When Nintendo announce the Wii and its unique motion controls, Sony attempted to pre-empt and counter it with the PlayStation 3. For the first time, the control pad for Sony’s then new console featured a gyroscope that enabled it to sense motion. On the surface, this development had the potential to evolve gameplay. While Nintendo was attempting to reinvent the wheel with its new Wii Remote, Sony was taking the route of incorporating motion controls to its already popular DualShock controller, one which had remained relatively unchanged since being first introduced in 1997 with the original PlayStation.
The potential was there, though the PlayStation 3 controller, dubbed Sixaxis, ultimately failed to deliver. Sony used the Sixaxis moniker with the controller because rumble functionality was removed from it, which immediately generate controversy among players. While Sony’s stance was that the rumble interfered with the motion sensors, there were some who speculated that it had more to do with a legal issue with haptics developer Immersion Corporation. The positive was that the controller was significantly lighter to hold, though this benefit paled in comparison to having in-built rumble functionality.
Sony would eventually release an updated version of the Sixaxis with rumble support in 2008, titled DualShock 3. The naming of the controller was not only a way to emphasise the rumble functionality, but it also acted as way for Sony to distance itself from the motion functionality of the control pad. Despite being packed-in with every single PlayStation 3 console released since launch, motion controls with the Sixaxis never hit off. Very few games incorporated motion controls into gameplay, and the simple reason for this was that the Sixaxis was not very good. The motion sensor was too sensitive and inaccurate at the same time, meaning that commands were often misrepresented or misunderstood.
Best of both worlds
Games such as Lair and Warhawk had gameplay entirely designed around motion controls, though issues with accuracy often made the game experience frustrating and unsatisfying. Grand Theft Auto IV and MotorStorm allowed players to turn on motion controls for core gameplay, though most opted to overlook it. A few titles such as Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction utilised motion controls for small sections of the game, and while this type of implementation worked better, it still did not add anything substantial to the game experience. The DualShock 3 continues to contain motion sensors, though the reality is that the majority of PlayStation 3 games stopped including motion controls long ago.
Sony realised that the gamble with motion controls in the Sixaxis did not pay off, but it also saw the Wii tearing up the sales charts to become the best selling console of this generation off the back of its Wii Remote. There was also Microsoft banking on motion controls with the Kinect for its Xbox 360. To that end, Sony decided to start all over with a clean slate and the result was the PlayStation Move. Unlike the Kinect, which spent a long time out in the open as a prototype in its Project Natal phase, Sony kept the development of the Move mostly under wraps until it unveiled the finished product and put it on retail shelves.
Sony should be commended for the initial support and marketing it did for the Move. It managed to get the message out quickly and get consumer awareness quite late in the PlayStation 3 lifecycle, and there was very little confusion about what the motion controller does. Several first and third party titles were also lined up for launch and Sony managed to sell the Move at a reasonable price, which consisted of dedicated camera and controller. Having kept a close eye on the competition, Sony’s play in the motion space had incorporated elements from both the Kinect and Wii Remote.
Eye of the beholder
It is easy to see why Sony went the way it did with the Move. By incorporating the underutilised PlayStation Eye camera, which has been on the market since 2007, Sony found a use for the peripheral while also improving the accuracy of the Move controller. The Move controller has a gyroscope that senses movement, but a multi-coloured orb on top of the device is tracked by the PlayStation Eye to further improve motion detection. This means that the Move is quite accurate during gameplay, significantly moreso than the Kinect.
However, the limitations of the setup become apparent over an extended period of use. One major issue is that most Move enabled games require a mandatory setup before being played. Even if you sit in the same place when playing games, you still need to go through the entire setup process when loading up a new game. Granted, this is a requirement of the Kinect, but there are more steps involved in calibrating the Move for gameplay than Microsoft’s peripheral.
Like the Wii and Kinect, a large number of casual titles have been released for the Move. There is no faulting this manoeuvre, as the Move is still not as accurate as a control pad when it comes to in-game controls. Games such as Sports Champions typically make the most of the Move, though the game experience can be a bit shallow and simplified, as was a complaint with most Kinect and Wii titles.
In the Killzone
To tap into the core market, game such as Heroes on the Move and Sorcery have been released, where the Move controller can be used in conjunction with the regular control pad. This was one of the better ways for motion control to be implemented, though the separately sold navigation controller is highly recommended, as holding the DualShock 3 with one hand is a bit cumbersome. Core titles such as Killzone 3 even go as far as to incorporate Move support for first shooter gameplay. However, like Sixasis support in games, this is mostly a niche feature that is overlooked by many.
As for whether the Move is a success or not, the fact is that the hardware has sold reasonably well, though not at the same levels as the Kinect. Unlike Microsoft, Sony has shown a hesitancy to bundle the peripheral with the PlayStation 3, leaving people to buy the device separately instead. While there was a steady trickle of Move enabled games following the peripheral’s introduction, support has dried up as the PlayStation 3 starts to reach the end of its lifespan and the successor console looms on the horizon. Few high profile releases had support for the Move, but when they did, such as Heavy Rain, it was usually quite good.
The moderate success and support of the Move can be attributed to timing and not to anything wrong with the peripheral. As with the Kinect, it had the misfortune of coming mid-to-late in the console cycle, as well as in the wake of the underwhelming implementation of the Sixaxis controller. If the Move had come out together with the navigation controller with the PlayStation 3 on launch, bundled together with or without the Sixaxis, it had the potential to replicate the success the Wii enjoyed and possibly give way to innovation in core games. Instead, it became a moderately successful add-on that provides a glimpse into what the future of gaming may be like once the technology and developer support improves further.