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Analysts: New Motion Control Schemes Will Lengthen Hardware Cycle
Analysts: New Motion Control Schemes Will Lengthen Hardware Cycle Exclusive
June 3, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

Both Sony and Microsoft demonstrated a gesture recognition control scheme at their E3 briefings this year, and analysts think the new tech in the works -- still a year out at the very least for both -- could mean a longer lifecycle for current platforms.

Lazard Capital Markets analyst Colin Sebastian says Microsoft's Project Natal and Sony's glowing sphere-topped wand "may provide the industry with its next growth driver and extend the console cycle."

Analysts and publishers like Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello have generally agreed that the current console cycle is likely to defy past lifecycle patterns and last longer.

The revelation that Sony and Microsoft have been showing their technology to developers for some time may also illuminate Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot's recent strong assertions that developers should start preparing for new hardware.

According to Cowen Group's Doug Creutz, Sony's concept is the one with more potential. "In contrast to previous years, we thought Sony actually did the best job among the hardware manufacturers, both in terms of upcoming titles and longer-term strategy," said Creutz of the company's media briefing yesterday.

During the prototype demonstration yesterday, the EyeToy team's Dr. Richard Marx stressed the potential applications of Sony's solution for hardcore gaming, showing it acting as a sword, a gun, or a utility for interacting with RTS units.

"We felt Sony's gamer-oriented motion capture camera was superior to Microsoft's casual-oriented offering," said Creutz.

Creutz also didn't see much headway for third parties on Nintendo's Wii in the works, despite the recently-announced 600,000-unit launch of EA Sports Active. Nintendo's strongest E3 announcements were related to its own franchises, like Wii Fit and Super Mario.

"Nintendo appears set to continue dominating software market share on its platforms," said Creutz.

Sebastian is also optimistic about the "strong title pipeline" for the PlayStation platforms, and believes the lineup can "position Sony to take share."

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Fábio Bernardon
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Well, Nintendo will feel forced to make a HW upgrade if these new control schemes ever catch on. The wii controller is the only advantage in HW between the Wii and PS3/X360. So Nintendo will likely be the one to rush a new console cicle. The question is: how to make all new gamers buy a new console?

Carl Chavez
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Creutz didn't see much headway? Perhaps I should rethink my definition of analyst.

That said, the camera-based motion control technologies interest me, but I wonder how Natal could process the obstacles of everyday households. For example, if it's trying to detect legs, but I'm standing behind a coffee table. Or maybe a child's rocker is behind me and confusing the camera. Or maybe people are having an animated conversation on the couch behind me. (Although Microsoft claims Natal is sensitive enough to recognize different faces and bodies, and though I believe it can scan a still face or body, I doubt it can actually do that in real-time during an action game.) And what about lighting? Both Natal and Eye technologies are potentially subject to problems with lights behind the players. (Of course, their SDKs may have solutions for these problems... I haven't looked at them yet.)

Natal's biggest problem: Microsoft claims to be aiming for the casual market, but would the casual market really be interested in spending $479 for an Xbox 360 Arcade + Natal?

Samer Abbas
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Another concern about Sony and Microsoft's motion control "solutions" is that they're disconnected from the primary controllers, so the motion-based games and traditional games (or the casual and core experiences) will be farther apart. You won't easily have something like Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros. where the same controller offers two or more control alternatives. The Wii's controllers smartly marries traditional controls with the casual appeal of a remote control.

Daniel Ferlise
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And once more we see the other consoles catching up and trying to butt into Nintendo's innovations, of which Nintendo rarely takes enough advantage of anyway (or at least 3rd party devs) and we'll see what happened to the N64 and Game Cube happen to the next Wii.

Unless Nintendo gets some clearly good 3rd party support (not endless shovelware, casual, and "family" games with almost nothing viable for the mature gamer) and some serious concern about graphics capability and processing power, I'm just going to skip the next consoles. Most everything I want to play winds up on the PC anyway.

Sean Francis-Lyon
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@Carl: What makes you think that the camera will cost $279 in addition to the console. I would guess that it would cost $60 bundled with a few Wii sports type games.

Engadget is running a rumor that the camera will be included in the $200 arcade version:

Carl Chavez
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Sean: thanks for correcting me. I thought the Xbox 360 Arcade was still selling for $279, but it apparently dropped last September to $200. The actual total is $400.

By the way, that rumor link you posted is from August 2008 and was related only to the September 2008 price drop. It does not appear to be related to the Natal announcement.

Robert Rhine
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@Carl, @Sean: I think, despite people's feelings that the price for Natal will be high, that Natal will be made inexpensive (whatever the actual number is). Microsoft may be willing to get shorted monetarily in the hopes that expanding the player base and potentiality of the console will offset the costs of selling Natal. Its like Milk in the supermarket: they don't make any money on Milk, they loose money. They sell it to get people in the store to buy other things.