When assessing the head to head between Microsoft and Sony's E3 briefings this year, there may be something of a role reversal visible.
Whereas Sony once stressed the PlayStation 3's potential as a multimedia device, this year it gave a very software-focused, core-targeted
presentation, while it was Microsoft talking more about the "future of home entertainment
" than it has in years past.
Even some analysts seemed to think that Sony's gesture recognition scheme debut was more 'gamer-oriented,'
while director Stephen Spielberg's comments about accessibility and broader audiences led attendees and industry-watchers to peg Microsoft's Project Natal as having more relevant implications for wider or more casual audiences.
But Sony director of hardware marketing John Koller says that although capturing the core audience is certainly a goal, there was no deliberate attempt to refocus on prioritizing that market, and that Sony, too, remains interested in being "expansionary."
"Most of the games you saw... there are certainly others we didn't get into, some things the Xbox 360 got into -- for example, Rock Band: Beatles
is coming to PS3 as well," Koller tells Gamasutra. "We didn't want to wave the defensive flag for every single game."
When it comes to those motion control solutions, Koller says Sony is "intimately familiar" with Microsoft's approach and how its own differs.
"Microsoft's is impressive because it does a full-body scan," he says. But he claims Project Natal has "depth issues on the Z axis" that Sony's PlayStation Eye-tracked solution avoids. "The PlayStation Eye is more accurate and more precise," he adds.
Taking a wider-lens view of both solutions, the largest question becomes whether or not it is preferable for the player to have an object in hand. At its briefing, Microsoft said controllers and their buttons were the last barrier
between video games and "everyone else."
Sony counters that argument with the assertion that there are some gameplay experiences that require an object in hand or a button to push. "It's not necessary for every genre," says Koller. "But without it, you can't play every genre."
"Microsoft's [solution] is going to have issues with shooting games, for example," he suggests. "We want to be as diverse as we can; the controller that we're looking at will be open as possible."
With both technology concepts in such early stages, there are few definitive conclusions to draw about the merits of one approach versus the other. Analysts suggest the concepts are different enough that, alongside a lengthening lifecycle, it might drive opportunities for more individualized audiences for each console, as it could become more relevant for users to own both.
The first to market will also be a factor. "It's not going to be this calendar year," says Koller of Sony's plans. He suggests the company is currently working on having a strong lineup of software to support the peripheral at launch.
"Developers are looking at it now," he says. "The halfway answer is that there are a number of first-party and third-party games that will launch, and the idea is to have both franchise-type games [that are] very familiar, and to have new IP."