Of the two devices Microsoft’s Natal seems to have the edge for very casual gamers because you don’t even need a controller to play. Even something as simple as the Wii Remote can be confusing to some very in-experienced players. Honestly what’s more casual than no controller at all? Microsoft’s Natal caters to casual fans while still being very immersive and enjoyable for more seasoned players.
Famous Microsoft developer Peter Molyneux explains it best: “Surely we have been making interactive games for 30 years right? No, because that thing in our hands [controllers] is the biggest barrier to what we want to create. Because what we want to create is a connection with our worlds and that’s what I believe Natal does.”
I am most impressed by Molyneux’s company Lionhead and a demo of theirs. At E3 last year they showed off Milo, a character they created that recognizes voices, player motions and even player emotions. Most impressive of all was when the demo showed the player holding up a paper to the screen and Natal copied it into the game and Milo used it for a project he needed to work on.
All of that sounds great but utilizing motion capture technology Natal must have some lag, right? MTV’s Multiplayer blog conducted a study of Natal and found that it lags an average of 1/10th of a second. That is much more then the good old fashioned controller and even slower than the Wii Remote. Is the benefit of not having to use a controller enough to warrant the slow “life-to-screen” transition time?
Move promises to bring precision and true movement dynamics to motion control. One developer says that unlike in “a competitors boxing game” where you can swing your whole in-game arm by just flicking your wrist the Move’s precision recognizes the full punch and every twist of your arm and wants you to really get up and let that right hook fly.
What Sony is stressing about the Playstation Move is that it is so accurate you will forget you’re even in your living room. It promises to offer such accuracy that every movement down to your exact position on the floor is mimicked on-screen. Playstation Move requires you to be immersed in the game flailing your arms about in gladiatorial combat or stretching way out to shoot a bow and arrow. In contrast: with the Wii Remote you can simply sit on the couch and lightly flick your wrist to play bowling. This is where I think the Playstation Move loses a lot of players however. To hardcore gamers the precision that the Move offers is very promising for a more immersive experience; however the main focus of the current generation is on casual gamers. I think there will be a bit of a learning curve for a lot of casual folks. Whereas the Wii sort of compensates for motions the Playstation Move demands accurate movements. I can see a fan of Wii Bowling trying to play bowling on the Playstation Move and gutter balling every time because they over-turn their wrist or something. Don’t forget about lazy/tired people. Sometimes I don’t want to stand up to play Nintendo Wii, I would rather sit down and play tennis like a sack of potatoes and I’m sure there are many others like me. Can the Move’s unprecedented precision deliver an immersive enough experience to get everyone involved?
What about the Nintendo Wii?
I would like to step out a bit and discuss the Nintendo Wii and the possible trouble that it faces. If both of these devices thrive on their systems then I really think the Wii may become ‘just another console’. At this time the Wii has the corner on the casual gamer market, but Natal seems like it will take that away from them. Let us imagine that this does happen and Natal takes many casual fans who just want to have the most fun for the least tech knowledge away from the Wii. The Wii still contends and has a strong following because Natal is, as has already been confirmed, a little laggy and the Wiimote can offer more accuracy. This is where the Playstation Move comes in. Sony says Move offers the most precision of all the motion controllers and if true where does that leave Nintendo and its motion controller device? If the Wii Remote is too complex for some casual fans and not precise enough for hardcore fans where does it fall? Obviously Nintendo will stay strong because they created this motion controller market and have a massive following but only time will truly tell if it falls behind the others.
The Xbox 360’s Natal and Playstation 3’s Move both look like incredible devices. Sony and Microsoft are both aiming for the fall to launch Move and Natal, respectively. As for right now there really isn’t any telling which will take hold of the motion controller market and the subsequent casual gamers market. Who knows Natal and Move may not even dethrone the mighty Wii Remote. As I said I am sure E3 will reveal much more about Natal and Move and which of the two may come out on top. However, the big question may not be which among Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo will win but what that will mean for future generations of consoles and motion controllers.