PlayStation Move: Sony blasts Wii with funny-looking motion controller

Sony has announced its new PlayStation 3 motion controller, featuring a peculiar glowing sphere with which the company hopes to woo the Nintendo Wii audience

Patrick Steen Special to CNET News
4 min read

Sony last night struck back at the vastly popular Nintendo Wii unveiling the odd-looking PlayStation Move motion controller for its PlayStation 3 at the Game Developers' Conference in San Francisco.

Consisting of a controller with what looks like a glowing ping-pong ball on top and the PS3's existing PlayStation Eye camera, PlayStation Move frankly looks like an 'intimate massager', but it's still less clunky than the prototype we saw last year at E3. Slicker and better proportioned, the final stick features a number of buttons from the more traditional Dualshock controller.

Sony promises unmatched one-to-one accuracy with its controller, claiming it takes motion technology one step further than the Wii's Motion Plus. Rather than the Wii's infrared system, PlayStation Move works through the use of the PS3's camera peripheral to detect the exact movement and 3D position of the controller's laughable glowing ball.

The accuracy of the motion controller is enhanced via a number of fancy motion sensors, such as a three-axis gyroscope, a three-axis accelerometer, and a 'terrestrial magnetic field sensor', which we presume is for keeping uninvited aliens at bay.

The system supposedly has a number of advantages over the Wii, not only offering more accuracy, but cutting lag between action and onscreen appearance down to just one frame. The glowing sphere changes colour, either for player feedback or to differentiate between players, and provides accurate measurement of the Z axis, so the ball's size lets the PlayStation Eye know how far the controller is from the screen.

Nonetheless, comparisons to the Wii began to heighten when Sony unveiled an extra peripheral that looked remarkably similar to the Wii's nunchuck. Featuring an analogue stick and a number of other buttons, Sony christened this with the title 'sub-controller'. (Catchy.) This is set to work in parallel with the Move controller for traditional games such as the popular Killzone and SOCOM shooters.

Sony's solution differs to Nintendo's in that the sub-controller will function wirelessly, rather than tethered like the nunchuck. It also doesn't feature any motion-sensing functions at this time, though Sony's developers have stated that this may change by release.

Despite the similarities and the apparent 'mii-too' approach, Sony explicitly sees the Move as the best way to move consumers away from the Wii and towards its high-definition PS3 experience. "We like to think that the migration path between Wii households and PlayStation households is a natural path," said Peter Dille, senior vice president of marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment America.

The kicker is the software, for which Sony has signed up 36 third-party developers and publishers, including Activision, EA, Konami, Sega, Square Enix and Ubisoft. The company further promised over 20 games for PlayStation Move's launch this autumn.

Sony is targeting all sorts of gamers, offering social gaming with titles such as Sports Champions (pictured below), which looks suspiciously like Wii Sports in high definition, and Move Party, a bunch of family-friendly shovelware mini-games like Wii Play. It's appealing to core gamers through games such as Motion Fighter (pictured bottom), a street-boxing title, and The Shoot, which has you firing at robots and avoiding missiles.

Developer Zipper Interactive hit the stage at GDC with SOCOM 4, showing how Move could be added to more traditional third- and first-person shooters. Surprisingly we didn't see the familiar waving arms the Wii often subjects us to -- the demonstrating gamer slouched nonchalantly in his chair and subtly moved his wrist to control his character's reticule, which is just how we like it. This accuracy means we won't be suffering from Wii arm after a 6-hour slog fighting zombies in Resident Evil 5.

Sony seems to be getting behind PlayStation Move in a big way, offering the peripheral its biggest PS3 marketing push this year and adding the technology to existing titles, such as the charming LittleBigPlanet and the aforementioned Resident Evil. Sony explains on its Official PlayStation Blog that adding Move support into these games doesn't compromise graphical quality due to the technology's low performance impact on the PS3.

You'll be able to get your hands on the technology in a selection of bundles, including a single controller for those who already own the PSEye camera, a full console pack with PS3, controller and camera, and a starter pack consisting of the camera, one controller and a game, priced at under $100 (£66). UK prices haven't been announced, but we're a little worried that costs could mount up with the sub-controller sold separately and some titles requiring two Move controllers.

The PlayStation Move games shown at the event, though graphically impressive, didn't strike us as incredibly innovative, offering upgraded experiences that we've seen before on the Wii. It certainly doesn't have the wow factor of the Xbox 360's controller-less Project Natal, though Sony's simpler technology may well be more successful in lassoing the existing Wii audience.

The ability to create augmented-reality experiences, where different contraptions can be placed in the hands of the player on screen, could be the technology's unique offering, so we'd like to see more of this in future demonstrations.

You'll be able to get your move on in the autumn, but if you want to read and watch some hands-on impressions, visit our CNET US friends and hear GameSpot's thoughts here.