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PS3's Controller Conundrum

Ken Kutaragi, head of Sony Computer Entertainment, speaks Monday night at the Sony news conference in Los Angeles. (Chris Barylick for

The Sony press conference over and the free noshies consumed (Sony holds an excellent garden-style party on their main lot amid 10-story movie studios and ample security), the consensus is steadily arriving about the PS3.

Most are impressed, if for different reasons.

The controller is interesting -- Bluetooth at its most useful. Where a standard keyboard configuration might make a player proceed through an intricate series of commands to perform moves such as a barrel roll in a space fighter, this seems to pick up on natural movements.

Kutaragi demonstrates the PS3's motion-sensitive controller. (Chris Barylick for

The question under consideration is whether these movements will be useful or tend to be follow a reflex or reaction to the game itself. Video games by their nature are an immersive medium and even a casual player will find something that strikes a chord with them, no matter what the genre. With this immersion come reactions: the flailing of a chord when the next level has been reached after several attempts, or a sudden twitch at a narrowly avoided in-game death.

Tonight's demonstration of Sony's new controller technology brought the producer of Warhawk on stage, almost frenetic in his movements and actually failing to achieve his task of taking down two enemy spaceships despite easily executed barrel rolls and hairpin turns to begin the next strafing run. And though he became better as time went on, it was impossible not to wonder: Would these be genuinely helpful or a novelty that would eventually get in the way?

If implemented correctly, the new controller could add to the variability and reflexive feeling of the controls. Subtlety will be the key factor, as the player is unwittingly adding several new levels of input to even the most casual handling of what feels like an ordinary PlayStation controller.

With any luck, the new feature will be an option, both variable and easily toggled at the player's whim.

Sony presenters demonstrate a Gran Tourismo title for the PS3. (Chris Barylick for

Beyond this, nothing else failed in Sony's presentation with the exception of their upcoming game "Afrika" (currently a working title). Yes, the intricately modeled animals of the Serengeti looked amazing as they ran in herds, slept, drank from streams and ate grass. But when said animals don't seem to actually do anything in the demo, it becomes hard to convince someone to buy this game except as a sleep aid for a young child.

But to anyone who can update the pet rock and make it just as enthralling, my hat goes off to you.

By Bob Greiner  |  May 9, 2006; 2:42 AM ET  | Category:  E3: Dispatches
Previous: PlayStation Answers -- and Questions | Next: Party Hardly

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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Yup. This sounds about what I expected from Sony.

Just another example of Sony ripping something off. This time, Nintendo is the victim.

Sony: if you're going to rip stuff off, at least do it correctly and without all that lag.

Posted by: _Frameworks_ | May 9, 2006 12:14 PM

Nothing but a rip off, and a very poor one at that.

Once again, mr. Journalist, its ONLY a gyro. This tech was available on a standard Gameboy game 5 years ago (Tilt n Tumble).

The Nintendo Wii controllers are much, much more innovative, as they can sense the controllers position in 3D space, including depth perception, accelleration detection, pixel-perfect aiming precision and tilt sensitivity (the ONLY thing that Sonys "innovative" controller does).

I know this is the WaPo and all, but facts can be your friend.

Posted by: John in Chicago | May 9, 2006 2:24 PM

Sony has ripped off Nintendo before

Posted by: Dude | May 10, 2006 10:33 AM

rip-off of what??
you think this is a rip-off of nintendo??
come on, get serious!!!
it's a totally different experience than the wii's controller.

Posted by: sony | May 10, 2006 1:20 PM

Not a ripoff!? what, because you did a worse job, it's not copying? Nintendo should sue Sony's pants off! they took Nintendo's idea for a motion-sensor. How is the "Experience" important? they stole the technology and the concept, that's what matters.

Posted by: Cthulhu | May 11, 2006 2:29 PM

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