Daily Reaction: Will Motion Controls be as big Next Gen?

December 5, 2012Written by Dan Oravasaari

When the Nintendo Wii successfully established motion controls back in 2006, the industry did not expect the world outside of the hardcore market to react the way it did. This left both Sony and Microsoft to quickly come to terms with the emerging tech, leaving them scrambling to find a way to not only match the success of Nintendo’s gadget, but to also improve upon it. Now that the Wii has been succeeded by the Wii U, the Daily Reaction team rubs their crystal ball to see if motion will continue to be as influential next-gen.

Dan: As much as motion controls were successful during the PS3/360/Wii generation, I do not think we will see as much of following in the coming years as we already have. Given Nintendo’s move away from a motion focused launch with the Wii U, the fad behind motion gaming has seemingly already passed its peak and will be slowing down from here on out. Yet, as both Microsoft’s 720 and Sony’s PS4 are still to be announced, but have been presumably in the works for quite some time, the potential for them to have included some evolution of existing tech is highly likely.

As Microsoft has already seen a substantial gain from their Kinect attachment, it would only seem obvious that we will see more of this tech in the next Xbox. Yet, much like with the Wii U the sales of a Kinect 2 will probably only be a fraction of what its predecessor had pulled if it is sold as an attachment. If the Kinect 2 is bundled in with the system itself, we could see a number of other issues, the most prevalent simply being added cost.

Lastly, as Sony have been trailing both of its competitors in the motion gaming rush with the PS Move, it is unlikely that we will see a motion controller as we know it from them around launch unless its becomes a replacement for the DS3. Yet, as Sony has been patenting a number of interesting devices over the years, the possibility that they will move away from their current tech, only to introduce a more advanced motion device is possible.

Sadly, a great deal of the sales that drive the early install base of costly tech devices like the PS4 and 720 will be from core gamers, and motion has yet to really attach with that audience. Which leaves the ability to include a motion device into the price of a console on day one a risky proposition.

Seb: See what you’re doing here is projecting common sense onto these corporations.

It doesn’t work like that.

Sony and Microsoft have smelled the money pot that Nintendo was chowing down on last gen, and MS even got to taste it. It doesn’t matter if some people may have moved on and that many call the whole thing a flash in the pan. The fact is they saw a huge potential for revenue that they missed and they’re going to go after it. And they’re going to go after it aggressively.

Microsoft in particular is currently raking it in with the Kinect and have absolutely no reason to stop trying. The famous leaked 720 document that has since had parts of it confirmed showed Kinect 2 at the heart of the console’s sales pitch. It’s about getting the whole family gaming, because the more people that play it, the more customers they have. The games will probably be terrible, but that doesn’t matter. The 720 will launch with a new Kinect and have a strong focus on it. The amount of new Kinect-based studios Microsoft has begun to open is staggering. This is a long-term plan. On our sister site GameRev, I dug up a job listing for a next gen Kinect project that will “change the way people will play”, and that their studio called KALE is looking into integrating cloud and Kinect.

Meanwhile, Sony has not been sitting idly by. The PS2 was essentially the first console to experiment with appealing to a wider audience – it played DVDs, had games like Buzz!, SingStar and the EyeToy. Sony planned to do the same with the PS3 in the latter half of its life as it grew cheaper, but were never given a chance. Along came the Wii and ate up their entire casual market, as well as forging its own. Then came Kinect, a far better advertised and supported product than the PS Move.

Next gen, Sony is hoping to start with some motion tech so that they have a chance. Patents suggest a Kinect-style camera. Job listings for computer vision researchers and camera researchers suggest a Kinect-style camera.

It’s happening, whether we like it or not.

Dan: I am not saying that motion gaming will not be around next gen, but more that the response from the public will be significantly smaller and in turn will cause the trend to die out even faster this time around. This is also not to mention that launching a console with an attachment that is the same price as a last gen system could put potential buyers off, as the buy in price for that console and all its toys could be significantly more than their competitor.

Even if we are to believe what the leaked 720 document says about Kinect being a major component of the device, it is hard to believe that Microsoft will release a console that is future proof for the next 5 years as well as come with/or try to sell a camera that is already more advanced than the current Kinect. The main reasons why are twofold, first being that millions of people have already bought a current Kinect at a significant price, and would not likely be willing to buy a new system and replace their current hi-tech camera. Second, the big issue we have seen this generation with companies not being able to fully utilize the tech due to cross platform limitations completely corrupts the ability for motion gaming to take off completely. 3rd party developers are not going to develop a multiplatform title that is fully capable of utilizing a device of like Kinect or Move simply due to the inability to carry over that functionality to another console, and the mandate that it requires a separate optional device.

Motion gaming will not be ignored next-gen by any means, but I do think that the big three have learned that the current model of development for this tech simply cannot survive outside of first party development.

Seb: Wrong – the current model of development for this tech doesn’t support good third party games. Dance games by Harmonix, Sesame Street games, interactive TV games, virtual pet games – they’re all very viable titles even if kept to one platform. Plus, if Sony are indeed making a Kinect-like cam without adding anything new, then cross-platform gaming is certainly a possibility.

As for saying that people might not want to re-buy a new camera, that’s being grossly overgenerous to humanity. Apple released a new iPad 7 months after releasing another new one. People bought it.

Kinect is a ‘hot’ product, it helped the 360 outsell the PS3 during Black Friday despite the PS3 being more aggressively discounted. When Kinectimals: The Return of the Sith is released on Kinect 2, those people will line up to get it.

The games industry will always have its core games at its, well, ‘core’. But Microsoft and Sony know how to get them, and are investing heavily in that. To give themselves that extra sales boost, they also want casual gamers, who are often at the whims and mercy of what’s advertised or what’s popular.

The next gen is doomed to follow the same path as this gen, but with console makers all trying from the start. Get off the couch, it’s time to boogie.

Do you think that motion gaming is the wave of the future? Has motion ever improved your experience in a game? Or is it collecting dust next to your collection of plastic guitars? Let us know in the comments below, or by making profane gestures to Seb and Dan on twitter.

Be sure to email DR ideas, podcast comments and pics of your glowing lightstick to DailyReaction@PlayStationLifeStyle.net.