Xbox 360 Project Natal vs PS3 Motion Controller: The War of The Future Gaming Controllers

Project Natal

It’s understandable that motion console gaming through motion control sensing are the future of gaming. It’s the battle of tow promising gaming console. Today the gaming industry is buzzing with Wii which is developed by Nitendo. Microsoft wowed the world last year at E3, with a demonstration of Project Natal, a full-body motion control system for the Xbox 360. Few days after, Sony demonstrated its own next-generation motion controller for the PlayStation 3.

PS3 vs Natal

When you start to read up on the two systems, it becomes evident that they have taken what Nintendo have done with the Wii and gone a step further. It’s the latest battle in the console wars. Two heavyweights. Two technology concepts. Both underdogs to the current heavyweight champ that is Nintendo Co. Ltd. Let’s just take a look at whether Project Natal for Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox 360 or the Motion Controller for Sony Corp.’s Playstation 3 can deliver the stronger knockout punch.

With both the PS3 Motion Controller (rumoured to be called “Arc”) and the Xbox 360 Project Natal having probable release dates for Holiday 2010, it is only natural to ask which one will be better. Since that neither of these technologies are out on the market, it is only fair to ask “Which one will have more potential?”

Xbox 360 Project Natal:

The world’s largest software maker, Microsoft, promised that its highly anticipated Project Natal add-on for the Xbox 360 will ship in time for the 2010 holiday-shopping season, but it isn’t saying how much it will cost or what game titles will accompany its release.

Project Natal

When I first heard about Xbox 360’s Project Natal it seemed a little hard to believe, then after watching hands-on reviews and reading about a Natal prototype, things seemed a little more real.

Microsoft on June 1st unveiled Project Natal, an ambitious gesture-based motion control system that utilizes an advanced camera and microphone to facilitate three-dimensional motion tracking, facial recognition. Plus it recognizes voices, and totally immerses the players into the game. You can use your own gear like a skate board and such. Basically, it is better than Wii in the interactive gaming field. That is if the system works as well as the Microsoft video shows.

The technology was used to demonstrate new game experiences, including the replication of a virtual character that relayed user movement in action games, interacting with an AI character by passing real items into the virtual world, and interface options that allow users to move through menus with the wave of a hand.

In Wii, there is a controller which senses the motion. To swing an in-game tennis racket, you swing the so-called Wii-mote like a tennis racket. To play a bowling game, you swing the Wii-mote in a bowling motion. Natal, by comparison, provides much of that same functionality, but without having to hold on to the controller. Want to kick a ball in a game? Then make a kicking motion. Want to buzz in in a game show setting? Smack your fist into your hand. Want to share a drawing with an in-game avatar? Draw it and then hold it up to the Natal camera. That means, when you will play with natal you are the controller. How do you feel? Isn’t it more like real?

The largest setback for Project Natal is that the technology is not cheap. While Microsoft has not disclosed a price range, the company will be unlikely to include Natal in each Xbox 360 sold and keep its current pricing structure, thereby making the peripheral exactly that – an expensive option.

Director Steven Spielberg came on-stage during the press briefing to praise Microsoft's approach to the mainstream audience with Project Natal.
Director Steven Spielberg came on-stage during the press briefing to praise Microsoft's approach to the mainstream audience with Project Natal, last year.

The Great Filmmaker Steven Spielberg is also optimistic about the technology. Last year he told about his expectation from Natal to BBC.

“This is going to try to bring those that are intimidated or scared of the technology, with what the buttons do or what the controller does, this is going to give people that don’t usually play videogames access to a whole new world that we know is compelling but they haven’t quite discovered yet,”

It’s fascinating stuff, it really is. Watch the whole interview below:

After all the speculation, Microsoft promised that Natal is coming this year. In the video belo, Robbie Bach mentions another new Xbox feature: Game Room. Game Room is a feature of Xbox Live that lets users create their own arcade. In addition to playing classic games, such as those written for Atari or Intellivision, users can organize the machines and allow their avatars and those of friends to move throughout the virtual arcade.

Through Xbox Live users will be able to invite friends to their personal arcade to show off and try out their collection. Microsoft plans to launch new games each week, with the aim of giving users a choice of more than 1,000 games during the next three years.

PS3 Motion Controller:

Sony takes aim at Nintendo and Microsoft's motion controls.

Like Project Natal, Sony Corp.’s Playstation Motion Controller utilizes a camera to detect gesture-based movements. However, the camera utilized is the current Playstation Eye, an option that can be purchased for around $30. The controller itself, a wand-like apparatus, carries a glowing orb at the end that it used to track distance from the camera. The more utilitarian technology suggests that Sony will be able to sell the device at a mass market price and discount it faster than Natal. It will be going head to head with Microsoft’s controller-less motion-sensing scheme, Project Natal.

A prototype of Sony's new motion-control device was demonstrated in June last year. Photo: Reuters

Game demonstrations were recognized as useful to casual and core game titles. Virtual in-game weapon mapping was impressive and could be visualized for use in first and third-person action titles. Additionally, demonstrations of virtual object manipulation and archery lent well to casual game titles.

Since the game industry abhors a vacuum almost as much as nature, various speculative names for the PS3 Motion Controller began popping up. In a presentation at a UBS financial conference last December, Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello referred to the system as the “Gem.” However, a more popular contender has been “Sphere,” a title which several Japanese developers have dropped in interviews and Sony reportedly has used internally.

Last official word we had on the launch of Sony’s PS3 Motion Controller was Spring 2010. However, we just received a press release from Sony Japan with a revised availability of “Fall 2010.” In the statement, Kaz Hirai avoids using the “d” word saying only, “We have decided to release the Motion Controller in fall 2010 when we will be able to offer an exciting and varied line-up of software titles that will deliver the new entertainment experience to PS3 users.”

“We will continue to work to have a comprehensive portfolio of attractive and innovative games for the Motion Controller, not only from SCE Worldwide Studios but also from the third party developers and publishers, whom we have been working closely with. We look forward to soon unveiling the exciting software line-up that further expands and defines the PS3 platform as the ultimate entertainment system for the home.”

SCE will vigorously promote the Motion Controller as the de facto controller of the PS3 platform along with the DUALSHOCK® series controller and will deploy various measures to enhance the software title line-up for the Motion Controller, delivering groundbreaking interactive entertainment only possible on the PS3 platform.

(1) Motion Controller is a tentative name.
(2) Users will need to use the PlayStation Eye camera to enjoy the Motion Controller on PS3.

Even though Microsoft’s Natal has more potential, at the moment the advantage goes to Sony since the company was able to display a workable motion control prototype under a variety of gaming scenarios. Microsoft, on the other hand, didn’t display any live advanced gaming scenarios, like hand-to-hand combat.

However, if Natal proves to be a flexible controller system that works across all gaming genres, then Natal on the Xbox 360 will be light years ahead of what Sony is doing. Let’s just hope the pricing of these devices doesn’t reach as high as each company’s aspirations.

Here is a funny but true video of a comparison between the two.


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