confident that Sony has an outstanding line-up of games for the fall. But I see Sony’s strength in the fall line-up with its traditional controller games for hardcore audiences. The Move games straddle both the mass market and hardcore audiences. But it may be quite possible for Microsoft and Nintendo to do a lot of the same kinds of games. And that’s the challenge for Sony.