PS3 motion controller delayed; goes up against Project Natal

At last year's E3, both Sony and Microsoft showed off new motion controller peripherals for their gaming consoles. Microsoft's Project Natal seemed the more ambitious of the two, totally forgoing any kind of controller and using a series of cameras and microphones to allow you to control games using your body and voice. In contrast, Sony introduced a wand controller with a lighted ball on the end. It looked a lot more low tech, but the fidelity of the controller was impressive and the wand included buttons which pleased some gamers; the tactile feedback of knowing you pressed a button is important to some.

Sony promised their wand would be out in the Spring of 2010 while Microsoft murmured something about holiday 2010. A few weeks ago at CES Microsoft confirmed that information, giving Sony a nice 6-month window in which to market its apparently more modest wand controller unchallenged by their rivals in the Xbox camp. The Nintendo Wii, of course, has had motion controls all along; for that matter so has the PS3 – we seem to forget that the standard PS3 controller is also a motion controller until we play one of the few games (like Flower) that makes use of it.

Sony's window of opportunity slammed shut last night when they issued a press release saying in part:

"We have decided to release the Motion Controller in fall 2010 when we will be able to offer an exciting and varied line-up of software titles that will deliver the new entertainment experience to PS3 users, " said Kazuo Hirai, President and Group CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. "We will continue to work to have a comprehensive portfolio of attractive and innovative games for the Motion Controller, not only from SCE Worldwide Studios but also from the third party developers and publishers, whom we have been working closely with. We look forward to soon unveiling the exciting software line-up that further expands and defines the PS3 platform as the ultimate entertainment system for the home."

So now Sony is faced with drumming up excitement for its ball-on-a-stick at the same time Project Natal wants to practically read your mind (hyperbole intended). While hardcore gamers will examine both systems and choose the one best suited for actually playing games (or just get both) for more casual consumers it's going to be hard for Sony to compete. Their wand looks rather like the Wii's remote while Project Natal seems exotic and magical. For the Playstation faithful, this has to be rather disappointing news and seems like another blunder on Sony's part. At the same time, releasing the wand before there was a good variety of software to support it would be even worse (look at Nintendo's Wii MotionPlus which, 7 months after release, still only has three titles that support it, as far as I know).

A final note. While the press release refers to the wand as simply the Motion Controller, gaming blog VG247 "has it on good authority" that the final name will be the Playstation Arc.

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