Why PlayStation Move and Kinect will fail

In Videogames on June 18, 2010 at 8:55 AM

The E3 press conferences have wrapped up nicely and both Sony and Microsoft have shown a dedication to motion control gaming with the PlayStation Move and Kinect respectively.  It seemed not too long ago when Sony ruled the gaming world and pundits considered Nintendo dead in the water.  Just four years after Nintendo’s Wii release, the tides have certainly shifted.  As the big dogs play catch up with the company that defined the words “entertainment system,” Sony and Microsoft showed that neither company fully comprehends what has set Nintendo apart this generation.

Both Kinect and PlayStation move tentatively hit shelves this Holiday season (Kinect currently lacks an official release, but PlayStation Move will launch in September).  E3 2010 gave the public a fully realized concept of what each product will offer.  But neither wowed with the same innovative freshness Nintendo displayed with the Wii did in 2005.

Microsoft kicked off E3 week with a special unveiling of Kinect on Sunday.  Kinect appears to target the traditionally non-gaming audience that the Wii has captured so fluidly.  Titles like Kinectimals, Kinect Joyride, and Kinect Sports all mirrored products already on the market for the Wii or DS.  The only practical application displayed at Microsoft’s press conference was Harmonix’s Dance Central, a game that targets a niche community entrenched in Dance Dance Revolution and other similar titles.  While Dance Central does have the ability to bring in new gamers turned off by DDR’s button-based dancing, it lacks the broad appeal to move hardware.  Otherwise, Kinect looks like a prettier, controlerless Wii.  But even Kinect’s lack of a controller jeopardizes the system, removing a tactile component necessary to immerse users into the experience.  While a controller may be the single most limiting factor in current gaming development, the lack of a controller prohibits most basic concepts of control.

Microsoft's Kinect still lacks a price or official release date.

As a piece of technology, Kinect carries more interesting long term implications than its current uses.  The use of a human recognizable web camera has a much wider reach than just videogames.  Microsoft showed off some of that prowess with Video Kinect.  But if Microsoft hopes to bring new consumers into the gaming market, PlayStation 3 has shown that do-all console bundles don’t fare well.  As a standalone product that could function independently of the Xbox 360, Kinect could find practical use on the hundreds of millions of Windows users globally.  By focusing Kinect to such a niche demographic, Microsoft has jeopardized their Xbox division by investing in a seemingly impractical technology.  At the already monumental losses the Xbox division has suffered in its 10 years of existence, the failure of Kinect could potentially put the death nail in the division altogether.

PlayStation Move’s E3 demonstration may have packed a slightly stronger punch than Kinect, but Sony also failed to turn heads.  At the press conference, Sony spotlighted just two games, only one an original Move IP.   Sorcery showcased precise tracking and motion control specific gameplay and received a generally warm reaction from the audience.  But beyond its use of the Move Motion Controller, Sorcery looked rather boring – nothing a gamer would be interested in playing traditionally.  Moreover, Sorcery won’t even launch with the Move, instead sporting a spring 2011 release.  The second game shown using Move technology was Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11.  While the demo looked appealing, Wii offered nearly an identical title last year save graphics with Tiger Woods 10, bundled with a Wii Motion Plus add-on for the same price as a typical PlayStation 3 game.

Move appears to target the hardcore gaming void alienated by Wii’s shovelware laden lineup rather than the casual far Nintendo dominates.  In listing off compatible Move titles, Sony Computer Entertainment of America President Jack Tretton listed Killzone 3, Heavy Rain, Resident Evil 5 RUSE, and Time Crisis, all heavily aimed to the traditional gamers.  For Sony that means a fresh, eager segment of the already established demographic.  However, the viability of this segment for such a technology may betray Sony’s bid in the motion control gaming market.

The PlayStation Move's starter bundle will not include the Navigation Controller (left).

Move’s biggest drawback is its price point.  While analysts projected the $100 price point to appeal to consumers, Sony’s press conference revealed that price point will lack the inclusion of a Navigation Controller, the Move’s version of Wii’s nunchuck.  At an extra $30, the Move’s real buy in cost runs at $130.  And one controller bundle runs $80, $20 more than the Wii’s.  A full four player Move setup runs the consumer $370, just $10 less than a full Wii four player package.  But that $370 excludes the $300 PlayStation 3 buy-in cost, which will ultimately be Move’s biggest restraint.

Both Natal and Move are peripherals to preexisting home consoles, and as such limit their mass market appeal.  Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Amie said in an IGN interview “motion control is core to what we do.”  For Sony and Microsoft, motion control is an additional feature to their base package.  But in order to utilize these features, the consumer has to buy into the base package.  That means buy-in costs of $400 just to begin.  That same $400 price point crippled PlayStation 3 upon release, and Sony never recovered until a $300 PS3 model hit shelves.  And despite nearly 40 million consoles sold for each company, there are still tens of millions of potential consumers interested in motion control gaming that do not own a PS3 or Xbox 360.

Neither Sony nor Microsoft looks capable to steal or even borrow any of Nintendo’s market, which aggressively targets traditionally non-gaming consumers.  If Sony and Microsoft planned on capturing this market with their new products, both companies will be in for a rude awakening come this Holiday season.  If anything, PlayStation 3 has shown that the market isn’t ready for an all-in-one entertainment console at a high price point.  Yet Microsoft and Sony continue to push those points with all the peripheral features their consoles offer.  Move and Kinect just join the fray of extras.  Meanwhile, Nintendo’s stripped down and basic platform has dominated the videogame industry in a way no other product has before.  While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, Sony and Microsoft only looked surface deep at the success of motion control gaming.  Maybe bleeding checkbooks will wake these sleeping giants up.

  1. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and
    now each time a comment is added I get three emails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove people from that service?

    Many thanks!

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