Hirai: Motion Sensing Beats Rumble

SCEA boss says loss of rumble for PS3's motion-sensing controller was strategic choice, but it's technically possible for both to co-exist. Plus: PS3 is about games - not a movie format war.

In a new video interview published yesterday on Kikizo, the boss of PlayStation's American arm said that the loss of rumble feedback in the 'Sixaxis' controller for PlayStation 3 was a strategic choice - refusing to be drawn on the specific issue of an ongoing lawsuit from Immersion Corporation, which legal types have said owns the rights to vibrating controllers.

But, he said it would be technically possible to have both.

"The issue is trying to isolate the vibration feature from the motion sensors," he said. "Is it technically feasible? Absolutely. But the balancing act that you need to do, is to be able to present the controller to the consumer at an affordable price. We have one controller in the box, but many consumers will want to go out and get an extra controller. To isolate the vibration from the sensing, if that means that the controllers are going to be so expensive, then we're doing the consumer a huge disservice."

The comments are published just as Sony announces the pricing for PS3 controllers - a reported ¥5,000, or around $39.99.

Microsoft was quick to settle with Immersion when the issue first sparked and even bought a stake in the company, and today all Xbox 360 controllers have rumble feedback as standard.

Last week at X06, Xbox boss Peter Moore told Kikizo: "When I hit the wall at 130MPH, I want to feel it." He refused to talk about specifics of the scenario with Immersion, however.

But Hirai, who spoke with us at Sony Computer Entertainment's global HQ building in Tokyo, went on to explain why Sony thinks motion, not rumble, is where it's at for game control: "We felt that ultimately, the vibration feature, which is a feedback feature, as compared to the motion sensing which is an input functionality... when you compare the two, we decided that the input device is a lot more important that feedback, and that has been a strategic decision that we've made."

The President and CEO of SCEA also says that for him, this is about establishing PS3 in its own right and not the 'Trojan horse' Blu-ray movie format game that some have claimed.

"The most important thing from where I stand is really establishing PlayStation 3 as a next-generation interactive entertainment format, that happens to use a storage medium called Blu-ray. As a great by-product... more Blu-ray players are also in the hands of the consumer. But my priorities are somewhat different from perhaps other parts of Sony, who are tasked with establishing Blu-ray as a format, and not necessarily PlayStation 3. And that's the beauty of a format like Blu-ray, that has two faces.

"I'd like to think that the PlayStation 3 really brings so much more in terms of the raw processing power, so much more in terms of what we have with storage capacity. When you compare the PlayStation 3 version to any other version of the same game, it's a completely different entertainment experience, and that in itself really is an exclusive entertainment experience for the consumers."

Hirai also suggested that, while PS3 could make losses for the group during the roll-out of the new console, investor returns might not be too far off: "We're very profitable and making huge contributions in some years; other years, since we're in the R&D phase for example and we need to make a lot of investments, you're not going to see the same level of profitability that you'd see in a year where we're getting the benefits of the seeds we've planted."

"But I'd like to think that given the overall length and span that we've been in business, that we're making huge contributions to the overall Sony bottom line."

For many gamers who were convinced of PS3's strongest showing to date in Tokyo last month, the only concern left is getting one of the 500,000 units scheduled to ship to Japan and North American stores next month. Hirai says he's got their back - even though European fans have to miss out until March 2007.

"We're going to try everything we can to get as many units into the hands of the consumers as possible for launch, and obviously heading into the Holiday season. We're going to make sure that we ramp up the production; that's one of the reasons that we strategically decided to delay the European launch. But the most important thing is being able to bring compelling software that really keeps the platform vibrant and fresh for the long term - so that six or seven years from now, we have a strong platform."

Check out the full video interview here, or read a full transcript here.

Adam Doree
Director, Kikizo

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