Several of us on the gaming team went down to L.A. this week for the E3 trade show (where the video-gaming industry shows off the latest and greatest games and hardware). After two years of unsuccessful experimentation with a smaller, low-key business-oriented format, this year marked the return to the full-on Expo format. The hot new topic of this year’s show was motion control – capturing the player’s body movements with a camera to control the gameplay.
On the eve of the show, Microsoft announced Project Natal, a system with a screen-mounted sensor (with “depth-sensing” camera and microphone array) so you no longer need a controller in your hand. The demos look impressive (though a bit gimmicky), however, in the hands of a creative game designer, it could be a novel living-room experience.
And in their Tuesday press conference, Sony announced a new motion sensing controller. The concept is a hybrid of the current “Wiimote” and natal camera idea. Sony’s spin on the concept uses their EyeToy camera and a hand-held “wand” controller. The live demo looked very compelling, and the system seemed responsive (a potential advantage vs. a camera-only solution).
Not to be outdone, Nintendo also had news involving camera technology. Ubisoft announced their new fitness game Your Shape for Wii, a personal trainer that tracks your body movements and gives you feedback on how you are doing.
Overall, there was lots to see at the show this year, and even a new hardware announcement (Sony’s new PSP Go handheld). Although attendance didn’t seem as crazy as the last “big” show in 2006, it does seem that E3 show has re-established its place on the gamer’s calendar.