'Lair' Exemplifies Sony's Problems In Console Space

Nintendo's Wii gets a lot of positive attention for its control system -- the motion-sensitive "nunchuck" style controls, which makes the Wii Sports game so amusing to play at parties. Despite being a very similar concept, Playstation 3's "Sixaxis" controls have attracted a heaping helping of negative attention. Sixaxis allows you to control games by physically moving the controller rather than with the built-in joystick. Developers have been having fits trying to make a game that makes use of the feature without being totally unplayable. In "Lair," for example, pretty much no matter how careful you are with how you move the Sixaxis controller, your dragon flies around like he's having a seizure.

In fact, "Lair" is a very cool concept for a game (you ride a dragon around, wreaking havoc and fighting other dragon riders), with gorgeous graphics, which was totally ruined by its utterly baffling control scheme, which made the game so frustrating to play that it totally tanked its reviews -- Gamespot said there was "nothing fun about it," while Penny Arcade's Tycho described trying to play the game further as treading "down that scarred staircase and into the greasy throat of hell."

The Playstation 3 isn't the only console that's made trouble for its developers when it comes to controls. Early Wii games proved extremely difficult to control ("Red Steel," anyone?), and it's a problem that persists -- first-party titles are dominating the Wii charts, while third-party developers, for the most part, keep their distance. And while Sony doesn't seem to have a problem with attracting third party developers, it seems less successful at attracting third-party developers who make games that sell. Of the top-selling 10 games last week, only one of them was for the PS3. The week before that, none of them were.

But there are signs that Sony will be turning these problems around. At the Tokyo Game Show this week, Sony Computer Entertainment President Kaz Hirai promised that the company would adopt a "much closer relationship" with its third-party developer partners, and will also develop more first-party titles, as well.

Ideally, this will provide developers with what they've been clamoring for: some help from Sony for working with its new control system and its complicated system architecture, while Sony will stop firing blanks in the console war.

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