One of the many recurring stories coming out of E3 is how Sony have added motion sensors to the PS3 controller as an afterthought. I picked it up from Kim. Some people are saying that Sony are just trying to copy the Wii's controller concept. Nobody I've encountered has yet observed that you can do a lot more with motion sensors in a wand (which is a pointing device) than a joypad. However, a motion sensitive joypad will work as a control stick for an airplane, as being used in Warhawk. (And yes, the picture shown here is indeed the new PS3 controller; click on it if you want to see it close up).
Why would Sony blatantly rip off Nintendo in this regard? Because that's Sony policy. Nintendo are the undisputed innovators of the gaming interface device (although tip of the hat to Sony for the EyeToy and the tacky but entertaining Buzz controller). Sony have always stolen their best ideas, and this is no exception. One can imagine the discussions at Sony:
"Nintendo have some new motion sensor deely for their new console."
"Is it worth copying?"
"No idea, but Nintendo seem to be betting it will give them a new audience."
"Can we copy them?"
"Sure, we can put some motion sensors into our new controller."
"What would we do with it?"
"Doesn't matter. If we have it, we can copy any good ideas Nintendo has. Any anyway, our battle is with Microsoft now - and they don't have this. It's worth a few million dollars for motion sensing switches to get one up on them."
Why is Sony's interface device policy so dependent on copying Nintendo? A short history lesson (more information on the history of controllers here, if you're interested).
Back in 1991, Nintendo and Sony were going to be making a console together - the SNES CD. However, the contract between the two was, how shall we say, not acceptable to Nintendo (it allowed Sony 25% of the profits). So the two firms went separate ways.
At the end of 1994, Sony launched the PlayStation with a controller which was essentially a remodeled SNES controller, but with an extra pair of shoulder buttons.
In 1996, Nintendo launched the N64 with its innovative analogue stick controller. It was a bit of a sensation at the time.
1997, just one year later, Sony launched the PlayStation Dual Analogue controller. It's new feature? An analogue control stick, and an extra analogue control stick for... well, Sony didn't know, as early Dual Shock games show. But the development community gradually adopted it as a camera stick.
Also in 1997, Nintendo introduced the Rumble Pack accessory - the first haptic interface device (to coin a term I picked up from the Game Ontology Project). That happened in April.
In the winter of 1997, Sony replaced the Dual Analogue controller with the new Dual Shock controller. It's new feature? Vibration.
2002. Nintendo introduce the Wavebird, a wireless controller.
2005. In May, Sony announced that the controller for their new PS3 console would be wireless. (To be fair, everyone announced wireless controllers this year).
September 2005, Nintendo announced their new wand controller, an advanced pointing device with enormous potential as a new interface device.
Which brings us to May 2006, with Sony announcing that the new PS3 controller will now feature motion sensors.
I believe the pattern is self-evident.
I do not provide this retrospective to chide Sony, but rather to show that Sony recognises that Nintendo is the market leader in interface device innovation, they always have been, and Sony policy now seems to automatically presume that whatever Nintendo does with its interface devices are going to be worth copying at the earliest possible juncture.
I think it's sensible of Sony to steal this idea now, when they can add the concept to their new controller prior to manufacture, rather than risking having to issue a new controller within a year or so of PS3 release. But, and this point can't be overlooked, a joypad is not a pointing device. If the Wii happens to catch the zeitgeist and hit a new audience, Sony will have to introduce their own wand controller at some point in the future.
For the time being, however, the Wii still has the interface device spotlight, and the news that the wand has a speaker embedded so that, for instance, you will hear the sound of your bowstring being pulled from the wand, then hear the arrow strike its target from the TV, only adds to its charm. The wand sounds fun to a lot of people, and that's gaming gold dust.
Silly name or not, the Wii's wand (or wii-mote) is the next stop on the infinite path of interface device development. And Sony knows it.