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The Politics Of Control

Posted on Thursday, May 11 @ 21:50:13 PST by dUKE
When Sony announced their new tilt-sensitive controller for the PS3, some people cried foul, claiming that Sony was ripping off Nintendo’s new Wii controller. This isn’t true and the story of the PS3 controller has more to do with the courtroom than the game room.

The PS3 controller only senses tilt, and lateral movement, not position (like the Wii controller can), and it no longer vibrates. It’s actually almost a direct copy of Microsoft’s old Freestyle controller for the PC. Sony’s official story is that the vibrating controller was upsetting the tilting tech.

But the real reason that Sony took the “shock” out of “dual-shock” and replaced it with a tilt sensor is what nobody is talking about. Back in 2002 a company called Immersion sued both Sony and Microsoft claiming that they held the patent on vibrating “haptic” game controllers.

Microsoft settled, giving Immersion $20 million for an infinite license on the technology, another $6 million for 10% of their company, and another $9 million loan that could be paid back to MS in Immersion stock, increasing their stake even further.

Sony, on the other hand, decided to fight the case, and so far has lost every decision and appeal. According to the latest judge, the current amount Sony owes Immersion is $91 million. Sony is appealing in court yet again.

So if Sony were to incorporate vibration into a new controller before the old lawsuit was over, the judge would almost certainly call a halt to all sales of the PS3 until the issue was resolved. So Sony’s only two choices are to either totally surrender, pay $91 million to a company that is now part-owned by Microsoft, and then negotiate future licensing payments, OR, keep fighting the court case, but get rid of vibrating controllers.

Now we’ll just have to wait and see who turns up with the patent for tilting controllers.




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