Sony Needs to Answer the Biggest Question About Cameras and Motion Controls on the PS4 – What’s the Point?

We all know the PS4 is going be to announced today, that’s pretty much a given. Job listings, patents, leaked images and recent rumors also all point towards the PS4 coming with a dual lens camera and a motion-control enabled DualShock 4. But what’s the point?

As I discussed yesterday on Daily Reaction, including a camera with every PS4 and building a Move controller into the DualShock solves one of the biggest problems Sony has always had with peripherals – getting console owners to actually buy them. This way, people won’t have to go out and buy one, rather, they have to buy one. This means that developers don’t have to worry that if they make a game for the peripheral, only a small percentage of people can actually play it, just like with the PS Move. It doesn’t, however, solve the other big problem – developers have yet to find a great reason for motion controls.

Nintendo integrated motion controls into the Wii, so every Wii player had a Wiimote and every developer knew that they could make use of the motion controls. But they didn’t. Even Nintendo’s own great first party studios struggled when it came to creating compelling gameplay experiences for core audiences that relied on motion controls – the best games ended up just using the Wiimote side on with the D-pad. The only worthwhile titles were Wii Sports, a sports title, and lightgun games.

So Microsoft and Sony saw the success of the Wii and naturally wanted a piece of that lovely pie with the Kinect and PlayStation Move. This would be great for core gamers right? Finally two core console manufacturers would tackle motion controls, and the PS Move would actually track you properly, unlike the Wagglemote. Except, as you know, it wasn’t great. Microsoft abandoned core gamers with the Kinect, and the outcome was completely pointless titles that even casuals ended up hating, and countless dance games. Sony, meanwhile, failed to gain traction with the PS Move, and their own first party developers didn’t adopt it for their core titles because they couldn’t see what to do with them. Meanwhile, numerous core developers have said that they don’t see the allure in motion controls, and don’t know how to make compelling gameplay experiences through them.

Simply bundling a control option with a console doesn’t guarantee success – just look at SixAxis, the lame motion control option for the PS3, which is in every controller but never used by developers. Just giving us all a camera and a MoveShock doesn’t ensure that developers will use it for anything other than, at most, cheap casual games. “But there’s nothing wrong with Sony appealing to casuals to make money, as long as they support the core” you might say. But, partly due to the addition of the high-tech camera, and partly due to it being a powerful device, the PS4 is sure to be expensive for a good while. Current rumors claim $429 for the ‘cheap’ version and $529 for the bigger one – that’s not a casual price, and it won’t be one for a long time. And, with Microsoft guaranteed to come out with a Kinect 2, tons of marketing and probably a lower price, getting the fickle casual audience is far from guaranteed.

That’s why one of the most important aspects of the PlayStation Meeting isn’t what the PS4 is called, just how powerful it is, whether Uncharted will be a launch title or if Kaz comes bundled with the console, but if Sony is going to spend millions forcing a set of motion controls onto PS4 owners for no reason. We need to see a compelling reason for their expensive inclusion that isn’t just dance and sports games.