The race to motion control is beginning to heat up, as the fall release of both Sony's Move and Microsoft's Kinect are approaching quickly. Prices have been announced, features finalized, and the inevitable mug slinging between each side has commenced. The current battle for perceived value between Sony and Microsoft is strikingly reminiscent of the beginning of this console generation, except the companies have traded sides. In addition to motion control, the hardware restructuring we've seen in the form of PS3 and 360 Slims further reveal this strange role reversal.
Much like the launch period of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Kinect and Move are in a battle for perceived value. One particular point of contention has been Microsoft's $150 standalone price point for Kinect. Detractors have been calling foul, saying that high cost will fail to catch on with the casual audience. Naturally, Sony is more than happy to point out that players can get started with Move for between 50 to 100 dollars. Microsoft's Brett Siddons recently countered, telling consumers to "do the math" when comparing the two devices, and they'll find Kinect "is very competitively priced." By comparison, all the accessories required for a two player Move setup could cost as much as $180 - well over Kinect's $150.
As mentioned above, this situation - Microsoft pushing a seemingly more expensive product, but one that has better value when you consider Sony's accessory costs - closely resembles the current generation's console launches. Although, this time things are the polar opposite. When PS3 was still early in its life cycle, there was a strong backlash to its seemingly high price point compared to 360. However, once you factored in all the additional functionality PS3 possessed - such as built in wireless, a larger hard drive, a Blu-ray player, more USB ports, and full backwards compatibility - it was clear PS3 offered better value. Purchasing all of those features as accessories on 360 was incredibly expensive. Unfortunately for Sony, they were unable to properly market their device's value to consumers. Perhaps Kinect will have more success.
Speaking of console functionality, Sony and Microsoft have been switching places in that regard too, especially with the introduction of the Slim consoles. Sony has been slowly chipping away at the original PS3's feature set to cut costs and remain competitive. The PS3 Slim was a huge success for that very reason. On the complete opposite end, Microsoft has been retooling the 360 to give it more life. The 360 Slim features built in wireless (a first for Xbox) and a larger hard drive. It even has the same piano back finish the original PS3's used, while Sony has moved closer to the original 360's texture. It's madness!
The large scale role reversal we've witnessed between Sony and Microsoft over the course of this generation is quite astonishing. In terms of their motion control devices and console functionality, the two platform holders have adopted each other's philosophy. Meanwhile, Nintendo has been relaxing on top of the world, watching obscene amounts of revenue flood in. What a fascinating industry.