WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Following a hands-on demonstration of the upcoming motion controller for Sony's PlayStation3 console -- the aptly-named Sony Move -- I'm convinced of two things:
1. Sony has out-Wiied the Nintendo Wii;
2. For sports games, that's probably a good thing. But not always.
Case in point? "Sports Champions," Sony's answer to "Wii Sports." Like Nintendo's genre-defining blockbuster, "Sports Champions" features a collection of gesture-controlled sports mini-games, including archery, table tennis and beach volleyball; unlike "Wii Sports" -- and Wii titles in general -- Sony's game offers a highly-senstive level of control, thanks to Move's ability to track controller position in three-dimensional space.
On the Wii, games know the direction you tilt the controller and how fast you swing it -- which is why you can play "Wii Sports" while sitting on your couch, swinging with one arm. On the PS3, by contrast, games can detect the absolute position of the controller relative to your body and the room around you.
Translation into gameplay? Table tennis and beach volleyball were a blast. Racket angle and backswing mattered; to make a diving spike save on the screen, I practically had to dive to the floor. On the other hand, Frisbee golf was incredibly frustrating, probably because I have terrible Frisbee throwing form in real life. ( Buh-bye, dominating in Wii golf and thinking I'm ready for the PGA Tour).
After the demo, I sat down with Move developer Richard Marks for a quick Q and A:
Motion control gaming became wildly popular with the Wii. In what ways is Move a response to Nintendo's success?
The Wii's success is something we're well aware of. But we've been working on this tech for 10 years -- through our Sony EyeToy -- and we wanted to make an input that was PlayStation worthy. Something that isn't very precise, that just isn't us as a company.
Can you elaborate?
I like "Wii Sports." It's fun. But the second time I ever played the golf game I got 10 under par. The third time I got 10 over par. I was like, 'I didn't do anything different. Why is my score worse?' I felt like the game was random. That I couldn't get better and it didn't reward skill. We're trying to bring a new level of depth to gameplay.