Nintendo ‘rejected’ rivals’ choice of technology

Nintendo tried and rejected the motion-sensing technology that Sony and Microsoft are counting on to catch up in the video game wars, the company’s president told the Financial Times.

Satoru Iwata said his company had made experimental games controlled by camera-based sensors, but got better results with the accelerometers it eventually chose to use for its Wii console.

Mr Iwata’s comments throw down the gauntlet to Nintendo’s rivals, both of which announced motion controllers based on cameras this week in an effort to catch up with the Wii’s runaway sales lead.

The Wii has sold more than 50m units worldwide, compared with 30m of Microsoft’s Xbox 360, which launched a year earlier, and 23m of Sony’s PlayStation 3.

“Until they say when they’re releasing it, how much it costs and what software it comes with, we won’t know whether that is the route we should have taken. However . . . I think they couldn’t choose to release exactly the same thing,” said Mr Iwata.

He was happy that the innovation that made the Wii a hit three years ago was becoming an industry standard. “Companies whose people said that motion-sensing wouldn’t work are now proposing motion sensors,” he said.

When a player moves the Wii’s controller, a built-in accelerometer translates that motion into game commands. Nintendo is about to release an upgrade that can detect subtler movements, such as a flick of the wrist to add topspin.

Sony’s new controller, to be launched next spring, uses a camera to detect the waving of a wand.

Kazuo Hirai, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, said it was the best way precisely to track motion towards or away from the screen, and that the PlayStation 3, which has more processing power than the Wii, can do so with no time lag.

Microsoft’s new controller is the most radical. Combining a camera and a depth sensor, it directly tracks every motion of the player’s body so the player need not hold anything at all.

Demonstrations of Microsoft and Sony’s controllers were well received by analysts, gamers and game designers. Todd Greenwald, senior research analyst at the brokerage Signal Hill, described Microsoft’s controller as “highly innovative” and in a note to clients said that it “goes way beyond anything being done right now by the Wii”.

But one industry executive said Microsoft might struggle to make the device affordable, because of the large number of components.

John Riccitiello, chief executive of game publisher Electronic Arts, said the controllers of all three consoles looked equally appealing but very different.

“Look at how we’re seeing different control systems unlocking new consumers – look at the iPhone or Palm Pre. Technology’s finally getting easier and more accessible for consumers and that’s going to mean an exploding market,” he said.

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