Clearly Nintendo did something right: years after incorporating motion controls into the Wii, the competition is finally following suit. With the Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect, Sony PlayStation Move, and even the Nintendo Wii Remote Plus controller all landing during the same holiday season, it's only natural to compare and contrast these three similar-yet-different systems.
Does evolution equal fun? Motion control might be the future, but the present three options all have their ups and downs. Check out our debate below and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
Who is it for?
Dan: Breaking it down into cliches of which audience goes for each console, the PlayStation Move feels like it's aimed at self-identified gamers--those who are into shooting, racing, and, well, more shooting. You get that vibe through everything from the Kevin Butler TV commercials to the console's information design, which at times seems almost joyfully counterintuitive.
The Xbox 360 Kinect is courting in equal parts the home theater enthusiast and the novelty seeker. Nintendo's Wii MotionPlus, at the same time, has quietly caught up by incorporating its ill-conceived external dongle into a regular-size Wiimote, but will the casual Wii audience go back and buy new control sticks?
Scott: The Move is for "hard-core gamers," according to Sony, and the button-covered design may come off as a bit intimidating for the Wii crowd. The Kinect is controller-free, and the motion-heavy gaming is perfect for fitness nuts, families, and casual players with luxurious living rooms. The Wii is still for nearly anyone, but mainly kids, casual gamers, and those without HDTVs.
Setup and space requirements
Dan: Finding a place to stick a Wii sensor bar used to seem like such a hassle; if we only knew how good we had things back then. The simplicity of that nearly passive Wii sensor bar seems positively nostalgic now; not only do the Kinect and PlayStation Move require bulky external Webcams, but both cameras are hard-wired and sure to drive the cord-conscious crazy.
The PlayStation Move is actually fairly forgiving in its space requirements, at least compared with the Kinect. Maybe the tens of millions of people living in New York aren't Microsoft's target market, because we have yet to speak to an NYC apartment dweller who has not had to clamber over their sofa to set up the Kinect (and you can forget about playing many of the multiplayer games). Not to overemphasize this point, but the rigid space requirements for setting up and using the Kinect are incredibly annoying.
Scott: The Wii is the most forgiving of the motion systems in terms of space, and the easiest to set up; all you need to do is attach a sensor bar, and even the Wii Fit board is self-contained. It's the best system for playing in cramped quarters, such as a dorm room or kid's bedroom.
The Move is more complicated because it also requires a camera to be installed near the TV, which won't actually be used for most PS3 games. It requires a few feet of distance to use, but most games only register the controller's motion, not yours (there are a few exceptions). The Kinect, once installed, is controller- and hassle-free, but it's also the most high-maintenance of them all to set up properly. Lighting and ambient noise need to be perfect, and your whole living room belongs to the Kinect's playspace, since your whole body is utilized in many Kinect launch games.
Microsoft Kinect: The software launch lineup
Which is best for games?
Dan: Microsoft's Kinect has yet to really distinguish itself in the short list of launch games, so it seems unfair to judge it too prematurely (although the early examples seem to leave so-called "core" gamers out in the cold).
The Move offers, in my hands-on testing, the best one-to-one control over a game, and the most realistic interaction. The Wii MotionPlus has largely closed the performance gap, but many Wii owners will stick with the original hardware. The Wii ecosystem wins hands down for the sheer number and scope of games, but it seemed a lot more impressive before all the competition came on the scene.
Scott: The Wii has a clear advantage with the greatest software lineup, but many of the best Wii games don't really use motion all that much, and extra peripherals such as the Wii Fit board and the little-used but now integrated MotionPlus technology add up and begin to feel a little gimmicky.
It's too early to tell on the Move and Kinect, but so far their games have been a little lackluster and unoriginal, although they're far better produced and feature stronger graphics. A few winners have emerged for both platforms, but they're few and far between.
Sony announces PlayStation Move
The dust bunny factor
Dan: By this, we mean how likely is this device to end up collecting dust in a closet? That's a common complaint about the Wii: After the initial rush wears off, many Wii consoles end up in semi-retirement. For the PlayStation Move and Xbox 360 Kinect, that seems less likely, if only because the base consoles are more likely to remain in regular use as media streamers, Blu-ray players, or social-networking devices.
The Move controllers are largely useless outside of specific games, and they could very well end up buried in your wire box if not supported by enough new games. The Kinect seems the least likely to get exiled from the media center, partly because it's so large and requires such careful setup that we're unlikely to move it once it's working properly. More importantly, the motion control experience will hopefully be expanded beyond the current walled garden it occupies now into the full Xbox 360 dashboard, Netflix video playback, etc.
Scott: The clear advantage here goes to the controller-free Kinect, which has nothing capable of gathering dust except for the camera itself. Once it's plugged in, it never needs to be unplugged, even while playing non-Kinect Xbox 360 games. As to whether you'll use it, that's another matter entirely, and the camera's not tiny, but it's definitely the most compact peripheral--plus it can be used to control (some) movies and ESPN.
The Wii's age and its abundance of plastic peripherals leave it designated as a gaming fad sooner than later. The Move's not needed for most PlayStation games, and it, too, could end up being relegated to Dustyland if better Move games don't show up. Plus, its two-part controller is bulkier than the Wii's.
>> Read the full review of the Xbox 360 Kinect
>> Does Kinect hate your small apartment?
>> The Kinect lunch game lineup tested
>> Read the full review of the PlayStation Move
>> Read the full review of the Nintendo Wii MiotionPlus