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Is Microsoft about to shake things up?

Pondering the chances of motion controls on Xbox 360...

2006 will be remembered as the year that motion control finally hit mainstream games (and a chunk of 2007 as well, if you live in Europe). Nintendo debuted its radical Wii control system at 2005's Tokyo Game Show, and Sony quickly followed Nintendo's lead with the unveiling of its own motion-sensitive controller at E3 2006.

In just six months almost six million Wii consoles have been sold worldwide, proving that waggle control isn't just a third-party fad anymore. The Xbox 360 however is still sitting deadly firm where pad-waving game mischief is concerned, but could Microsoft's console soon be moving and shaking with its two console rivals?

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Totem Ball used the vision camera for EyeToy-like controls. It was rubbish.

WAND WAVING
Back in September last year, Microsoft had plenty of praise for Nintendo's new interface approach. Even Xbox boss Peter Moore admitted to being an admirer of the Wii's controller innovation, saying that he thinks "Nintendo doesn't know what they have on their hands yet".

But of course these Nintendo back slaps have always been in the context of the Wii as a second, complimentary console alongside Microsoft's own box. 360's closer rival, the PlayStation 3, has had a very different success story with its own SixAxis pad.

Like most things PS3, the knives were out for the tilty PS3 pad since day one, but really it's a great example of how Wii-esque tech (even though the Wii Remote is obviously more advanced) can be incorporated into a standard console controller. To date, we've only really seen the SixAxis used well in PlayStation Network games such as Blast Factor and flOw, so its usefulness in full-on retail games still remains to be seen (though Lair looks promising).

But even at this uncertain stage in the SixAxis' lifespan, Microsoft has never been one to sit back and watch its rivals win with new toys (unless we're talking about handhelds, of course). Some sort of motion-sensitive 360 controller add-on has been rumoured for sometime, most famously hinted at, again, by Xbox honcho Peter Moore.

"We have plans. This does not come as a surprise", he said, on the subject of new "experimental" 360 products. "Our strategy has been laid out for us years in advance, and you're going to see some of that this next holiday and beyond."

A bit vague, but these new products could be the 360's answer to the controller waving craze that's sweeping the industry. When we finally managed to ask Microsoft straight about 360 motion-sensing - more specifically MS Developer Group GM Chris Satchell - the company seemed to be stepping back more from hopping on the pad-tilting bandwagon.

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The Xbox 360 keyboard controller - another of MS's upcoming accesories

"We're always looking at interesting control systems," he told CVG earlier this year. "In the future we can do that stuff but we'll just wait and see if there's a demand from the development community.

"One thing I'm not certain of", he continued, "is that third-parties are super-excited about that motion control - or at least they're not showing it with the games that are hitting the shelves yet.

"We're yet to see a really good game on Wii that really says 'OK that control kicked ass'. The SixAxis stuff, I think the jury's way out on that. I don't know if it's really that meaningful or not."

Unless there's real demand from developers and gamers, Chris says, there's no point building a motion-sensitive 360 controller if nobody really wants it.

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