After months of mystery, Sony has started spilling the beans about its upcoming motion control device.
The company announced the product’s final name – PlayStation Move – along with limited pricing information Wednesday evening at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco.
Users will be able to buy a “starter kit,” which will feature one Move controller, a high definition video camera (which is used alongside the controller) and a game utilizing the device, this fall for under $100. Other bundles, including standalone controllers and the Move bundled with the PlayStation, were announced but not priced.
PlayStation Move is one of the biggest bets of the year by Sony. The company hopes the controller will let it steal audience away from the Nintendo Wii, while maintaining its appeal for the core gamer.
“Nintendo has done a great job in introducing motion gaming to the masses,” says Peter Dille, senior vice president of marketing for Sony Computer Entertainment. “Many of these folks are soon going to be getting a high definition television in their house ... and we’d like to think the migration path from the Wii household to the PlayStation 3 household is an easy one.”
Before Move hits shelves, though, Sony has a bigger issue to deal with. Since the system’s price cut last August, the system has been a hot seller – so hot that it has resulted in retail shortages. And the company won’t be able to keep up with demand for a few more months.
“I think [things will improve] later this spring,” says Dille. “It will still be fairly tight through April, then in late May or June, things should start to loosen up with it.”
Analysts say they were happy with both the final name and price point of Move, as it likely won’t prove too expensive for the general public’s tastes. The controller itself, though, proved a little less impressive after some hands on time.
“I like the way Sony is going broad,” says Billy Pigeon, an analyst with M2 Research. “I don’t like the [controller’s] lag, though.”
The PlayStation Move will face significant competition this year at retail. Beyond Nintendo’s dominance in the field, Microsoft is also releasing a system, code named “Project Natal”. At last year’s E3, Natal proved the popular choice, even earning a nod from Time Magazine as one of the year’s top technology breakthroughs.
Sony, though, says it’s not worried by Natal.
“Hype in our business is a good thing,” says Dille. “I think, though, that there’s a difference between hype and rumor. … I don’t think [expectations about our controller] were high prior to today. It think people had questions about what we were really up to.”
Microsoft, for its part, has kept a cone of silence around Natal since announcing it last June, however. (Further details are expected in three months at E3.) That gives Sony the upper hand for the moment. In addition to announcing a final name and pricing details, the company showed off nearly a dozen playable games using Move – including new versions of the hit “SOCOM” and “Little Big Planet” franchises. 37 third party partners, including Electronic Arts (ERTS) and Activision Blizzard (ATVI), have pledged support for the controller as well.
Both Microsoft and Sony are viewing the launch of the controllers as a reboot of the game systems, which will extend their life at retail – and give a big boost to the revenues generated by the Xbox 360 and PS3. Third party publishers are eager to keep current systems on store shelves as well, since the price to create games has risen dramatically with this generation. (Sony’s upcoming “God of War III” reportedly cost $43 million to develop.)
“We’re approaching this as a virtual platform launch,” says Dille. “It certainly is not on the magnitude of launching the PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 2, but it is a major effort.”