The Motion Control 'War' has been a key talking point and bone of contention over this last year. We loved to paint a picture of Kinect and Playstation Move squaring up to face each other in glorious battle over hearts, minds and sales. Several industry analysts frequently compare the two systems; citing differing adoption rates, sales figures and forecasts at the slightest provocation. Start a forum thread about one of the peripherals and you can soon count on fans of the other contender to start flaming up a storm. Unfortunately, this entire state of affairs is based on a complete fallacy.
There is no Motion Control War. Move and Kinect represent one of the rare areas in which Microsoft and Sony are not in direct competition with each other... and it's both misleading and highly inflammatory to compare them on any level.
Let's start with the basics: the two peripherals couldn't be more different in terms of primary function. Playstation Move is designed to provide an alternative way of interfacing with existing games and concepts, whereas Kinect's focus is to bolt an entirely new but entirely segregated experience onto the Xbox 360. And I'm sure I don't need to point out that they provide completely different input methods. They do different things. Comparing the two is akin to a ranking a PC keyboard and a Macintosh mouse... in terms of who's "winning." It's a complete non-sequitur even at this most basic level.
Target audience is the key distinction between the two so-called rivals. Both Microsoft and Sony are keen to suggest that they're targeting new consumers with their motion controlled wares... but as we've seen, they're simply not attracting them in any significant numbers. Because it's a lie. Move and Kinect are primarily designed to lengthen and refresh their own player bases in the wake of an unexpectedly long console lifespan that's causing both machines to stagnate. The target audience for Playstation Move is existing Playstation customers; and likewise, Kinect's primary audience are Xbox 360 owners who are looking for a new gameplay experience. Put simply, there's absolutely no overlap. Well... almost no overlap. Behold.
It's worth mentioning that the humble Wii has a lot to answer for in this fictitious war of smoke and mirrors. For a fraction of the price that a Move bundle or even the standalone Kinect sensor commands, new casual adopters can secure an entire console... with motion control peripherals... and a killer app that works straight out of the box. What's more, there's a case to be made that unaffiliated consumers who are genuinely interested in buying into Motion Control tech already has a Wii- and if they don't, they soon will. Kinect and Move have unwittingly created a discount cut-price underdog out of the machine that arguably already dominates the motion control scene!
Even the sales models are wildly different. Kinect has made an enormously expensive bid to maximise its install base as quickly as possible- splurging massive amounts of marketing money in the process. Move, in contrast, is pushing for slow and steady adoption with gradual integration into every aspect of console operation. Both of these strategies are perfectly sound and will probably pan out in the long run... but don't delude yourself into believing that one peripheral will thrive at the expense of the other. It doesn't work like that.
So why do many industry veterans, pundits and fanboys continue to compare the two peripherals at any given opportunity? Because it's great for publicity. Us journalists and 'celebrity' analysts thrive by fanning the flames beneath explosive issues like this, but the most important spin comes from the two publishers themselves. Sony's marketing division have tacitly admitted that they were delighted by people comparing the two peripherals... and were quick to capitalise on the erroneous fact in subsequent interviews and the (admittedly epic) Kevin Butler adverts. Inspiring rivalry provides perfect flamebait to attract increased visibility and higher sales... but the fact that this campaign was only relevant to diehard Sony fans (who would never have considered buying into Kinect regardless) is further proof of the massive disparity between target audiences. Rivalry sells- even if it doesn't really exist.
[Ever] since we announced Move at E3 last year, I’ve always felt like we were lucky that Microsoft made such a big deal with Project Natal. In a broader sense, we are categorized as ‘motion gaming’- if we were just doing Move, we wouldn’t have had as much coverage and attention from media and consumers. - Sony Worldwide Studio boss Shuhei Yoshida, September 2010
The moral of the story is that we need to stop treating Kinect and Move like bitter rivals. All it accomplishes is to entrench fanboys deeper into their dugouts... and makes the issue infinitely more difficult to understand for newcomers who need to choose a console- not a motion controller- to buy into. Both peripherals have succeeded in providing a genuine boon to their respective players and there's plenty of room for both in the marketplace. What's more interesting is to see what developers choose to do with the hardware over the coming months... and whether they'll be integrated into the next generation of consoles. When that happens, the Motion Control 'War' will finally ignite.