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Comparison of Xbox Kinect, Playstation Move, and the Nintendo Wii

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I got the chance to two different parties, and it happened that one had the Xbox Kinect, and the other the Wii. And of course, I already have the Playstation Move and have been posting game reviews on Nutwiisystem’s sister site PS3Fitness.com (where you can read full accounts of my early impressions and the setup process for the PlayStation Move).

My friend Sandy had purchased Kinect Sensor with Kinect Adventures! for her Xbox. I helped her set it up. It was pretty easy to set up; like the Wii you just take a long camera device and put it in front of the TV facing the group. The Xbox will automatically detect the camera, and one thing that’s really cool is that the camera will move to track your progress. On-screen prompts will walk you through configuring the system, which basically consists of waving your hands. A tiny image of you will appear in the lower right-hand of the screen.

The technology had a definite “coolness” factor about it. Within minutes, I was navigating the Xbox menus like Tom Cruise in “Minority Report”, just waving my hands. We spent the better part of the night playing it, to the point where I feel pretty comfortable telling you my impressions of each.

I should preface this by saying that comparing the Wii, Playstation, and Xbox can be a dangerous undertaking, as many owners of each system tend to be fanatical and will defend their system with near-religious tenacity. And for good reason: once you choose a system, chances are you’ll be investing hundreds of dollars in hardware and thousands in software within a few years. The last thing anyone wants to do is admit they didn’t make the best choice.

The manufacturers of these products don’t make it much easier. You’ll see news reports about how such-and-such has sold such-and-such number of units, and somehow that’s supposed to mean that it’s better. You’ll also read reviews online and on Amazon which you’ll quickly find are dubious: half are written by fanatics who will stick to their system no matter what, while the other half are written by shills paid for by the companies’ PR agencies.

Anyway, I felt I owed it to you to give you my take, as unbiased as I can make it. So take these impressions with a grain of salt, and do your own comparisons of the three systems when you’re at various holiday parties this year.

Wii: B
Playstation Move: B+
Kinect: A

I have to admit that the technology for both the Playstation Move and the Xbox Kinect are impressive. Both system track movements with incredible precision. There’s a definite “ooh” factor the first time you rotate a Sports Champions ping-pong paddle in your hand, or contort your body to plug holes in an underwater tank for the Kinect. The Wii remote still gets the job done, of course, but as developers for the Xbox and Playstation start to tap the potential of the more precise motion controls, the Wii will start aging.

Graphics (Quality):
Wii: C
Playstation Move: A
Kinect: B+

I split graphics into two pieces: quality and gameplay. This is because as beautiful as the graphics are, if a software developer places form over function, that ruins the game. For this category, the Wii is definitely showing its age. When I look at the photo-realistic vistas in Sports Champions, it makes attempts at photo-realistic scenes in Wii games look very old. I noticed that the graphics on the Xbox are excellent, but the Playstation just had an edge, probably due to its use of Blu-ray discs.

Graphics (Gameplay):
Wii: A
Playstation Move: B
Kinect: B

The game we played at the Wii Party was, well, Wii Party. Overall, games that are produced by Nintendo (as my niece says, ones that “start with the word Wii, like Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, Wii Fit) are phenomenal. Even though the Wii lacks in graphics processing horsepower, Nintendo’s developers do the most with it. Their use of graphics is imaginative, creative, and downright hilarious (there’s a tree-swinging game where everyone in entire room was literally doubling over with laughter). This is a personal bias (which didn’t factor into my grade), but I much prefer the “cute” approach of Wii’s characters and the “realistic” approach of Playstation’s characters versus the “smart-alecky”, “impish” look of the characters on the Kinect. Put another way, I want to hug the characters on the Wii, shake hands with the characters on the PS3, and punch the living daylights out of the characters on the Xbox.

Wii: A
Playstation Move: D
Kinect: C

This is another place where the Wii shines and for good reason–the Wii has had a four-year head start. The number of quality games for the Playstation’s games is nothing short of disappointing: games like “Start the Party” and “Kung Fu Rider” are terrible. The only “showcase” games I’ve seen so far areSports Champions and The Fight: Lights Out. The Xbox fares a little better, with positive reviews coming in for games like Kinect Sports and Dance Central (although unfortunately, the game we played was Game Party: In Motion which evidently isn’t the best to showcase the Kinect). As time goes by, no doubt these grades will change–I do hope that the increased competition will start to put an end to awful “shovelware” games for the Wii, and force all developers to start producing quality stuff.

Precision and Response of Controller:
Wii: C
Playstation Move: A
Kinect: B+

This will probably come as no surprise, but the Move and the Kinect both get stellar scores on this one–as long as the conditions are perfect (see the next section for how things can go horribly wrong). As long as you’re one player standing exactly 6-8 feet behind the camera, the controls are phenomenal. With the Wii, on the other hand, we’ve all gotten used to games where controls are not as precise as they should be (on that note, Nintendo should seriously consider either improving the nunchuk as a motion detection controller or putting it out of its misery).

Group Play:
Wii: A
Playstation Move: B
Kinect: C

Here is where the Wii shines brightly and will probably continue to do so for some time. With both the Playstation and the Xbox, you’re physically limited to the number of people that can fit within the camera’s range. This is why the vast majority of early titles for these games are for a maximum of two players; in fact, for the Xbox games we even had to move furniture out of the way and tell people not to stand in certain places. For both the PS3 and the Xbox, players had to physically get up and stand in a confined area to play–and when they got too excited and moved out of the camera shot, their scores would suffer. With the Wii, on the other hand, we had players sitting on sofas, sitting on the floor, and we just had to toss the controller to them when it was their turn.

Wii: A
Playstation Move: B
Kinect: B+

To me, this is the most important criteria. Once the “wow” factor is done with, how much fun is each system to play? For this, the Wii still stands apart–for now. A game is most successful when you DON’T notice “coolness” factors like the graphics or the controller. If game manufacturers for the PS3 and Xbox are smart, they’ll focus more on immersing the players  into game play and less so on making their games the slickest or “coolest” games out there.

Wii: A
Playstation Move: C
Kinect: C

The Wii is anywhere from 30% to 50% cheaper than what the Playstation 3 with Move and Xbox with Kinect cost out of the gate. Factor in that Xbox and PS3 games tend to cost anywhere from $40-60 each (compared to $20-50 for Wii games), and you’ll find that the Wii is much, much more affordable over time.

And so when tallying up the grades, here are the results:

Wii: B+
Xbox 360 with Kinect: B
PlayStation 3 with PlayStation Move Bundle: B

I suppose it’s somewhat fitting that the Kinect and the Move should end up in a tie. A lot of this is, of course, because game developers have not yet produced stellar titles for either of them. This should change over the coming year. In the meantime, hopefully Nintendo will do what it takes to keep its system on par, if not through their graphics and controller, then through accentuating the things that do give them an edge.

Bottom line, when choosing a system for yourself, see which of the components above are most relevant to your needs, and judge accordingly. I’d also love to hear your experiences with each of the systems. Bottom line, the fact that there are three strong motion gaming systems out there now competing against each other is a good sign that we’ll see much better quality in the future.

Which system configurations to buy?

A question I hear a lot for each of these systems is which configurations to buy. It gets confusing, because most of the game companies sell different configurations, with  or without motion controllers. Here are the ones to get:

For the Xbox Kinect, I would recommend the Xbox 360 250GB Console with Kinect. It comes with the Xbox 360 console, a handheld controller, the Kinect camera, a headset, the awful Kinect Adventures game, AC cable, AV cable, and a built-in 250 GB hard drive (you can save some money by buying the 4 GB version).

For the Playstation, I would recommend the PlayStation 3 320GB System with PlayStation Move Bundle. It comes with the Playstation 3 console, a handheld controller, a Move controller, the Playstation Eye camera, the excellent Sports Champion game, an AC power cord, an AV cable, and a USB cable.

For the Wii, I’d just get the Wii Hardware Bundle – White, which comes with the console, a MotionPlus-enabled Wii remote, a nunchuk, Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, sensor bar, AC cable, and AV cable. To maximize your workouts, I’d also add on the Wii Fit Plus with Balance Board.

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