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Playstation Move and Kinect for Xbox 360: Play or Pass?

A look at the current state of the motion control systems offered by the HD gaming consoles

When the Nintendo Wii was released in November of 2006, it set out on a mission to prove that affordable and innovative gameplay would win out over system horsepower. The vehicle it rode to household name-status was the Wiimote, the console's now-iconic motion controller. But in order to keep the system's price low, Nintendo chose to forego the processing power necessary to provide the high-definition displays, deeper color palettes, and polygon counts that its competitors boasted in the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation 3.

Nintendo's gamble seemingly paid off as sales of the Wii were through the roof. By the end of March in 2010, Nintendo reported that it had sold over 70 million units. The Playstation 3 was also released in November of 2006 but only saw reported sales of 47.9 million by 2011. The Xbox 360 has comparitively sold only 50 million to date, despite releasing a year earlier than the Wii. The success of the Wii went a long way to argue that people of all shapes and sizes were opting for a new way to play video games over a flashy re-hash of tradition.

But the Wii's dominance cannot last forever, and the tide is turning. With high-definition TVs becoming more common in households and the competing consoles offering less-expensive models, the Xbox 360 and PS3 are moving increasingly more units than the Wii with each passing month. To capitalize on this trend, Sony and Microsoft both have decided that they too wanted a piece of the motion control pie, and each have come up with their own unique version. Now that they're here, is it time to spend your hard-earned cash on the latest gaming gadgetry?

Sony's foray into motion controlling has come in the form of the Playstation Move. An elongated wand-style controller, it is reminiscent of Nintendo's Wiimote at first glance, though the technology behind its function is quite different. Whereas the Wii motion control mechanic operates off of position detection through the use of infrared communication, the Move controller identifies its location with a lighted orb atop the wand which is tracked by the Playstation Eye camera positioned on or under the television.

Through calibration, the orb works with the Playstation Eye to change its color to one easily detected against present ambient light, which helps the tracking to be more accurate than the Nintendo Wii with less latency. This allows for more precise movement detection as well as the ability to determine the controller's distance from the camera. As a result, the Playstation Move offers three dimensions of movement. This is particularly important on the Playstation 3, as it was the first to adopt 3D gaming. Now, a gamer with a 3D-enabled television and a Playstation 3 with Move can play games that not only depict an object that appears to be directly in front of them, but that also allow the player to reach through or even behind the object. This dynamic offers unique and intriguing possibilities for the ever-growing list of Playstation 3 games that already support 3D displays.

But as with any console or control system, it is only as good as the games it supports. So what can owners of the Playstation Move look forward to playing? For starters, there is the included obligatory sports package called Sports Champions with a Metascore of 76, offering minigames like ping pong, archery, frisbee golf, and bocce. While particularly enjoyable with some company over, it ultimately serves as a demonstration of the Move's capabilities. There are several other titles also targeting the casual gaming audience, but Sony has also opted to include Move support with some of its AAA exclusive titles like Heavy Rain and Killzone 3. Being able to employ motion controlling on titles such as these may go a long way to garner support from much of the Playstation 3's existing fanbase rather than only relying on attracting a new casual contingent.

The Playstation Move was released in September of 2010 and currently supports 50 titles with 16 more currently scheduled for release this year. A bundle including one Move controller, Playstation Eye camera, and Sports Champions game can be purchased for $99.99 retail.

Not to be out-done, in quarter four of last year, Microsoft put $500,000,000 behind an advertising campaign to push the release of its motion control system called Kinect. Just prior to its release in November of 2010, the Kinect made appearances on Kellogg's cereal boxes, Pepsi bottles, People magazine, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Late Night With Jimmy Fallon en route to becoming a household name. This resulted in the sale of 8 million units in its first 60 days on the market. It currently holds the Guinness World Record for being the "fastest-selling consumer electronics device."

The Kinect itself is indeed an impressive piece of hardware. The system consists of only one unit in the form of a camera device that sits at your television. There is no additional peripheral for the player to hold. The camera detects the player's entire body and translates motion into system commands. Remember the hand-controlled computers in the movie Minority Report? It's kind of like that. Players can use a wave of the hand to make menu selections, or they can work up a sweat with a game like Dance Central, and Kinect sees everything.

The Kinect also features a microphone that responds to voice commands. So if your cell phone starts ringing while watching a DVD movie, there's no more need to waste precious energy on reaching for that remote control; just tell your Xbox 360 to pause. There's also face recognition capability included, so once your Kinect system recognizes you, it will automatically log in to the Xbox 360 dashboard using your gamertag.

But regardless of the Kinect's record-breaking launch and household-name status, it has been criticized for not having many games worth playing on the system. There exists the aforementioned Dance Central, a quality title earning a Metascore of 82, as well as the decently-received tamogotchi-like Kinectimals with a Metascore of 74. But the Kinect is simultaneously home to Fighters Uncaged which earned a whopping Metascore of 31 and also "won" Gamespot's award for Flat-Out Worst Game of 2010. But the Kinect is still a brand-new system, and names cropping up for future titles include mentions of popular franchises like Gears of War and Star Wars which hopefully will serve to climb the average score of the motion controller's growing library.

The Kinect for Xbox 360 was released in November of 2010 and currently supports 23 titles with 25 more announced. A bundle including the Kinect with game Kinect Adventures can be purchased for $149.99 retail.

Is motion controlling the "wave" of the future? The jury is out on that, as the highest-rated titles around either still don't support motion controllers or only support them as a control scheme secondary to a traditional controller. But the possibility remains that this is only because motion controlling is in its infancy, particularly with the Playstation Move and Kinect controllers each being only months old. So is either one of them worth buying so soon? Unless you're the type who pines for the latest gadgets, it's probably best to put your wallet back in your pocket for now in each case, at least until the release of the coveted "must-play" title that requires the use of its respective motion control system.

Pick up Kinect and PS3 and its peripherals at these local video game retailers:

  • , 545 South Broad St., Lansdale. (215) 368-1955
  • GameStop, 1551 Valley Forge Road, Lansdale. (215) 631-1230
  • , 2333 W. Main St., Lansdale. (215) 855-4280
  • GameStop, 801 Bethlehem Pike, North Wales. (215) 412-2900
  • GameStop, Montgomery Mall, North Wales. (215) 362-2036
  • Toys R Us, 2 Airport Square, North Wales. (215) 368-8050
  • Best Buy, 801 Bethlehem Pike, North Wales. (215) 855-3528

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