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PS3, Xbox, Wii: Which motion-controller sounds best?

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Fred Prouser/Reuters

(Read caption) Sony shows off a prototype of its new motion-control device.

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Leading up to this week's E3 video-game expo, both Microsoft and Sony felt the heat.

In 2008, Nintendo's Wii outsold the Xbox 360 by more than 2-to-1 and outpaced the PlayStation 3 by almost 3-to-1. How could this be? Both 360 and PS3 have vastly superior graphics and online features. The entry-level 360 costs less than a Wii. And their games often generate more attention in the enthusiast press.

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The one big difference: motion controls. Nintendo's signature Wiimote convinced many nongamers that this system was easier to figure out, more immersive, and built for them.

And so, this year's E3 marked the beginning of an arms race. Both Microsoft and Sony spent significant chunks of their press conferences demonstrating their own motion-control schemes.

Microsoft's Project Natal

Rather than mimic the Wiimote, Microsoft's new Xbox addition throws away controllers altogether. Natal is a box that sits atop your TV and reacts to  your gestures. It's got two cameras, an array of microphones, and special software to gauge depth, movements, even voice tone.

Sony's motion controller

The regular PlayStation 3 controller already senses motion, but the feature is rarely used to much effect. Some games let you balance the controller as your character walks across a high wire, but that's about it. At E3, Sony attacked the Wiimote head-on. Its upcoming device is a wand with more precision than Nintendo's current controller.

Nintendo's Wii Motion Plus

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At last year's E3, Nintendo announced it would improve the Wii's sensitivity. Wii Motion Plus is a small extension that clicks into the base of each Wiimote. The company was mum about the device this year, instead hyping its Vitality Sensor, which will attach to your finger like a pulse monitor. Nintendo hasn't really said how games will incorporate the Vitality Sensor.

So, readers, which excites you the most? A more sensitive Wii, Sony's Wii-plus-plus, or Microsoft's hand-free idea?