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Your Digital Kids

3D Versus Body Motion: What Matters Most for Next Gen Gamers?

Accoding to NPD, a research firm, families are using video games big time. After sports games and action games (each holding approximately 20% of the market), family games represent 12%, the next largest category. Though the press would have you think otherwise, nearly 50% of games sold are rated “E” for everyone. And the game platforms are looking for new cool ways to exploit the growing gaming market.

This holiday, the three big industry platform giants—Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo—are going to battle it out with next generation systems, each targeting a wider consumer audience in its own unique way. For each, the ease of use, price, mobility, ability to download music and movies and play online, and, of course, a little bit of gamer’s luck will affect its ultimate success.



Microsoft Kinect

$149, $399 for Elite Bundle that includes the requisite Xbox.

Expected release: November

What it is: Originally dubbed Project Natal, Kinect is an Xbox accessory that allows you to play video games without having to use any sort of input device or controller other than your own body. You can wave your hands and make things move around a virtual screen, or kick up your heels to play a rousing game of soccer. Microsoft emphasizes Kinect’s natural user interface: voice, touch, face recognition, motion sensors, video chat, and more. Having tested it, I can attest that a Kinect experience can leave you breathless, the same kind of breathless any good workout gives you.

Technology: A clever packaging of a traditional digital webcam with a second camera that senses depth plus four microphones to pick up voice. The Kinect sits next to your Xbox. The cameras pick up your body movements and the software has been taught more about degrees of body articulation than an Indian fakir. Kinect reacts to slight movements of arms, wrists, knees, neck, etc. with equal aplomb.

Games preview: Many of the games are what you’d expect to be playing with or without a controller: Kinectimals is like a cuter version of Nintendogs; Kinect Sports is like the Wii sports with soccer, bowling, and track and field games. There’s a go-kart racing game and plenty of jumping adventures in Kinect Adventures. My fave announcement is the Your Shape game from Ubisoft and Dance Central from Harmonix, letting me up my fitness unencumbered by dance pads or controllers.

Pros and cons: Kinect is sold separately but you’ll probably want the Ultimate Pack, which includes the new update of the Xbox 360 Live featuring more memory, USB, and HDMI, to name a few.

Sony Move PlayStation

Under $100 for the three components: the Move wand, the navigation controller, and the Eye camera.

Expected release:

What it is: It looks like a karaoke mic but it’s an accessory for the PS3 that adds new dimensions of control to video games as you wave it like a baton. Much like the gyroscope/accelerometer in other motion-sensing devices and the Wii remotes, the stick can record your body positioning and relay that information to a webcam attached to the PS3. Think of the Move as a magic wand. Swing it like a baseball bat, golf club, or tennis racket and the movement is

Technology: Unlike Kinect, where it’s your body or nothing, the Sony Move includes some buttons that can be used to enhance play. Gamers will enjoy having the buttons to add another dimension. Nongamers will continue to be confused. Some games require having two Moves in hand, like archery, for example. According to my colleagues in the know, the Sony Move is much more precise than the Kinect precisely because you’re holding something in your hand. Sony Move uses a Bluetooth controller to communicate between the wand and the camera.

Sony Move Archery

Sony Move Archery

Games preview: Sony Move aims to satisfy both casual and hardcore gamers alike. Titles already confirmed are: Sorcery, SingStar Dance, Heroes on the Move (working title), SOCOM 4, Heavy Rain Move Edition, echochrome ii, EyePet, Sports Champions, Tumble, Beat, Time Crisis: Razing Storm, Toy Story 3, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11.

Nintendo 3DS

Pricing still not available.

Expected release: March 2011

nintendo-3d-7-7What it is: Due out after the others, the 3DS is similar to the current Nintendo DS but it’s 3D, and 3D that does not require the user to wear any special 3D glasses. The Nintendo Wii, the acknowledged granddaddy of motion-based gaming, captured the imagination of a new generation of young mobile gamers. Nintendo’s Wii sales have been ailing, and the earlier arrival of the Kinect and Sony Move will undoubtedly cause some defections.

Technology: The secret sauce behind Nintendo 3DS is a third camera that helps create the 3D image. Like the DS, it’s got dual screens, a 3.53-inch top screen and a 3.02-inch bottom touchscreen. The top screen is capable of showing 3D graphics; the bottom is a touchpad. A motion sensor, gyro sensor, and a slide pad that allows 360-degree input make it possible to play games or take a 3D photo. The 3DS comes with slots for 3DS and DS games, and an SD card slot, integrated Wi-Fi, and a rechargeable battery. The operative words here are mobile, connected, and 3D, and, knowing Nintendo, probably quite affordable.

Games preview: Here are some game trailers. The games looked a bit crude to me, but it’s pretty darn hard to simulate 3D on a 2D screen. Expect favorites like Mario and Nintendogs to resurface on 3D.

And the Winner Is

The kids I know say Nintendo’s 3DS is the freshest idea, one that most appeals to them. Frankly, the kids were less interested in the notion of full body motion control than I (in my inevitable quest to lose five pounds). Portability trumps motion control. Nintendo is promising 3D movie viewing too, and that’s adding to the ecstasy.

I, and the women I know, really like the Kinect idea and find a buttonless/controlless world really appealing. I mean, Kinect can even detect and correct an imprecise yoga down dog!
My gamer friends—they drool of the precision of Sony’s Move.

Where do you stand? Body, precision, or 3D?