Nearly four years on from the introduction of the Nintendo Wii, Sony has released their competitor; dubbed PlayStation Move.
The small wand-like device is clearly aimed at not only extending the life span of the PlayStation 3, but at growing the user base with some more casual party oriented games and experiences that will appeal to the hardcore gaming community. Let's take a look at the characteristics of the hardware first.
Comprised of two separate devices (a third if you count the optional navigation controller - more on that later), PlayStation Move requires not only a new controller, but the previously released PlayStation Eye camera. The reason for this, and the secret of its performance gains over the Nintendo Wii, lies in this dual setup.
The hand piece is a contoured, easily grippable mound of plastic which feels good to hold, made of the same durable materials used in the dual shock controllers we all love. Compared to the Wii-mote, Move is much more comfortable to hold, free of the rigid, hard plastic rectangles of their device. The front face is characterised by the trademark , , , buttons, a centre 'Move' button, a lower PlayStation button and a trigger on the rear. The biggest change however, lies with the rubbery ball at the top of controller.
Made of flexible silicon, the ball lights up so the aforementioned PlayStation Eye camera can track the controllers position in space. i.e., the bigger the ball appears to the camera, the physically closer it is to the camera. Additionally, inbuilt accelerometer and rate sensors track rotation and movement. The three elements working together prove to work far superior to the infra red/ accelerometer combination of the Nintendo Wii. Bluetooth is used to tether the controllers to the console and any combination of seven Move or Dual Shocks can be connected at any given time.
The inbuilt rechargeable lithium ion battery charge via USB (the same method as the standard Dual Shock controllers) and give around 8 hours of use per charge. This too is an inherent improvement over Wii, which use AA batteries for power. Notably, the Move does not feature an inbuilt speaker to provide audible cues to players, but keeping in mind the usefulness and quality of that feature on most of my Wii games, I don't think this is a terrible omission.
So how does it perform? The answer is very well. Due to the lighting in my lounge room, with light filling in from side windows, the Wii controllers have always given me grief, with inaccurate controller response that jiggle from side to side, making me feel ill.
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In contrast, Moves pointer accuracy is, for the most part, rock solidly stable. The only time when it broke up was in direct sunlight which bathed over the glowing ball, obscuring the cameras ability to detect the colour. The best thing of all when compared to Wii is the game alerts you when the wand is out of range, so no more 'am I in the Wii remote sensor bar area' moments.
Like the Wii, an optional extra which may be required for some future games is the navigation controller, little more than a smaller, stubbier version of the Move controller, minus the glowing sphere. The navigation controller is connected to the console also via Bluetooth, and includes an inbuilt rechargeable lithium ion battery. The biggest element of the navigation controller is the joystick pad, which will be used to control movement in first person shooters. You can also use a standard dual shock controller to be the navigation controller which lowers the cost of entry somewhat.
Additionally, the main Move controller features a mysterious and currently unused port on the bottom of the main controller, resembling a slightly different micro USB connector. It actually looks similar to a micro USB port that mobile phones now use as standard. This is an interesting inclusion that is yet to be explained.
But do the technological benefits of Move even matter? Some reviewers and commentators argue that it's too little, too late. Others still say that the motion control fad is already over. But then you have Microsoft's forthcoming project Natal, now called Kinect, which promises control less gaming input. Ideally, it would have been good if Move had been released a little sooner. But ultimately, I'm glad that Sony didn't rush through a competing technology to compete with Wii in its hey day and ruin the good PlayStation name.
Ultimately however, the technology will live or die by the content that's produced. Like the majority of Wii games which are shovelware, out of the initial release of four Sony produced titles "Start The Party", "Sports Champions", "Kung Fu Rider" and the patched version of the previously released "Eyepet", only "Sports Champions" inspires confidence in the product.
Pardon the pun, but overall, PlayStation Move is a good move in the right direction for the rapidly gaining sales of the console. However, time will tell whether it fades into obscurity, like the SIXAXIS control scheme.