Ah, motion control. The phrase itself has become a byword for the future of gaming ever since the much-publicised conception on Nintendo’s Wii. Its heritage is oft cited, with many a tale regaled about its origins, and how the idea breathed new life into Nintendo when they were struggling to survive in the home console market. I am not here to further the conversation about the past of motion control. Let’s look to the future and ask, with the dawn of Kinect and PS Move, whether the idea really is here to stay for a long, bright and illustrious future, or if it will be frowned upon in the halls of video game history, where its fate can truly be decided.
For me, innovations such as the analogue stick, Rumble Pack, and in-game target systems, (all pioneered by Nintendo) can be considered game-changing ingredients that thicken the broth of video game goodness. Each adds its own flavour to the overall gaming experience, that we want to taste again and again, one that makes other companies sit up and take note, ultimately making all three of those examples immovable objects in the conception, design, and playing of modern video games since their respective inceptions.
Let’s take the most obvious of these. Analogue control is now second nature, but the hype and excitement that came from the ability to precisely control in-game movements should not be underestimated. Pushing the stick forwards slowly for a tip-toe quiet walk, or smashing it full pelt to its upper-most regions for a full on sprint, were the talk of videogame land back in the 90’s. Such precision had not been seen before outside of a PC, and you could tell even back then that this was the future. Analogue integrated seamlessly into our lives as gamers, not even considering the usefulness of the stick nowadays is testament to how much we need it in our lives– not to mention how well it matches the modern experiences that videogames have become.
The mighty analogue, a true pioneer of the industry.
However, when I think of motion control, it is with great trepidation that I dare to look past even the eighth generation of consoles that will be released over the next few years. Nintendo seem to have lost momentum with the idea. As motion control runs out of steam, Nintendo add less coals to the fire, and so this perpetual cycle will continue until the wheels stop turning altogether. One final stoke of the flames will come from Skyward Sword but even this sure-to-be great game cannot reverse the decline of excitement felt by the casual gamer. Never mind core gamers who have always been sceptical of the motion enabled devices, ever since the play style rose to prominence in 2006.
Nintendo have etched out a path in the industries landscape that has since been followed by their two closest rivals, namely Sony and Microsoft. Both of these companies have had success with their respective devices, with Microsoft in particular posting impressive figures of over ten million Kinect units shipped since launch. However the main question is whether this install base can be built upon at all. At first glance ten million shipped looks to be a fantastic feat, but when you consider eight million of those units were sold in the first sixty days, and that the word “shipped” does not equate to “sold”, you get a much clearer picture of the buying patterns associated with the device, and in my opinion of motion control in general.
After the initial hype of the product, clamour for the technology will tail off , the same way it has for Nintendo’s Wii (which is currently selling half the amount of 360 and PS3). Microsoft are certainly onto a good thing with Kinect for the time being, but as for sustainability I have my doubts. The main problem is that Xbox 360, for the most part, is a core gamers’ console. Its whole life blood has been built from ravenous gamers who not only buy the console, but also pay a subscription to play their games online. Introducing Kinect may well attract new consumers to the Xbox brand, but are they really as loyal to the system as gamers who have stuck with the console through its highs and lows? Will these “casual” gamers be parting with yet more cash for an online feature that is free to other consoles? I doubt it. Microsoft are going out of their way to push Kinect onto the core gamers, and as a result announced recently that all first party games will have Kinect support from now on. Whether you like it or not, future iterations of games like Halo or Forza will have Kinect-enabled features, and in my view this could well backfire on the company.
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