Playstation Move might not be entirely rubbish
Late last Wednesday I sat at my PC, hunched over a live stream of Sony’s GDC presser, waiting for Shuhei Yoshida to announce a product that had already been announced during last year’s E3. The difference this time being that after months of speculative guess work involving terms such as ‘arc’, ‘gem’ and ‘dildo ball’ we were finally graced with a concrete terminology for Sony’s new motion controller; Playstation Move. We were also given a better idea of what angle Sony are taking with their motion-sensing peripheral, and how they’re going to change the way we experience videoga- oh wait, it’s just a bunch of waggle-based party games.
Yes, initial impressions were what we’ve come to expect from a Sony press conference. From the ‘come back next year, we’ll show you something good’ to the ‘here’s the PSP Go, it’s nearly three hundred quid and won’t play any of your old games’, disappointment has become synonymous with a Sony announcement, and Playstation Move felt no different. This wasn’t Sony’s answer to a lack of immersion in traditional controller-based video games; this was Sony’s answer to the Wii’s grasp on the casual market. Amusingly, it would appear that following the almost universal rejection of Sony’s first foray into motion control (remember the Sixaxis?), this time they didn’t just borrow ideas from Nintendo’s test-paper, they copied the answers word for word.
Of course if you want the highest grades then you cheat off the best in class, and no one could argue that Nintendo isn’t rolling in it right now. If there’s one thing that Sony are really good at, its taking other people’s ideas and making an absolute fortune from them; thumb-sticks, rumble-pads, hard drives, you name it, they’ve plagiarised it. Watching some woman in her mid-twenties swinging her faux Wii remote wildly to squash on-screen insects while a spokesman assures the audience of the Playstation Move’s ‘pinpoint accuracy’, you can tell that once again they’ve studied their source material thoroughly.
But that’s not to say we should immediately jump on the negativity train and ride it down the internet to Sony HQ. It’s clear from the demonstrations and trailers so far that where as Project Natal is aiming for something a bit different, Playstation Move is taking the bull by the horns and attempting to beat the Wii at its own game. Quite frankly, it’s about time the Wii had some proper competition. Having had a monopoly on the casual market for the best part of three years now, it’s no secret that the majority of the Wii’s back catalogue has become a bloated mass of five minute mini games and Pony-Makeover simulations.
With Move looming on the horizon we might finally reach a point at which developers will start pushing themselves, or at least making their shovelware more interesting. Games like Boom Blox and Warioware: Smooth Moves have proven that casual games don’t have to be awful, but the very fact that I’ve had to pick games released over two years ago just to provide an example proves that developers and publishers alike have grown lazy with their casual output. If Move manages to build a competing casual market, then maybe the fact that it’s almost identical in form and function to the Wii remote/Nunchuck is a blessing in disguise.
On the opposite end of the scale, we might finally get some third party publishers making decent motion-based ‘core’ video games. We already know that motion control doesn’t have to mean ‘Waggle Babies’ or ‘Insert-Generic-Thing Party’, even if that does appear to be Sony’s initial plan. Mad World, No More Heroes, Ghost Squad – these are all brilliant games that apparently nobody bought. And while Nintendo would probably love to blame piracy, we all know deep down it’s because Ant and Dec told us not to buy them. By which I mean; the Wii has been so focused on breaching the casual market, that even die-hard Nintendo loyalists have found themselves looking elsewhere for ‘proper games’, jumping ship and leaving Suda 51 and co on a boat full of Ninjabread men.
Playstation Move can change this. The Conduit and Metroid Prime: Corruption proved that first-person shooters work with motion controls. Excite Truck proved that racers work with motion controls. House of the Dead: Overkill proved that on-rails shooters and foul language work with motion controls. The Playstation 3 has the hardcore user base that these games need to become a success. If the Socom 4 demo at GDC is anything to go by, then Playstation Move can meet the criteria of all of the above and more. To cement a victorious blow, however, they’re going to need to push that angle far more than they have already, because so far it seems they’re perfectly willing to fall back on Eye Pet and mini-games.
Taking into consideration just how much it costs for a Playstation 3 and (as yet un-priced but in the region of $100) Playstation Move, Sony are looking at another reason to focus on opening new areas of the core market rather than penetrating the casual. The Wii has been the cheapest of the current-gen consoles for an incredibly long time, and only recently has the Xbox 360 overtaken it as the least-expensive. At the perfect price point for a family looking for the occasional bit of tennis and a drunken go on Just Dance, the Wii is by far the more seductive of the two. Nobody wants to fork out four hundred quid to play a head-shaving mini game, regardless of whether you can watch The Shining in HD or not.
As Sony’s conference ended, my emotions were a mixed bag. On the one hand I’m absolutely sick of waving my arms around in the air, and the videos of things like Eye Pet and Move Party did little to inspire my confidence that this would be anything other than another gimmick-ridden party piece. On the other hand, this could deliver everything the Wii promised to and never did. Suffice to say, we should be optimistic about the future of Playstation Move. Whether we like it or not, motion control appears to be here to stay and while its necessity is questionable, at least Playstation Move has the potential to get it out of the rut in which it currently resides. If not, well at least it’ll make a handy torch for late night trips to the loo.