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Project Natal is now just five months away from hitting the market. Don't be surprised if the market doesn't care.
Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) bold foray into motion-based controls for its Xbox 360 console has been public news for nearly a year. In an attempt to cash in on the revolutionary controller pioneered by rival Nintendo's (OTCBB: NDTOY.PK) Wii, Project Natal is Microsoft's initiative to create a new generation of titles that get diehard gamers up off the couch and moving around. Not to be outdone, Sony (NYSE: SNE ) is also working on a similar Move system for its PS3.
Microsoft marketing manager Syed Bilal Tariq told GamerTagRadio that the system will launch worldwide "somewhere in October," and that the exact date will be revealed during next month's E3 Expo.
The media has been buzzing about Natal and Move lately, and I'm sure that the fervor will only intensify once next month's conference comes around. However, I suspect that gamers won't care.
It seems to be a forgone conclusion that the Wii became a hit -- despite inferior specs and a lack of DVD or Blu-ray playback -- because of its motion-based controller. But I don't buy that.
For starters, the Wii debuted at a price point roughly half of what rival consoles charged. This must have made a difference, especially as the global economy soured. It's no surprise that Sony and Microsoft are finally gaining ground after several price cuts.
The Wii helped its cause by bundling its console with a collection of sports-themed games that showcased the revolutionary controller, but I'm guessing that the novelty is already wearing thin.
Nintendo recently posted its first decline in annual profitability in six years, with sales shrinking 22% in its fiscal year that ended in March. In other words, even if the motion-based controller made the Wii popular initially, consumers no longer care.
The novelty of other "stand up" titles has also faded away. Activision Blizzard's (Nasdaq: ATVI ) Guitar Hero and Viacom's (NYSE: VIA ) Rock Band franchises are fading, as gamers put down their plastic guitars and sit back for multiplayer combat titles and engrossing RPGs.
I'm fairly sure that Microsoft and Sony will release breakthrough titles that raise the gaming bar for their motion-based platforms. Unfortunately, I doubt many diehard gamers will be willing to give them a standing ovation.
What do you think of motion-based controllers? Will Project Natal and Move be game-changers? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.