The living room workout has come a long way since the days of Jane Fonda in spandex. In 2006 the interactive Nintendo Wii system successfully bridged the gap between hardcore gamers and those looking for a cheap sweat. Four years and 30 million units sold later, other companies are looking to get in on the action.
Sony's (SNE) entry in the category, the PlayStation Move, isn't technically a new console. The Move, released on Sept. 17, can be purchased as a set of hardware add-ons for the existing PS3 system. The $100 starter pack includes a controller, a mounted camera, and a copy of the Sports Champions Blu-ray game package, which includes six games, from bocce to beach volleyball. Those without a PS3 can pay $400 for the console plus the Move accoutrements.
The Wii's success was founded partly on Nintendo's ability to position it as a device for everyone. The Move, however, is designed to convince couch-bound players of the power of upright gaming. The system's seriousness is encoded in its electronic DNA: The remote's innards contain an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and even a high-tech compass. It's also topped by a glowing plastic sphere that helps the PlayStation Eye Camera, which sits on or below your TV, track your movements. (The Eye connects to the PS3 console via a USB cable.)
The result is a highly accurate remote that can register a wide array of motions. In the volleyball game, there are discrete motions to set, spike, dive, serve, and even block an opponent. However, the greater accuracy makes it far less forgiving than the Wii. The Eye may interpret a table tennis backhand a little too authentically for some.
As a functioning video camera, the Eye blends the real and virtual worlds in ways the Wii can't. The game that best explores this capability—known as augmented reality—is called EyePet, which uses the camera to display your living room on the TV screen. Players sit on the floor, where their onscreen images hatch, feed, and play with a virtual pet. (Don't worry, the game is intended for kids.)
The Move goes further than any other system to date in bridging the physical and virtual worlds. Though perhaps not for long: Microsoft's (MSFT) Kinect system, timed for release during the pre-Christmas stampede, does away with controllers altogether and simply interprets hand and body movements. Regardless of which poses the largest threat to Wii, the days when the thumb was the most important part of a gamer's body are all but over.
PlayStation Move: The $100 starter pack includes a controller, the PlayStation Eye Camera, and the Sports Champions Blu-ray package