Microsoft executives balked at motion control pitch that served as basis for Wii


Steve Ballmer was optimistic about motion controllers in 2001, but other Microsoft executives weren't.

Prior to the start of the current generation of gaming consoles, one man had an idea – and patents – for motion control technology that would eventually be used in the Nintendo Wii. Before Nintendo got its hands on the technology, however, Microsoft executives held meetings discussing the possible use of those patents.

Tom Quinn, a California inventor, founded a company called Gyration in 1989 and began developing uses for a patent portfolio of gyroscopic technology. After failing to see his technology catch on in aeronautics, one of the ideas Quinn had for his technology was a video game controller. According to a recent article by CVG UK, Quinn's first pitch was to Microsoft's chief executive, Steve Ballmer, in early 2001.

Quinn says Ballmer loved the idea and was "incredibly excited" about the technology. Ballmer liked the idea so much he proceeded to set up an interview between Quinn and Microsoft's Xbox team executives. "But the meeting went terribly," Quinn told CVG UK.

"The attitude I got from them was that if they wanted to do motion control, they would do it themselves and make a better job of it," he said. "I mean, they were just rude. In fact, the meeting went so terribly that one of the executives came over to me afterwards and apologized on behalf of others."

Microsoft wasn't the only console manufacturer to dismiss Quinn's idea, though. Sony also had a chance at the technology, and like Microsoft, it passed on the idea.

Quinn met with Ken Kutaragi, head of Sony's PlayStation brand, later in 2001. In that meeting, Quinn says, Kutaragi asked the California investor if he could make the technology for 50 cents. When Quinn said it was impossible, he was told Sony wasn't interested. Quinn's fortunes changed when he landed a meeting with Nintendo later in the year, however.

In his meeting with Nintendo executives, Quinn's presentation was stopped short 20 minutes in while the executives deliberated on Quinn's pitch. At the end of that deliberation, Nintendo offered to license the technology (the Wii would go on to launch in 2006 with the technology) and purchase a stake in Gyration.

Nintendo's investment appears to have been a smart one in retrospect. The Wii is firmly entrenched in the top spot of the current console generation, with worldwide sales of more than 97 million units. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, by comparison, have each sold about 70 million units. Both Microsoft and Sony eventually changed their stances on motion control as well, with Microsoft releasing its Kinect motion controller in 2010, the same year Sony released its PlayStation Move motion controller.

Via: Kotaku
Source: CVG UK | Image via CVG UK

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How does the supposed motion tech that Sony were researching and developing from back in the PlayStation days fit into all of this?

Both Sony and Microsoft put their money, I believe wisely, in more advanced console hardware than Wii. Microsoft was probably better positioned to take on this technology had they decided to forgo developing that Blu-ray alternative.

Well in the case of microsoft they didn't change their minds. They came up with their own.. almost a decade later.. and I'd still prefer to hold on to something

PatrynXX said,
Well in the case of microsoft they didn't change their minds. They came up with their own.. almost a decade later.. and I'd still prefer to hold on to something

thatswhatshesaid

last year for Christmas i bought the kids an Xbox with Kinect. The kids used the Kinect that day. Since then, its never been used.

I think it worked out exactly as it should have. I agree that Wii might not even be around without it and if Sony or MS had it first it would have likely failed due to the audience they have so we would have ended up with nothing now and one less player in the game console market, but now all of them have it and MS got it very right in the end...although I've yet to see anything compelling from it yet...I think the breakout application is coming...but it will be in windows.

No company wants to take the plunge into new hardware without knowing they are going its going to be a success and they are going to make money from it. Good on Nintendo for taking the plunge but good on Microsoft (ok and I guess Sony, to an extent) on making the technology even better and giving consumers more options!

Wow,

I love these pivotal moments in history, Imagine if either Microsoft or Sony would have gotten the technology, Nintendo next console could have really bombed if it was Wii power without motion controls, they could have gone the way of Sega.

TheLegendOfMart said,
Wow,

I love these pivotal moments in history, Imagine if either Microsoft or Sony would have gotten the technology, Nintendo next console could have really bombed if it was Wii power without motion controls, they could have gone the way of Sega.


Nintendo has too much cash to go the way of Sega... But I understand what you mean. But in the end, who's to say Sony or Microsoft would have used the technology in the same way or driven the industry the way Nintendo did. Something like this might have been better suited for Nintendo from the beginning...

Just goes to show, great ideas are even greater once your competition uses it.
And to think Sony and/or Microsoft could have had it first.

Peacemf, what's even more interesting is that the 'Giants' in the gaming industry simply sneered at it until Nintendo outshone (outshined) them lol

Dushmany said,
Just goes to show, great ideas are even greater once your competition uses it.
And to think Sony and/or Microsoft could have had it first.

Peacemf, what's even more interesting is that the 'Giants' in the gaming industry simply sneered at it until Nintendo outshone (outshined) them lol


Huh? I don't get what you mean there. If you're implying the motion with that stick controller thing Nintendo has is better than Kinect, then that's just whack. Kinect is far superior.

LUTZIFER said,

Huh? I don't get what you mean there. If you're implying the motion with that stick controller thing Nintendo has is better than Kinect, then that's just whack. Kinect is far superior.

No, he means that while Sony and Microsoft initially sneered at the Motion controller idea, Nintendo took a risk, and reaped the rewards. Kinect and Move were reactive products, released to combat the success of the Wii remote AFTER the Wii was successful.

I don't think there's any argument that the tech in Kinect and Move are superior, but at the same time, they were also later to market and more expensive.

Majesticmerc said,

No, he means that while Sony and Microsoft initially sneered at the Motion controller idea, Nintendo took a risk, and reaped the rewards. Kinect and Move were reactive products, released to combat the success of the Wii remote AFTER the Wii was successful.

I don't think there's any argument that the tech in Kinect and Move are superior, but at the same time, they were also later to market and more expensive.


Ohhh, ok, I get it now, thanx. Yeah that does make sense. This article did kinda confuse me, but seeing it that way makes so much sence now. Never thought of that.

Dushmany said,
Just goes to show, great ideas are even greater once your competition uses it.
And to think Sony and/or Microsoft could have had it first.

Peacemf, what's even more interesting is that the 'Giants' in the gaming industry simply sneered at it until Nintendo outshone (outshined) them lol

actually Microsoft wasn't a "Giant" in the gaming industry at the time.

LUTZIFER said,

Huh? I don't get what you mean there. If you're implying the motion with that stick controller thing Nintendo has is better than Kinect, then that's just whack. Kinect is far superior.

No he wasn't implying that. But ... Kinect is not superior. Kinect does things differently... but personally, I think the Wii controller system is far better. It has buttons, which 99% of games need if you want them to be diverse, and it doesn't suffer the horrible latency that Kinect does. Kinect is overrated.

LUTZIFER said,
Kinect is phenomenal, I'm glad MS went that way (see forward) and come up with something greater.

Kinect is great but xbox sells (mainly) fps so, Kinect is great but it does not work for the xbox market but dancing games and casual games.

:-|

Brony said,

Kinect is great but xbox sells (mainly) fps so, Kinect is great but it does not work for the xbox market but dancing games and casual games.

:-|

True, but Ballmer never wanted it to be just for core gamers. When they revealed the X360 it was a console for the entire family. One of the things they marketed was the X360's age lock. They also acquired companies such as Rare and Lionhead to create more diverse games. But the Wii's motion controls took over most of the casual market so it failed.

But now we're seeing the X360 return as a family console thanks to Kinect. So while the core gamer will soon move over to the next Xbox, X360 will continue as a cheap family console. The same happened with the PS2. Long after the original Xbox and Gamecube died, the PS2 was selling millions thanks to the Eyetoy and its dance games.

What I find interesting about this news is that Ballmer saw the potential. No wonder he feels this strong about Kinect. It slipped through his fingers once before and he wont let it happen again. I just hope he realizes core gamers want games build for a controller.

Ronnet said,

True, but Ballmer never wanted it to be just for core gamers. When they revealed the X360 it was a console for the entire family. One of the things they marketed was the X360's age lock. They also acquired companies such as Rare and Lionhead to create more diverse games. But the Wii's motion controls took over most of the casual market so it failed.

But now we're seeing the X360 return as a family console thanks to Kinect. So while the core gamer will soon move over to the next Xbox, X360 will continue as a cheap family console. The same happened with the PS2. Long after the original Xbox and Gamecube died, the PS2 was selling millions thanks to the Eyetoy and its dance games.

What I find interesting about this news is that Ballmer saw the potential. No wonder he feels this strong about Kinect. It slipped through his fingers once before and he wont let it happen again. I just hope he realizes core gamers want games build for a controller.


Yeah but XBOX and Kinect have the ability to do both. Like I mean that you can be playing a game with the controller, and the Kinect can still serve a purpose with other in game functions. Like I don't like the Kinect driving function, it's too much like Nintendo and sucks, but the same game and Im talking Forza 4, you can drive with the controller, but look around by moving your head. That's kinda cool. And that could be done with other games as well. Kinect has great opportunities That technology could be put into first person shooters as well. Thatd be awesome IMO..

LUTZIFER said,

Yeah but XBOX and Kinect have the ability to do both. Like I mean that you can be playing a game with the controller, and the Kinect can still serve a purpose with other in game functions. Like I don't like the Kinect driving function, it's too much like Nintendo and sucks, but the same game and Im talking Forza 4, you can drive with the controller, but look around by moving your head. That's kinda cool. And that could be done with other games as well. Kinect has great opportunities That technology could be put into first person shooters as well. Thatd be awesome IMO..

I didn't know Kinect was being used like that. That is pretty cool.

I'm honestly not really inclined to play a game relying on Kinect, but something like that I would use...

LUTZIFER said,
Kinect is phenomenal, I'm glad MS went that way (see forward) and come up with something greater.

I disagree. I think Kinect has more potential, but currently, its laggy, and the crop of games using it is generally not in the triple A league. It's a shame, but it really isn't that great.

peacemf said,
Interesting stuff.
How one group were able to see forward and the others weren't able to process new ideas.

I don't think that's accurate at all. Microsoft and Sony were trying to appeal to core gamers and they had a lot more invested in their consoles, while Nintendo was appealing to casual gamers.

While Nintendo has certainly sold more consoles they have a much lower software attach rate, which means that Microsoft and Sony have actually done very well this generation despite lower hardware sales.

theyarecomingforyou said,

I don't think that's accurate at all. Microsoft and Sony were trying to appeal to core gamers and they had a lot more invested in their consoles, while Nintendo was appealing to casual gamers.

While Nintendo has certainly sold more consoles they have a much lower software attach rate, which means that Microsoft and Sony have actually done very well this generation despite lower hardware sales.

And then Microsoft did a U-turn and came out with Kinect, and Sony did a U-turn and came out with Move.

Nintendo is a forward-thinking company and they innovate time and time again. The others are followers.

FYI: my favourite console is the Xbox 360, but I recognise which companies innovate and which rest on their laurels.

theyarecomingforyou said,

I don't think that's accurate at all. Microsoft and Sony were trying to appeal to core gamers and they had a lot more invested in their consoles, while Nintendo was appealing to casual gamers.

While Nintendo has certainly sold more consoles they have a much lower software attach rate, which means that Microsoft and Sony have actually done very well this generation despite lower hardware sales.

No ... you're countering his argument with a false reasoning.

Microsoft and Sony both wanted motion control, but Sony wanted it for ludicrous prices to keep costs down and Microsoft said they could do it better. It wasn't about their target market... 'core' gamers? Do you even know what that means? Gamers are gamers ... some people like different types of games. ANY game can be causal. I can casually, and used to, pick up Call of Duty for 10 mins. That make it a casual game? I hate the terms applied to people as if they're more 'serious' about gaming. Gaming is, even at it's most 'serious', a simple act of play time. It's not a serious or important thing.

Anyway, so no. You're speaking about reasons that don't matter. MS and Sony both wanted it irrespective of their target audience. I bet they both wish they'd sold almost 100 million units.