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Videogames getting a lot more physical

It started with the Wii, but now Wii has to move over for Sony’s Move and Microsoft’s Kinect for motion-controlled – and, in Kinect’s case, voice-controlled – gaming. As BNET.com puts it, “Kinect is truly a revolution [because it requires no controller at all] and Move … is an evolution of the Wii.” [Both are being unveiled this week at E3, the US's largest gaming trade show/conference.]

Move and Kinect. Motion detection is baked right into Kinect, whose “built-in camera and microphone (due later this year, no price set) uses facial and voice recognition to let you, for instance, log onto Xbox Live, start games and pause movies,” USATODAY reports. “And a new menu lets you choose games or services such as Netflix by simply reaching out and pointing toward the screen selection. Video chat lets Xbox 360 homes connect; the smart camera widens when another person enters the room.” And speaking of Xbox Live, Microsoft announced it’s adding nine more countries to Xbox Live Service, including the first three in Latin America (Brazil, Chile, and Colombia) and the first in Africa (South Africa), bringing the total to 35 countries, The Independent reports. The other countries being added to Microsoft’s gaming community are the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, and Russia. According to The Independent, Sony’s Playstation Network reaches 57 countries.

Gaming safety. On the online safety front, any parent concerned about Chatroulette or similar Webcam uses on computers will want to pay as much attention to videochat with game consoles connected to the Internet (with, for example, Xbox Live). Sexting too, with more and more video on phones, will certainly move beyond still photography (for some basics on sexting see this. Not that videochat is the only inappropriate communication that can happen among peers or between kids and adults – any devices connected to the world using text, voice, or video need to part of family policy about what’s appropriate and safe. The more portable the connected devices, the more important it is for everybody to be developing the (cognitive) filter in family members’ heads – the one that’s equally portable and (hopefully) improves with age. Family discussions can be very good for that filter development.

Broadening markets. Microsoft’s Kinect definitely seems to be about broadening Xbox 360’s market out from hard-core gaming to families (while Sony’s Move is aimed at hard-core gamers, Wired reports), but the question is, will it remain as attractive to, say, teenage boys? Maybe yes, since all console gaming is moving in this direction. But of course it’s the games available on the platform or service that have a lot to do with its market. The USATODAY article lists a number of games in development for controller-free gaming on Xbox 360, including a racing game called Joyride without the joystick but with hands on an imaginary steering wheel, Kinect Sports (ping pong, soccer, etc.), and Dance Central.

Where Nintendo shines. As for Nintendo, its big news at E3 is its new handheld, the 3DS, with “3-D graphics that don’t require a user to wear glasses” and other “impressive features that have nothing to do with 3-D,” according to Wired. Sony has a strong 3-D focus too, only on big screens. “PlayStation 3 console is capable of playing 3-D games on [Sony's] TVs, thanks to a software upgrade the company made available in April,” the San Jose Mercury News reports, but users will need to wear 3-D specs. Sony plans to roll out some 20 3-D games in the coming months, according to the Mercury News, “including titles sure to please core gamers, such as ‘Killzone 3,’ ‘Gran Turismo 5′ and ‘Crysis 2′.”

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