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Can Move and Kinect save a sagging video game industry?

A new crop of games, led by PlayStation Move and Xbox Kinect, steps up motion-sensing technology.

By Matthew Shaer/ Correspondent / September 29, 2010

Sony’s PlayStation Move motion controller aims to draw traditional PlayStation gamers into motion gaming.

Ina Fassbender/Reuters

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In 2006, Nintendo released a slim, slanted console called the Wii. Unlike the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360, the Wii was a pretty underwhelming piece of hardware.

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It didn't play DVDs or CDs. It couldn't handle HD graphics or surround sound. And it had a pretty goofy name.

What the Wii did have was the motion-sensitive "Wiimote." By waving the wireless video-game controller, a gamer could manipulate the on-screen character – one flick of the wrist sent Mario jumping, race cars flying, and golf balls soaring through the air.

The Wii was a risk for Nintendo. Conventional wisdom said that the way to make money was to create more advanced and better-looking games. But Nintendo executives bet that the Wii would attract an audience of so-called "casual gamers," who have little interest in spending 30-plus hours on the latest first-person shooter, but who might swing at a pixilated tennis ball a couple times a week.

The gamble paid off: The Wii was a sensation.

By the end of 2008, Nintendo had shipped just shy of 55 million Wiis. In 2009 – three years after the console launched – interest remained so high that the Wii outpaced Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 sales, combined. As Nintendo reps are fond of pointing out, the Wii was a revolutionary device, one that opened up the video-game industry to whole new swaths of gamers, from young kids to their grandparents.

Now, Nintendo's two biggest competitors are hoping to pick up where the Wii left off. On Sept. 17, Sony released the PlayStation Move, a motion-sensing peripheral for the PlayStation 3. The Move works a little like the Wii. The player waves around a plastic wand topped by a colored bulb (the controller looks a lot like a flashlight or a microphone), and the on-screen avatar responds accordingly – yet with much more precision than the Wii can offer.

Sony says the device will work with a range of PlayStation titles, including Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 and a new wizardry game where you wave the Move wand to cast spells. Price points vary. If you already own a PlayStation 3, you can pick up a Move Starter Bundle – which includes a camera, the wand, and a game called Sports Champions – for $100. Or you can buy a new PlayStation 3 with Move and Sports Champions for $400. (A new Wii costs $200.)

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