Los Angeles — Although the three major video game console makers seem content to stick with the Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation3 platforms a little while longer, a number of add-ons to enhance their functionality began to emerge during the early hours of the 2009 E3 event, here.
Not surprisingly, the runaway success of the motion-sensing control inherent in Nintendo’s top-selling Wii platform has not gone unnoticed by its rivals, as both Microsoft and Sony demonstrated new accessory add-ons that will introduce motion-sensing functionality to their game systems in the near future.
Microsoft led off the contest by taking a stab at the popular Wii console when it revealed a motion-sensing adapter for the Xbox 360 that eliminates a handheld controller altogether. Instead it will use the player’s full body to control video games. Part of the company’s “Project Natal,” the new accessory item uses a horizontal bar to allow players to control their games and Xbox media without touching hardware.
Instead of using a wand to detect motion like the Wii, the new device uses a 3-D depth camera and microphones to detect players’ voices and movements for controlling the onscreen action. The product will read a player’s face and automatically log him into his Xbox profile. In addition, the console’s menus can be navigated by hand gestures.
Sony Computer Entertainment of America (SCEA) used a portion of its press conference to preview current developments in designing a prototype controller that can be combined with PlayStationEye to offer greater precision with added depth. Targeting casual and hard-core gamers, the controller detects the natural movements of the hands and uses the PlayStationEye to detect the position of the controller in 3-D, allowing the camera to project users onto the TV screen to play and interact with onscreen objects, Sony said.
In addition, SCEA said its popular Dualshock 3 peripheral will be offered in three new colors this year. Satin Silver will be available exclusively at GameStop from July through September, while Deep Red and Metallic Blue will be available at all retail partners starting in October.
As for the PlayStation Network, SCEA showed new content and services that are being added from major network studio partners, in addition to 16 new premiere partners from Hollywood, anime and sports.
With the additions, PlayStation Network now offers nearly 1,900 movies and 9,400 TV episodes to consumers. New Hollywood partners include: Showtime Networks, Starz Media (for film, TV), G4, E!, Summit Entertainment, The Weinstein Company, HDnet and Magnolia Pictures.
Anime partners include: Anime Network, Media Blasters, Right Stuf’s Nozomi Entertainment, Starz Media’s Manga Entertainment, Toei Animation, Viz Media, WEP and FUNimation Entertainment.
Sports partners include: HDNet Fights, UFC, Wrestling from TNA and Video Action Sports.
Additionally, Sony said PSP users now have increased freedom to directly access the PlayStation Network’s video-delivery service to download movies and TV shows without connecting to a PC or the PS3 system first.
Nintendo, meanwhile, showed off the Wii MotionPlus add-on for its Wii Remote control. The accessory is available June 8 for $20 alone, and as part of the $50 “Wii Sports Resort” game July 26. The new price of a complete Wii Remote controller with the Wiimote, Nunhuck and MotionPlus is $80.
The MotionPlus is said to offer precise motion control when combined with specially designed games.
When connected to the Wii Remote controller, it “deepens the immersive sense of reality in its games,” Nintendo said.
The device senses subtle motion and can locate where and how players hold the Wii Remote controller in 3-D space. Nintendo said the goal is to push active gaming to new levels of immersion and a new standard of control.
A number of new third-party games coming out in the next few weeks will make use of the new Wii MotionPlus technology. The Wii Sports Resort is an immersive active-play game featuring a dozen resort-themed activities. Wii Sports Resort includes ever-deepening levels of play that make use of the precise controls.
Nintendo also announced the next iteration of its hugely successful Wii Fit program. The Wii Fit Plus offers a range of new features and enhancements, along with exercises and balance games. Players set their own customized daily workout routines or choose 20-, 30- or 40-minute workouts based on how much time they have available.
Users may choose from specialized workout routines targeting personal objectives. Workouts combine the original Wii Fit activities and selections from 15 new balance games and six new strength training and yoga activities. It will be sold both with the Wii Balance Board accessory and as software only, starting in the fall.