In a blow to its resurgent Playstation 3, Sony said on Wednesday that it will delay the launch of a motion-sensing controller for the games console from spring to autumn 2010.
The delay means the PS3 motion controller will have to go head-to-head with Microsoft’s ‘Project Natal’ motion controller for the Xbox 360, which is due for launch in time for Christmas 2010.
The setback will also raise concerns that, after a strong recent performance, Sony may repeat errors made after the PS3’s launch, when products such as its ‘Playstation Home’ online service were repeatedly delayed.
Sony said that the delay was not due to any hardware design or manufacturing problem, but because it wanted to have enough games ready that use the controller to drive its sales.
“We will continue to work to have a comprehensive portfolio of attractive and innovative games for the Motion Controller, not only from [Sony] but also from the third party developers and publishers,” said Kazuo Hirai, president of Sony Computer Entertainment.
Rather than pressing a button to swing a videogame sword, with motion control players swing the controller itself. This new style of play has helped Nintendo’s Wii to become the top-selling console of this generation since its launch in 2006, and has prompted Sony and Microsoft to produce their own versions.
Sony’s technology, which uses a camera to track a controller in the player’s hand, is less ambitious than Microsoft’s Natal, which uses a depth sensor to track the player’s body with no need for a handheld controller at all. It is therefore a blow to Sony that it cannot get to market before its rival.
Last week Sony postponed the launch of Gran Turismo 5, the latest in one of the group’s biggest PS3 game franchises.
Analysts said that with no motion controller either, Sony will risk losing momentum for Playstation 3 hardware sales if there is any delay to other exclusive titles, notably the serial killer drama Heavy Rain and action adventure God of War 3, due for release in February and March respectively.
Sales of the PS3 have begun to recover after the launch of a slimmed down version and a price cut to $299 last August.
Sony said that it sold 3.8m PS3 consoles during the 2009 holiday sales season, a 76 per cent increase on the previous year.
Despite the recent recovery, the PS3 still trails Nintendo’s Wii by roughly two to one in total shipments and is in a close battle with Microsoft for second place.
High production costs mean that the Sony has suffered heavy losses on the PS3, but the console is central to Sony’s overall strategy of selling more software and services to run on its devices.