PS3 controller looks a little wimpy against Nintendo's Wii

Posted by Scott M. Fulton, III and Rob Wright

E3 2006 at TG Daily

Hollywood (CA) - While the 4D controller Sony rolled out late yesterday afternoon looked like it might generate a bit of interest, the fact that only one game - Incognito's Warhawk - was even partway prepared to make use of it, could score Nintendo at least a takedown this morning. In its morning press conference at the Kodak Theater, the company promised a total of 27 games available for testing on the E3 show floor, all of which utilize its breakthrough one- or two-part motion sensor controller set.

With The Legend of Zelda promised for day-and-date release with the Wii in Q4 2006 (no specifics on month were given), players will be able to conduct swordfights using a combination of the wand and "numchuck," making real arm motions to strike and defend. You use your body to play Wii, not your thumbs. While Wii's controllers might not necessarily be appropriate for all possible games, the Zelda demo left competitive upcoming gothic fighting PS3 titles, including Gensi II from GameRepublic, and SCEE's Heavenly Sword, looking weak and wanting by comparison, matters of high-resolution aside.

Another new feature displayed during the press conference with The Legend of Zelda: Twlight Princess for Wii was the new controller's sound system. Yes, sound system. The Wii controller has a speaker that bridges the sound between the player and the television the game is being played on. During the demo, Nintendo officials illustrated how it works: when Link draws takes aim and draws back his bow, the controller emits the sounds of the bow strings. Then, when Link lets the arrow fly, the sound flows from the controller to the television speaker. As a result, the controller not only gives the player a more physically intuitive experience but also offers a more engrossing audio experience.

Ubisoft also provided a full demo of its forthcoming title Red Steel. During the demo, a Ubisoft official swung the controller like the Katana sword in the game. In fact, the player's motions were replicated on screen with remarkable accuracy. The controller's motion sensor capabilities appeared to translate quite well in all of the titles played during the press conference, from Zelda to Red Steel.

While the controller may look intimidating to some, Nintendo officials showed the Wii is fairly easy to pick up. In fact, the company invited a member of the press to play a doubles match in a tennis game with Reggie Fils-Aime, Saturo Iwata and Shigeru Miyamoto (for the record, the guest player and Miyamoto defeated Fils-Aime and Iwata).

The contest for leadership in next-generation consoles will be boiling down very quickly to the question of whether resolution or character adds the most value to content. Would a customer rather spend what we estimate to be a few hundred dollars more (Wii's price has yet to be revealed) for 1080p resolution - assuming they have 1080p HDTV displays - or save the money and get what will probably be recorded in history as the much cooler controller? At this stage of the game, Sony's 4D gamble is beginning to look like an afterthought.

And where does this leave Microsoft? Stuck between a Wii and a hard place...and itself. As far as we know now, Microsoft will not be able to offer a similar, motion-sensitive controller anytime soon. Without an innovative controller (the Xbox 360's, of course, is set in stone already), without the highest resolution, with HD DVD being an add-o, and with a duty to boast the value of the DirectX 10 platform, Microsoft only has one opportunity: It must, perhaps from out of nowhere, show off Xbox 360 games that are impossible to resist. Based on what we've seen this morning from Nintendo, that will be a very tall order to fill.

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