Motion Gaming Gains Momentum

Motion Gaming Gains Momentum
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What do baby dummies, an expert martial artist and an industrial robot all have in common? Sony’s motion-detecting PS3 add-on, the PlayStation Move.

The PlayStation Move hit this month, bringing motion games to PlayStation 3’s legions of fans. The add-on uses a camera and cylindrical controller to track motion for gaming. The add-ons cost $50 to $100 depending on what you need, $600 if you don’t have a PlayStation 3 yet. In many ways the PlayStation Move offers some of the same experiences that the Nintendo Wii first started delivering back in 2006.

But there are some notable differences between the Wii and Move. The PlayStation Move feels a bit more accurate than the Wii, even with Nintendo’s MotionPlus add-on, and the sorts of games the more powerful PS3 can eventually offer gamers on the Move could appeal to more typical, hardcore gamers.

I’ve spent nearly a month with the PS3 camera and controller add-on, and while I see the potential for the PlayStation Move, I’m still waiting for the game that knocks it out of the ballpark.

The PlayStation Move story started around 2001, according to Richard Marks, manager of research and development for Sony, and Anton Mikhailov, who’s on the engineering team responsible for the Move. They tell me that the research that led the team to Sony’s motion-sensing EyeToy in 2003 pushed them toward the Move as well. In fact in 2001, Sony demonstrated an early version of the Move device in a tech demo they called Magic Duel.

Later they built an early prototype of the Move using a PVC pipe with a ping pong ball attached to the top. As they continued to develop the PlayStation Move controller, the team worked through a variety of form factors.

The one they settled on has a comfortable, subtle, hourglass shape designed to naturally fit hands of all sizes. I grip the controller further back, where it’s a bit wider. My nine-year-old son tends to hold the controller near the middle, where it is thinnest. Both of us can comfortably reach the controller’s six face buttons and one trigger and the Move never feels loose in our hands.

The plastic cylinder of the Move controller is topped with a white sphere that I’m told is made of the same sort of silicon rubber found in baby pacifiers. This, Sony tells me, makes the controller safe and durable. That ball can also change colours, adding one more interaction, a bit more immersion for gamers.

For instance, while playing strategy game R.U.S.E., the ball turns red when I point the Move controller at on-screen enemies. Sony tells me that the LED inside the sphere is capable of producing millions of colours.

There’s also plenty of other tech hidden away inside the device. Besides the pair of inertial sensors used to track motion, the Move also has a magnetometer in it to help it detect in which direction it’s pointed.

Marks and Mikhailov tell me that hidden away inside the compact little device is a temperature sensor which is used to adjust internal signals based on the temperature of the environment. This, they say, makes the controller much more precise.

Just how precise?

The Playstation Move can detect your motions at more than 100 times a second, according to the two. The team came up with this figure after wiring up an expert martial artist with professional motion capture equipment to see how fast a person was capable of moving.

Finally, the Move was handed over to an industrial robot that is accurate to one tenth of a millimeter, to check out the precision of the controller. The techies even added a little peg onto the prototype controller so the robot could turn Move on by itself.

The results are a type of motion gameplay that feels both similar, and also ripe with possibility. But if Sony wants to take Nintendo on in motion gaming, an area where the Wii currently excels, they’re going to need to start lining up more of their big, hardware-pushing games with Move support.

Currently the company has plans for bringing support for the Move to popular PS3 shooter SOCOM 4, but that’s not due out until next year.

Well Played is a weekly news and opinion column about the big stories of the week in the gaming industry and its bigger impact on things to come. Feel free to join in the discussion.


  • My only disappointment has been with the lack of real hardline games supporting Move at launch. ResEvil 5, Heavy Rain- both games most have played thru and may not want to replay- are not enough. Ruse is not really my thing, and Tiger was always going to be a given. Why not Madden? The Shoot is yet to win me over in its barebones demo, and the Fight should have been a launch title. The shovelware is be far the most responsive anyone has ever done, and so it should be after 10 years in the making.
    I would imagine that Sony threw Move dev kits at everyone a while ago… but the crux may well be: will Activision do Move for Call of Duty, and will EA do it for FIFA and Madden? Will actioners and sandboxers start to utilise Move? It is all well and good telling us that we will love the change in the way we play, but will we still be able to play those things that we already love?

  • I really like the hardware of move – the controller itself is awesome and i agree that it is more responsive and more accurate then the Wiimote. However – what is the point of me buying a move or really anyone buying a move if all Sony is going to offer me is party games which i already have for my wii (Sports Champions). Looking forward, i don’t see a move title that has really made me go – i need a move NOW! And i don’t think i will ever get it until that almighty title speaks to me in a dream and then tells me to get off my ass and pick up a move.

  • I want to get the Move but the titles out for it atm doesn’t warrant me a purchase.

    I would gladly get it to play RE 5: Gold Edition so it can play more like RE 4 on the Wii but that’s still not enough though.

    I may get it as a christmas present.

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