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Bodies In Motion

Controllers are the talk of TGS, with the Sony and Microsoft divide increasingly clear.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

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Following the upheaval in the console market which attended gamescom in Cologne last month - with price reshuffles for Sony and Microsoft, not to mention the introduction of the long-awaited PS3 Slim - it's little surprise that this week's Tokyo Game Show brought rather more muted headlines.

Nintendo's Wii price cut for the US and Japan (but not Europe, although the trade price in the UK has finally returned to its pre-price hike levels) is arguably the biggest news to emerge from the show, representing one of the final re-adjustments in the line-up before the three companies commence their Christmas battle for hearts, minds and wallets.

A new Wii bundle is expected for Europe in the coming weeks, packaging the MotionPlus accessory and Wii Sports Resort with the console, and Microsoft is expected to join Sony by offering 250GB premium bundles, but the basic prices are now fixed in place until the new year.

With the lines already firmly staked out for the Christmas battle, then, Sony and Microsoft's focus at TGS turned elsewhere - to what was arguably a retread of their last competitive heat at E3. For both firms, motion control was back on the agenda - each keen to outdo the other as they hurtle down the trail Nintendo has so successfully blazed.

It's easy to characterise both the PS3 Motion Controller (which is in desperate need of a snappier title) and Microsoft's Natal as being me-too products, the creations of companies badly stung by Nintendo's unexpected success - but looking more closely at each one, it's fascinating to note the philosophical differences between the approaches taken by Sony and Microsoft.

At TGS, Sony had several games to announce, and restated its firm commitment to a spring 2010 launch for the device. The company is moving in leaps and bounds into the showing, rather than telling, phase of the motion controller's development - while for Microsoft's part, its Natal presentation consisted largely of getting respected game developers such as Hideo Kojima and Keiji Inafune to waffle at length about the huge potential of the technology.

The reason for this disparity is simple - Sony has adopted not only Nintendo's interface idea, but also its technology development philosophy. Where Natal is a vast, ambitious technological undertaking, demanding the creation of brand new solutions to extremely complex problems, the PS3 Motion Controller is essentially a collection of broadly well-understood and mature technologies (including the PS3 EyeToy camera and accelerometers not dissimilar to those found in the Sixaxis pads) strapped together with clever software.