There's no doubt that Sony has made the biggest splash of all the platform holders at this year's Game Developers Conference. First came the rumours that the new PlayStation 3 motion controller would be called Move. That name was confirmed during the official press conference, during which Sony also revealed the controller will cost under a hundred dollars.
Afterwards, Eurogamer got to go hands-on with a range of titles currently in development for Move. We also sat down for a chat with Michael Denny, vice president of Sony Worldwide Studios Europe. Read on to find out what he had to say about the new controller, the balance between core and casual gaming and going head-to-head with Natal.
Eurogamer: Why have you chosen to make the Move announcement at the Game Developers Conference? Why not save it for E3?
Michael Denny: It's just a very exciting time to show it off. The time felt right to announce something new at GDC. We've already released a lot of content this year, there's a lot to come, we've got a lot of announcements to come at E3 as well. With it launching later in the year we thought it was important to explain to people where we're going with it. The software's in a good state to put in people's hands.
Eurogamer: Can we expect lots of big surprises at E3, then?
Michael Denny: In terms of announcements generally in relation to PlayStation platforms and particularly games that are coming later in the year, absolutely. Very exciting announcements, I'm sure.
Eurogamer: Why hasn't there been a European price point announcement today?
Michael Denny: Because we didn't announce price points today. We gave an indication of what the price will be under, in dollars. That wasn't the purpose of the event - the event was to explain more of what the system can do and for the first time, show the games we've been working on, which we're excited about, and get them into people's hands.
Eurogamer: So the indication was that the controller will be sub-a hundred dollars. Can we assume it will also be sub-a hundred pounds?
Michael Denny: As I say, for me today's about the software we're showing here. I think people are having a good time and we're getting a great reaction.
Eurogamer: So it could be more than a hundred pounds?
Michael Denny: You've asked that three times now...
Eurogamer: You haven't given me a straight answer...
Michael Denny: We announced what we were announcing on price today in the conference. I think you probably saw that the main part of the presentation was about trying to talk about what the system can do and the games we're making for it.
Eurogamer: We also saw the sub controller for the first time today. Has that been in development all along, or has it perhaps come out of the response to the Move controller - from core gamers who say they want to sit on the sofa, not stand up and waggle?
Michael Denny: It's a good question. It was planned from the beginning, and we've always wanted to target both a social and casual audience, but add something to core games as well.
When you look at a game like SOCOM, I'm sure you can extrapolate what other games we'd want to use the new system for. The sub controller clearly helps it integrate into those games and give a different experience.
As you say, it's not all about standing up waving your arms around, because of the precision that comes with the controller. Clearly, sitting there and having more twitch-based gaming and core gaming - it can add a lot to those experiences as well.
Eurogamer: Can we talk about the range of games you're showing today? It's not all just pet sims and sports games, which I think some people were worried about. It looks like you are going for more of a balance between casual and hardcore.
Michael Denny: It's great that you say that, and I think there is a balance there. But to some degree, in the same way we develop other games or sign other games, we're not over-prescriptive about what we're looking for.
We had the system, we put it out to the development community - both internal studios and our first-party external studios - and really they came up with the ideas. They're getting inspiration I'm sure from some motion control gaming they've seen before, but they very much want to come up with new ideas as well. So I think that's why we've ended up with that sort of balance, which is great to see.
Eurogamer: What will your shareholders think, though? When they see the huge success Nintendo has had with the casual market, won't they want you to invest more in that?
Michael Denny: I think we are doing that. We do have a pet game, with EyePet. We do have a party game with Move Party. So I think it's balanced. It will appeal to that casual audience but we've got to be conscious that we have a core playstation audience as well. We think it's a system, because of the accuracy that it brings with it, which will appeal to them as well.
Eurogamer: How many titles already on the market can we expect to be able to play with the Move controller?
Michael Denny: Certainly existing game franchises we have, and maybe future iterations of those, will experiment with all the interfaces we have available to us now. If they work and if they add something and if the dev teams are excited by it, of course we'll look at integration. I think we'll have some more exciting announcements at E3 about which games - both new and existing - will take on Move control.
Eurogamer: How will it work? Will I be able to play, say, LittleBigPlanet 1 with the Move controller, perhaps by downloading a patch? Or will I have to wait for a sequel - a new game with the functionality built in?
Michael Denny: Today we're not announcing whether we have any plans for LittleBigPlanet in terms of motion control. What we wanted to show today, by using a demo, similar to what we did at the Tokyo Game Show, was to show we think games like LittleBigPlanet can work with the Move controller - as SOCOM can, as I'm sure other existing franchises will as well.
Eurogamer: OK, without reference to any specific game, what's the general principle for how the system will work? Will I be able to download a patch that lets me play games I already own with the Move controller, or is the functionality only going to work with new games coming to the market?
Michael Denny: Generally, both of those can happen. We can patch existing games so we have both those options open to us. So existing PS3 games on the market, we could patch to add in Move control functionality, or we could build them into new iterations of the game straight out of the box.
Eurogamer: When the PS3 motion controller was first announced, it was said to be launching this spring. Now, following the delay, you're going head-to-head with Microsoft, with Natal and Move both launching in autumn. How concerned are you about that? It's not an ideal situation, is it?
Michael Denny: All we concentrate on is getting our system absolutely right and making sure we've got great software support for the system we're launching. I think we're trying to demonstrate to everyone today that we're in great shape to do the launch later in the year, we're excited about it. Hopefully going to get a great reaction from everybody as well.
Eurogamer: Is your magic stick better than their invisible magic stick?
Michael Denny: I think we're really excited about what we're showing here today. The development teams who are working on it are excited about it. Hopefully the journalists who'll get their hands on it today will be as well.
Michael Denny is the vice president of Sony Worldwide Studios Europe. His magic stick is due to launch in the autumn.