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.
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Sony is positioning the Move as the device-of-choice for hard-core gamers. Whereas the Wii had cute, fuzzy animals and go-kart racing, the Move will bring motion-sensing technology to shooters, adventure games, and graphics-heavy studio spectaculars.Skip to next paragraph
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Meanwhile, the Xbox Kinect doesn't require any controllers. The hands-free device, set for release on Nov. 4, consists of cameras that read your body movements and microphones for voice commands.
In some ways, the Kinect is the real successor to the Wii – thus far, the bulk of Kinect titles feature sports, fitness, or colorful kids stuff such as Kinectimals and Kinect Joy Ride. Xbox 360 owners can pay $149 for the Kinect sensor bar and a copy of Kinect Adventures; newcomers can opt for one of two Xbox 360 bundles, both of which include the console, the sensor bar, and a Kinect game.
The Move and Kinect arrive at a crucial time for the video-game industry. Sales have slumped across the board: Hardware sales are down, accessory sales are down, and game sales are down. Retail analysts at the NPD Group say that overall video-game revenue in August dropped 10 percent, year over year.
Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Lazard Capital, says that traditional consolemakers are losing out to the creators of social-media games, cellphone games, and apps for tablets such as the Apple iPad. People are playing more games than ever, says Mr. Sebastian. "They're just not playing them all in front of their television," he says. "They're playing on their phones. They're playing on Facebook."
Sony and Microsoft are hoping that their next-generation motion-sensing devices will be enough to rip casual gamers away from their iPhones – while still appealing to experienced gamers who already own an Xbox or a PlayStation. Jesse Divnich, an executive with the California-based firm Electronic Entertainment Design and Research, predicts that the Kinect and Move will be vital to the fiscal health of the industry.
Microsoft and Sony certainly seem to be banking on a blockbuster holiday season. The companies have blanketed the Web with advertisements for the Kinect and the Move, focusing much of their marketing muscle on the platforms. And video-game studios are starting to play along, releasing a crop of titles that take advantage of motion-sensing technology.