With the launch of the Xbox 360's Kinect last week, all three major video game consoles now have motion-based gaming support. But which is the best?
That's not as easily answered as one might think.
While all three allow you to forgo button-mashing for body movement to interact with games, they all do it in different ways.
Nintendo was the first console to popularize the notion of motion gaming when it brought the Wii to the masses in 2006. While motion gaming had been done before, the Wii was the first console to find success by actively wooing non-gamers.
To play a Wii game you hold something that looks an awful lot like a white remote control in your hand and swing it around. In 2009, Nintendo updated their technology with MotionPlus, adding the ability to capture more complex motions to their popular console.
The Playstation Move was the next to hit the market, arriving this September. To play a Move game you hold what looks like a microphone in your hand and swing it around. The key difference is that the Move appears to be much more accurate in detecting motion than even the MotionPlus and PS3 games look better than the Wii.
Finally, last week Microsoft rolled out the Xbox 360 Kinect, which allows you to play motion games without having to hold anything in your hands.
A group of my son's friends, all gamers, all familiar with the Wii and Move, spent a chunk of a day earlier this month trying out Kinect. Every one of them said they liked Xbox 360's flavor of motion gaming most. Some even said they planned to put aside Halo: Reach, a game that has spread through the neighborhood kids like an infection, to play more Kinect games.
They seemed to have the most fun with Dance Central, a game that tracks you as you try to follow along to choreographed dancing set to popular music.
While their enthusiasm was genuine, I worried that perhaps they were falling victim to early adopter syndrome: Liking something just because it's the latest technology. So I went back to the Wii and Move to compare games.
It turns out that MotionPlus-supported Wii Sports Resort, the Move's Sports Champions and Kinect Sports all have a Table Tennis game. All three of these games were created internally and published by the console creators. It seemed like the best comparison.
My favorite experience ended up being on the Playstation Move.
After spending a week almost exclusively playing Kinect games I was surprised to find just how sharp the PS3's Sports Champions looked and how well it tracked my movements. The Wii's MotionPlus seemed to struggle with backhands and the subtlety of putting spin on a ball. Kinect Sports handled both of these well, but it still felt as if it was over-simplifying what I did.
The Move was almost too accurate, almost. Because I enjoy playing real table tennis, the high level of accuracy, the ability to put a shot on a specific place of the table with the sort of spin I wanted was a big plus for me.
While this is as fair a comparison as I can find right now across all platforms, it's good to keep in mind that both the Move and Kinect are relatively new technologies in the hands of developers. Plenty of issues cropped up with the Wii when it first hit as well.
As developers become more used to the way they can use these new forms of motion-tracking in games, I expect we're going to see astounding new experiences on all three platforms.
Well Played is a weekly news and opinion column about the big stories of the week in the gaming industry and its bigger impact on things to come. Feel free to join in the discussion.