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Did Sony Really Need the Sub-Controller?

Sony Move Mock-up

Did Sony really need the Sub-Controller?

After much speculation about its name, Move was revealed in GDC2010. Sony’s take on the “waggle gaming” which also caters to the hardcore gamers will be a welcome alternative to existing control schemes. Move controller’s high precision and depth tracking allows 1:1 reproduction of controller position and orientation in the virtual space, which can accommodate very interesting applications.

Sony’s primary move controller is as simple as it can get, with few buttons which emphasize motion based game control rather than button-mashing action. But there are some things that you cannot do with so few buttons in hardcore games, and moving in vast virtual spaces requires extra input. Enter the sub-controller, with an analogue stick and two extra “shoulder” buttons.

Here’s where I’m lost, as Sony’s nunchuck sub-controller doesn’t have the advanced position tracking of the main controller, but the main controller lacks the analogue stick that can be vital to orientation in the virtual space. (Imagine playing a fps, left analogue for moving forward, strafe, right analogue for pitch, and turning). For fine targeting, the main controller will probably be awesome. But for coarse turning, as you won’t be able to turn your back to the TV, the games would probably rely on turning by targeting edge off the screen. This is what SOCOM seems to be doing. This, I assure you, will be quite awkward, as any attempt to target an enemy close to the edge of the screen will result in a body turn, and may get quite some time to get used to. This begs the question: Did Sony really need the sub-controller? Would it be *very* inconvenient to add an analogue stick to the main controller? By adding an analogue stick to the main controller, following would have been possible:

  • Buying a second Move controller for your left hand would double as the current sub-controller with full  motion tracking.
  • You would not have to buy a third controller for hardcore games.
  • The second Move controller would instantly allow you to play two player casual games with a friend, while allowing hardcore single player experiences.
  • Buying a 4 move controller set would allow for 2-4 people casual gaming experiences, 2 player hardcore gaming experiences in a split screen, all at once, with less controller clutter, with less confusion (every controller is the same), all without the need of total of 6 controllers for similar setup, but with more features for every game, as your left hand input is tracked much better with the main controller: The sub-controller is patently inferior to the main move controller for motion input.
  • Left hand input would allow gesture based input, while right hand input would be for fine targeting and the analogue on the right would be used for coarse turning.
  • Some games that need a single analogue input could get away with using a single controller in your hand.
  • Players wielding a single controller would have access to the wonders of an analogue control stick.
  • Overall casual gaming experience would be cheaper to get into.
  • Overall hardcore gaming experience would be better, for reasons mentioned above.

The simple Photoshop mock-up of course doesn’t do the concept any justice. I’m sure the designers and engineers at Sony could come up with an elegant and comfortable design for the analogue stick. I believe Sony has missed a great opportunity with the Move controller, rather than the Wii-too approach that is now plastered on top of it, it would have created a great new way to play our hardcore games, had it decided to use an analogue controller on the motion controller.