Natal specific EA Sports Active sequel to be announced at E3?

As many sites are reporting, EA announced a sequel to their Sports Active fitness product today. What is especially interesting about this news is that the hitherto announced platforms for EA Sports Active 2.0 are Wii, PS3, iPhone/iTouch but NOT the Xbox 360. Cue all sorts of speculation that EA have snubbed or are struggling with Natal technology, based on, well not very much.

I think this is interesting for a different reason, namely a Natal specific EA Sports Active product which is being kept back for E3, incidentally where Microsoft have confirmed they will be showing all of their Natal stuff as opposed to this week at the Game Developers Conference, currently taking place in LA.

What annoys me about the reporting of stuff like this is that nobody stops to think. The enthusiast press doesn’t have to like the impending motion-control quasi-generation to appreciate that not all motion control technologies are born equal. It’s becoming ever clearer that the PS3 motion controller will replicate the functionality  of the Wiimote + Nunchuck almost exactly, albeit with more precision. Project Natal on the other hand has no controller at all. How the Xbox 360 set up will process the input of someone swinging an arm is going to be dramatically different to that of the Wii & PS3. At a lower level, the software will be completely different.

Anyone who has played Sport Active however, will appreciate how much of a perfect fit it is with the Natal technology, at least insofar of how much we know about it. Concerns about the lack of a physical device to hold (a very legitimate point if we’re talking about a golf game) and any input lag are utterly irrelevant when viewed in light of the movements this game requires the player to perform. EA it would seem are of similar opinion given that the Sports Active 2.0 will actually use proprietary controllers strapped to the arm & leg. A commenter on one site made the excellent point that Microsoft proprietary wireless controller standard makes such things more difficult/expensive to produce for the 360. This is very true but the issue is circumvented with the Natal technology itself. The heart rate monitor asides, it doesn’t need those sensors to accept the input required. It just does it differently.

Of course, I’ve no insider knowledge about this or Natal at all but you don’t have to take my word for it, ask EA Sports Vice President Peter Moore instead;-

EA Sports is the very definition of an early adopter. During a lengthy interview with us, the company’s Peter Moore confirmed that his teams were working on how to bring the mega-successful EA Sports Active franchise to PS3 and 360, taking advantage of the PS3 Motion Controller and Project Natal respectively.

“Absolutely,” Moore said. “Natal is the perfect example of what you could do there. If you could imagine EA Sports Active done via Natal … and we are working on that right now, we saw Natal a couple months ago and we started thinking about how we could bring health/wellness and fitness to a Natal-type experience. Same with Sony with the motion controller, how can you utilize what they showed on Tuesday to bring fitness to that. But I think Natal is a huge opportunity.”

Joystiq, June 2009

That was during E3 when Natal was revealed, not a few months after. Furthermore, EA have already confirmed to investors they expect two EA Sports Active games to release this fall. Are the recent changes to the Natal hardware and the inability to utilise as much code from the other versions causing EA problems? Perhaps, but they are quite clear they see Sports Active as a platform. That they would bin the work undertaken already and not grasp the opportunity to piggyback on the Natal launch marketing blitz this year is very, very unlikely in my view.

Besides, what is missing from E3 since last year’s reboot? Peter Moore and tattoos. A glorious return to the spotlight at an E3 Xbox press briefing is on the cards. I’d put money on it.

Update: I’ve created a HubDub prediction market for fun which will close just before E3.

Will a Project Natal specific EA Sports Active game be announced at E3 2010 for the Xbox 360?