Motion Control: Here to Stay?

Will motion control continue strong into the generations to come?

By Lewis Hampson. Posted 10/14/2011 14:00 15 Comments     ShareThis

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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15 Responses to “Motion Control: Here to Stay?”

  • 1 points
    Kevin Knezevic says...

    Very good article, Lewis, though I can’t say I share the same sentiments. My sister and I recently purchased a PS3, and as I was entering in all of my information to set it up I thought to myself, “This would be so much easier with the Wii Remote.” I think that speaks for how much of an impact this generation has had on me personally. The DualShock controller feels so archaic in comparison that it was almost like I stepped into the past when I first turned the system on.

    I can’t speak for Kinect as I’ve never tried it (though I think its limitations as an input device are clear enough), but I would honestly be quite disappointed if motion controls were downplayed in the coming generation. It has so much untapped potential that it would be a shame if developers took the easy way out and only stuck with what they know, especially when the brave few who did dare to venture into the new frontier of motion gaming proved just how brilliant it can be when executed properly– I’ve already spoken far too much on how they were employed to great effect in Metroid Prime 3 (SHAMELESS PLUG), and I loved all of the sword-based activities in Wii Sports Resort. I could name a number of other examples beyond those as well, but it just goes to show that motion controls can have a beneficial impact on gaming when implemented with thought and care.

    I’ve already been far too spoiled by them, anyway– I can’t imagine aiming an item with the control stick anymore when the pointer is vastly superior for that particular action, and I’ve already said it’s made typing on a virtual keyboard substantially easier. I genuinely hope the Wii Remote will not be displaced entirely by Wii U’s tablet controller next generation, but I feel on the whole the industry is not willing to take the necessary risks to sustain such an unorthodox control method (which was likely the impetus for the new controller to begin with). That makes me a sad gamer.

    (Also, I think motion controls were integrated quite well in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Not so much in Donkey Kong Country Returns, but they felt quite organic to me in the former, so much so that I’ve found myself unwittingly shaking the controller when I went back to play the first Super Mario Bros. game!) XD

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  • 150 points
    Lewis Hampson says...

    Thanks Kevin, glad you enjoyed it! Whilst I agree that games like Metroid show the true potential of motion control, it is hard for me to envisage anybody but first and second party developers implementing the control scheme with any great degree of success in the future.

    It is a shame, because the control method promised so much, but has ultimately delivered little when you compare it to the great games released this generation without motion control. I believe motion control will always exist in some way or another (e.g. sixaxis) but will not be the main focus of a console (in WiiU’s case, it may be one of many selectable control styles)

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  • 225 points
    wombatguy880 says...

    The problem is “people”. Wii Sports sells. It is proof that motion works. Why does it work? This is what should be examined. Is it 1 to 1? Is it 100% accurate to the actual sport? Is it fun? That last question is the one that matters most. I don’t think gamers care if swinging left causes you to swing right if the game focuses on just making the swinging fun. Accuracy is neat but when we are honestly comparing swinging to pressing A then we aren’t thinking about which action is more logical for the player. The internet is full of players claiming that because it’s not 1:1 they can’t get into it but the reality this is just like how some gamers used to praise the continued use of the dpad… and like that we will still see analogue sticks, dpads, and buttons in future nintendo consoles. We just won’t be alone. We’ll be given all the options. I don’t think Nintendos abandoned motion control. It has known from the beginning that it’s not the only way to control a game but now it’s new revelations are showing 3rd parties that they know that. Choose dpad, choose touch, choose motion, choose analogue, and you can. The real choice though is that you choose to make a good game and the players will play. Look at Wii Sports. It did what it needed to do. This is why the Wii was successful.

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    • 150 points
      Lewis Hampson says...

      I agree that motion control is seen by Nintendo as just one of many possible control methods, and I firmly believe it will not be the focus of WiiU. As for the Wii remote being fun, I think it is..for a while, but then after a certain amount of time (for me at least) it loses its appeal. If more games utilized the control scheme to a better standard then I may have had more faith, but alas, its mostly shovelware..

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      • 393 points
        James Stank says...

        Lewis, you’re completely right. Even games that do motion control well get boring after a while. I’d rather play Metroid Prime and Resident Evil 4 with a GameCube controller any day.

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        • 1329 points
          Andrew Hsieh says...

          Really? I actually preferred the Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition controls to the original, haha. Maybe the only thing I disliked was the knifing, because I’d sometimes knife at something for no reason when moving my remote around, but otherwise I thought it was nice. I can’t control FPSes with a Wii setup to save my life, though.

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        • 393 points
          James Stank says...

          Yeah, the controls worked, but if you were looking for any kind of challenge, you wouldn’t find one. Using the Wii remote made professional mode “baby mode” or “snipe with my handgun mode.” The only way to play it is the way it was originally intended, so the game ends up (especially on pro)being difficult, as opposed to a cakewalk.

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  • 225 points
    wombatguy880 says...

    Do you read your own posts James? It’s not as challenging because you have a better control option. It’s why motion control is better. I don’t have to drag a cursor using an analogue stick instead I just point and shoot like I would if this were a game about shooting. I’m not condemning traditional controls. I will always prefer an analogue stick for walking the world until they invent holodecks but should aiming and shooting be handled by pointer based controls? Absolutely. Should games be harder due to bad control? Nope. This is true for any control but when you are railing against a good use of motion to make gaming more accessible than you maybe missed the point.

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    • 393 points
      James Stank says...

      Do you read YOUR own posts Greg? It’s not as challenging because it is less realistic. When using a controller, the laser reticle continually moves around, making it nearly impossible for you to hit enemies that are very far away. Last time I checked, in real life, no one can hold their arms steady enough to hit targets with a handgun that are “x” distance away. That is why we have sniper rifles. The game isn’t harder due to bad controls. The controls are perfectly fine. How are the controls bad? I know you don’t care about realism, but some of us do. If you want to shoot zombies with a shotgun from 400 yards away, go ahead. If you want to play your games without any difficulty then go ahead. For some of us, a game that gives us a challenge is fun. Plus, re4 wasn’t meant to be played with motion control to begin with. If it was built from the ground up, then the enemies would be programmed accordingly, with the developers knowing how much easier the Wii remote would make the game, and thus they would do something to get the difficulty back. Not the case in re4. When you say “make gaming more accessible” Greg, I can’t help but read “casual games are good.” I like tough, hardcore games, but I realize that they aren’t everyone’s thing.

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  • 225 points
    wombatguy880 says...

    It’s fine to have such an opinion but my problem is with so many wrongfully believing this is what the masses want.This isn’t about realism. This is a game about tons of zombies and zombie-likes attacking a single player some with chainsaws or guns. You want realism then the You’re Dead screen should suffice. The reality is players want to be the hero. They don’t want it over in 20 minutes but luckily RE4 never is. My hit accuracy went up from maybe high 30s on wii (yes I am not good with the traditional controls) to around the 80s and 90s on wii. It helped make the game a lot more fun for me. Sure it’s not real. I’d never survive a zombie apocalypse with the way I waste ammo but it’s fun. I was punished plenty for my lack of talent regardless so the game always seemed just challenging enough.

    I’m all for the ground up ideal when designing games for wii but RE4 is proof that it doesn’t need to be ground up if the basic idea is stable and with pointer = aiming being literally the same concept that is a qualifier. Sure if they made it specifically for the wii, It may have had more but the port was proof that it’s not that hard to make these motion controls actually work in a traditional setting.

    Casual and Hardcore are buzzwords used by you and those like you to once again pretend gaming is something that it has never beem. Populous, Tetris, Incredible Machine, Jeopardy, and other games have always existed and used to be just enjoyed by the gamer who was not obsessed with making himself an outcast who only plays the “hardcore” games. You want tough? Play without saves, Stop whining every time someone kills your character, Don’t use guns, Try skateboarding or football in real life. I’m playing a videogame. It might be Tetris, Angry Birds, or The Sims, or it might be Resident Evil 4, Jet Grind Radio, Zelda, or Batman but most importantly I don’t care how “hardcore” it is, just that it’s fun. If both concepts can’t coexist for you then you can as I mentioned before make these games harder for yourself by applying the techniques previously mentioned. Stop ruining it for the rest of us regular people though who don’t care about your buzzwords or even whether the gameplay is truly realistic in our fictional Resident Evil.

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  • 150 points
    Lewis Hampson says...

    It all boils down to choice. I just want the choice of control schemes. A perfect example being Donkey Kong Country Returns. I personally would have selected the Classic Controller, but the option was not even there.

    Hopefully a happy medium can be found when WiiU releases, one that caters for all.

    Thumb up 1
    • 9 points
      Nintendork says...

      I enjoy both control schemes for various reasons, so I agree that it would be nice to have the option.

      As for Resident Evil 4, I’ll always happily own both the original GameCube version and the Wii Edition…

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  • 225 points
    wombatguy880 says...

    Choice is fine but I think some are pretending that the majority prefer the traditional choice every time. The majority would choose motion when done well as evidenced by Wii Sports and even RE4. I do hate bad control ideas and more than necessary have been seen on wii but this article tries to state that gamers are done with motion, We aren’t. It’s simply bad control that all gamers are against.

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  • 1245 points
    lukas85 says...

    Motion control is cool, is a natural way of doing certain actions on a videogame. And combined with the traditional buttons ican be used with every game genre out there. I hope the wii u developers learn how to combine the touch and movement interfaces in a succesfull way.

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  • 381 points
    Hyawatta says...

    To Each His Own

    Along with Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, Metroid Prime Corruption, Medal of Honor Heroes 2, Conduit 2, and Red Steel 2, I think that Skyward Sword will be a definitive showcase for the effective use of motion controls. Don’t forget that Skyward Sword uses motion controls for far more than just swinging Link’s sword. From choosing your items without even having to look at the screen to swimming, motion controls are making a significant improvement to the gameplay.

    I pray that the Wii Remote Plus will still be a thoroughly supported option to play games on the Wii U. I want to use the pointer for First person shooters. It worked extremely well for the games that I previously mentioned. I want to use the pointer for Killer Freaks from Outer Space and Ghost Recon Online. I hope I will have that option. I even prefer to use the Wiimote and nunchuk over the classic controller pro for the Monster Hunter Tri. I just want the option to be available. I would have preferred to use the nunchuk and Wiimote together instead of having to use the Wiimote alone for Metroid Other M. If Nintendo will give us the options instead of forcing the control scheme on us that they think is best. I’ll be fine. I have no problem if they set their preferred method as the default, as long as they give us the option to use the other methods as well.

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