When the PlayStation 2 launched all those years ago, there was talk of all the accessories that we would be able to buy to compliment the console. There was also much discussion of the "masterplan" in which the PS2 became the centrepeice of your entertainment centre, the core of your living room, the very axis around which your life revolved. With the inclusion of the PS2's DVD playing capabilities, this was one step towards realising this dream. But then the "extras" weren't much to shout about - the PS2 mouse - what joy. Things are rapidly changing as Sony does what it does best, and steps up the competition against the Xbox. Here we have the latest accessory - the EyeToy.
The EyeToy is basically a USB camera that plugs straight into the front of your console, and hey-presto, you are on the TV. It is a great step towards interactivity, and means that you can ditch the controller and control by movement only. Is it another step in the direction of changing the gamer from couch potato to endurance athlete? Not really - basic movement is all that is needed, but this sort of interactivity is very much the future, and is bound to be a great hit with the kids both big and little.
The EyeToy ships with EyeToy Play, the gaming side of this peripheral. If you had forgotten that Sony was a Japanese company, this will remind you. There are 12 games for you to choose from, all involve fun music and classic Japanese bouncy stuff with big eyes - you know the type. Notable amongst these games is Kung-Fu where you have to defend yourself against attacking Ninjas and Wishy Washi, where you have to clean windows, basically by rubbing them. What this translates to, is the gamer flailing their arms around - it is advisable to move the Ming vase and the cat before you start, to avoid a mid-game accident. Of course, as this is now an interactive environment, any movement in the background becomes part of the game, so if your Granny walks in with a cup of tea, she becomes part of the game.
There is little more to say about the EyeToy - it’s simple and fun, and a great idea. The games are short and accessible, and suitable for all ages. On your own, it might be a bit sad, but with a group of friends, this is the prefect solution for a quick gaming fix. This steers gaming away from being a solitary experience, as is the case in so many tactical military games, and turns them into a group spectator event. Future titles include the obvious EyeToy:Groove, the dancing experience, and EyeToy:Sports, the interactive sports event, which could be interesting. If there is one criticism of the EyeToy, it has to be that the little blue power light on the front is so bright it is a distraction, so when not in use, I had to turn the camera aside.
The exciting thing about the EyeToy is the potential that it has harnessed. It is now down to the ingenuity of the developers to figure out how to use the capability. I would expect some hit or miss attempts, but where will it lead? Of course, combined with the PlayStation Network Adapter and broadband, video conferencing through the TV could be a real bonus. Could the gamer of the future be competing in interactive Wimbledon? Perhaps games like The Sims would benefit from having God-like hand control, rather than a standard controller. Superimposing the player into the game is now practical - perhaps the next Solid Snake will have your digitized face. The potential needs to be exploited to make the EyeToy a real winner. For potential alone, this deserves to be a hot product.