Sony and Microsoft square off on launches of next-generation game controls

sony-ps3-motion_controllerSony and Microsoft are getting ready for the next stage of the console war.

Sony announced today that it will launch the next-generation game control device in the spring of 2010, according to plans announced at the Tokyo Game Show today. This device lets you wave a wand around in front of a camera to make things happen in a game.

The control is gesture-based and looks more like a wand — not at all like a controller with a bunch of buttons. The unofficial name is the Motion Controller for PlayStation 3. Sony talked about it for the first time in June at the E3 trade show. It has now reaffirmed that the controller will launch in the spring of 2010.

It also said it will launch 13 games that are compatible with the new controller, which will come with a new version of the PlayStation Eye camera. The controller has highly precise controls and motion sensors that are expected to be much more accurate than Nintendo’s Wii controller.

Sony said its Motion Controller is equipped with two motion sensors, three axes gyroscope and three axes accelerometer that can detect the controller’s angle and movement held in the user’s hand.  Together with the PlayStation Eye camera for PS3 which can accurately track the absolute position of the controller, the controller can detect the natural and intuitive movement of the hand and reflect the precise movement on to the game. The sphere atop the controller tracks position but also gives visual feedback to users by changing its colors. The new controller can rumble, much like Sony’s vibrating DualShock controllers. Sony didn’t disclose the price yet.

The games that will be compatible with the controller include: Ape Escape, Echochrome 2, Eccentric Slider, Sing and Draw, Champions of Time, Motion Party, The Shoot, and Tower. Titles that will be updated to include support are Pain, Flower, Hustle Kings, High Velocity Bowling, and EyePet.

natal1Meanwhile, Microsoft divulged more details about Project Natal, the gesture-control system for the Xbox 360. With Natal, gamers can move around in front of a camera which captures their full body movements and translates them into game controls. It also has face and voice recognition technology. Microsoft, which first revealed Natal in June, didn’t say when the system would launch.

It said that the top game publishers are supporting the Microsoft system, which has no need for a controller. Supporters include Activision Blizzard, Bethesda Softworks, CAPCOM, Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, Konami, MTV Games, Namco Bandai, Sega, Square Enix, THQ Inc. and Ubisoft. Together, Microsoft said these publishers account for more than 70 percent of third-party software sales for this generation of console and most of the world’s most recognized video game franchises. Microsoft is also making a bunch of its own Natal-based games.

The system has an RGB camera, depth sensor and multi-array microphone running proprietary software. Both the Sony and Microsoft systems are expected to follow in Nintendo’s footsteps and turn gaming upside down. That’s absolutely critical, given the recent slowdown in video game sales.

Nintendo hasn’t yet tipped its hand for the next-generation control, though it did show a heartbeat sensor at E3 in June.

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