July 19, 2010 -- Nintendo may have started the motion controller phenomenon with the Wii, but Microsoft and Sony are taking the console wars to a new level. This holiday season, there will be a three-way war for supremacy of your living room.
On November 19th, 2006, Nintendo launched its seventh-generation console, the Wii. The device was unlike any gaming console ever created, due to the wireless motion Wiimote controllers. While some ridiculed it for its lack of processing power or HD graphics, its tremendous sales and reach among casual gamers have made Nintendo the top dog in the gaming market.
Now Microsoft and Sony are putting the focus on motion controllers with the Kinect and the Playstation Move respecitvely. But how will this three-way battle play out? Who will remain standing after the dust clears?
Proactive vs. Reactive
Even though the Xbox 360 came out first, the Nintendo Wii has been the undisputed winner of this generation's console wars, at least thus far. Over 70 million units have been sold, compared to 40 million for the Xbox 360 and 35 million for the PlayStation 3.
Nintendo took a major risk with its Wiimote system. Nobody had seen anything like it before in gaming, and nobody was sure that Nintendo's focus on casual gamers would succeed. Its proactive approach though has paid off beautifully, and Microsoft and Sony are playing catch-up.
Sony and Microsoft are tackling motion control in completely different ways, though. The PlayStation Move (which I've tried) uses a Wiimote-like controller and pairs it with a PlayStation Eye camera, which tracks your movement and puts it on the screen. But as I said back in March, Sony played it safe with the Move. My assessment is that it's just a fancier and more accurate Wiimote.
Microsoft, on the other hand, realized that it couldn't win by just improving on Nintendo's innovations — it had to go a step further. I've heard nothing but excitement surround Kinect and its controller-free technology. It essentially turns the Xbox 360 into a new console by reinventing the gaming experience.
It's Still Nintendo's Game to Lose
In a few month, the PlayStation Move and Xbox Kinect will be out in store shelves, along with the Wii and the Wii MotionPlus, which provides more a more accurate motion control experience. You can expect a huge amount of interest from consumers in all of these motion control devices. You should also expect the motion controller wars to last for years, not months.
Nintendo has a huge lead. People still want Wiis and they still fly off shelves, especially around the holidays. The buzz and excitement around Xbox Kinect is going to hit fever pitch before its release. The PlayStation 3 has been recovering from its weak start with a "slim" version of the console, released last September.
Overall, the landscape is becoming more competitive, and the technology involved in motion controllers is still young. However, while the PlayStation Move should fare just fine, don't expect Sony to win the motion controller war — you don't win by playing it safe.
The ultimate battle will be between Nintendo and Microsoft, and it will last until the next generation of consoles emerges (prediction: Nintendo will come out with a new console first).
It's Nintendo's game to lose, but Microsoft is going to put up one hell of a fight. It should make for some incredible games.