Sony delays PlayStation 3's motion controller

The new controller will hit the market at about the same time as Microsoft's Project Natal

Sony has pushed back the launch of its motion controller for the PlayStation 3 console by six months citing a desire to have more software available at launch.

The controller, which will bring Wii-like game play to the PlayStation 3, was originally due to launch in the spring of this year but it will now be available worldwide in the fall, Sony said Wednesday.

By delaying the launch Sony will be able to ensure a wider variety of compatible software titles will be available, said Makiko Noda, a spokeswoman for Sony Computer Entertainment in Tokyo. Noda said the delay didn't mean development of the controller or titles was running late and declined to offer additional details on the likely launch line-up of games.

The delay means that it will lose a six-month launch advantage it had over Microsoft's Project Natal system, that is due on sale in time for the year-end holidays.

Both Sony and Microsoft have been playing catch up with Nintendo's Wii since it launched four years ago and revolutionized console games with its "Wii-mote" motion controller. The unique method of game play won over many casual gamers and helped make the Wii a formidable competitor to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 despite it lacking the flashy, high-definition graphics on the latter two consoles.

Sony's controller, a prototype of which has already been demonstrated, has a glowing ball mounted on its end that is tracked by the PlayStation Eye camera, which will be a requirement for the system. Few other details are known about the device at present and it's only been shown a few times since its debut at last year's E3 gaming convention.

Microsoft's system, called Project Natal, appears more advanced than both the Sony and Nintendo systems because it does away with the controller completely. The gamer's actual body movements are detected and mimicked inside the games so punches, kicks and jumps are translated immediately into movements. Microsoft plans to launch Natal in time for the end-of-year holiday sales period.

The year is shaping up to be an important one for PlayStation 3 owners.

Sony is aggressively promoting 3D entertainment, and the PlayStation console will play an important part in the push. The company has already promised to add 3D capability to all PS3 consoles through a firmware update, and several companies are working on 3D games. It will, however, be necessary to buy a compatible television to enjoy games with the additional dimension.

Sales of the console have recently enjoyed an uptick after Sony launched a revised model that's smaller and cheaper than the original PlayStation 3. The console saw record sales in the last five weeks of 2009 with 3.8 million units sold worldwide, a 76 percent jump on 2008, Sony said earlier this month.

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Martyn Williams

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