Forget Mario versus Sonic. Forget Marcus Fenix versus Nathan Drake. The real battlefield of this console generation – and perhaps all future generations – is motion control.
Nintendo are the clear leaders in this space and in this generation. Their motto at E3 was “Everyone’s Game”, a riff on how they’ve managed to expand the gaming audience to, well, everyone by enabling a console and input device that everyone can understand.
Wii Sports is on its way to becoming the most successful game of all time. Sure, it’s packed in with the console. But Wii Sports is the reason why tens of millions of people are buying that console.
The Wiimote looks like a simplified TV remote, something that everyone is familiar with and knows how to use. You can swing it in a vague approximation of the swing you’d make when playing tennis, golf or baseball and your on-screen avatar reproduces the action. The result is easy, uncomplicated play that allows everyone to participate.
But at E3 that play just got more complicated.
Nintendo has just released the Wii MotionPlus, an add-on that increases the motion sensing fidelity of the Wiimote. Due to launch in a few weeks, Wii Sports Resort delivers swordfighting, archery, jetskiing and other activities that all require more from the player, more sophisticated, deliberate and subtle movements than the vague approximations of before.
Sony announced an as-yet-unnamed motion control device for the PS3 featuring a camera that detects the position of a handheld wand in three-dimensional space. At their E3 press conference, Sony engineers demonstrated how the device can translate the wand’s movements onto a TV screen at an almost 1:1 level. With two wands in hand during one tech demo, the player’s motion seemed in perfect synch with his avatar wielding a sword and shield.
Microsoft’s Project Natal uses a camera, but does away with the need for any kind of wand or remote. Instead, its camera detects your entire body. They demonstrated a 3D version of Breakout where the player can deflect the ball with any part of their body. They had a test version of Burnout Paradise where the player simply moves his hands as if gripping an actual steering wheel, while moving his foot forward or back to accelerate or brake.
Of course, Natal is much more than a motion control device. It expands the interactive palette to include facial and voice recognition, but at heart it is, like the Wii before it, a proposed solution to the problem of creating an input device for everyone.
Admirable goal that may be – and Nintendo has certainly proved it to be a financially rewarding goal too – but is greater fidelity really the answer?
Do we really want to be in the position where to enjoy a tennis game, we’re going to have to be just as adept at tennis in real life?
Do we really want to be pretending to throw a grenade in Halo 4 when we could simply press a button under our finger?
Do we really want games that wear us out after just a few minutes of jumping around in our living rooms?
I just can’t see these more sophisticated motion control devices taking off to anything like the extent Wii Sports has over the past two-and-a-half years.
What do you think? What are your views on where Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are heading? And what do you want from motion control gaming?