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

Wii Motion Plus: Under used, under appreciated.

Casual gamers tend to be fickle. The amount of people I know personally who have tried the Wii, loved it for a few months, then sold it, are numerous. I fear the same fate may befall Microsoft with Kinect, only they stand to lose a whole lot more if the incessant pushing of the device to the core market does not subside. Looking to the next generation, I would guess that Microsoft will implement Kinect into every single console they manufacture, and given their ridiculously stringent regulations, I would not be surprised if every company that develops for the console had to implement the device in some way or another to their titles. This kind of move from Microsoft could have serious repercussions for the core gamer, who may feel slightly betrayed by the sudden jumping of ship. After all, it is they who pay the subscription fees, they who stayed with Microsoft through RROD-gate, and they who have brought success to the Xbox division of Microsoft as a whole.

One look at Microsoft’s painful 2011 E3 press conference gives indication as to where Microsoft are right now. In the same place that Nintendo were three years ago, when they produced the much maligned 2008 E3 press conference. Microsoft are putting a significant amount of their eggs in the motion-controlled basket and if they are not careful they could end up losing the large install base of core gamers they had worked so hard to procure in the first place. Kinect is the most relevant and recent success story of the motion control saga. On the other hand, Nintendo has not been able to sustain the public’s attention long enough for their Wii to be viable today. Wii MotionPlus came and went without so much of a flicker, and to this day I do not personally know anyone who actually owns the device. Nintendo are forcing MotionPlus upon us with the upcoming Skyward Sword but apart from this game, there are no games for Wii which utilise the add-on with any game-changing degree of success.

Skip forward to 1:26, if you wish to witness a horrifying vision of the future.

Playing through New Super Mario Bros Wii and Donkey Kong Country Returns only highlights my frustrations with, and the limitations of, motion control technology. Why do I have to shake the pad for Mario to be propelled skyward? Why do I have to again shake the pad for Donkey Kong to roll from the edge of a platform? Both of these examples, for me, highlight how motion controls are outstaying their welcome. These motion based manoeuvres feel tacked on, implemented just because they’re on Wii. But to be honest, I’m getting pretty damn tired of it all. Nintendo themselves have shifted focus away from motion control with the forthcoming, unimaginatively titled Wii U. The system will have one iPad-style controller which will be the central “gimmick” of the console, with the full array of control methods yet to be announced. Though I am guessing that with Nintendo’s focus firmly on “this console is for everyone” customisable control schemes over a variety of gamepads will be the order of the day.

Motion control is a chapter in the history of video games which is yet to be closed. The idea and implementation of the control scheme was born out of a need for change at Nintendo. Only, the success of motion control must surely have outperformed even Nintendo’s greatest expectations (given the relatively dismal sales of GameCube before it) and caught the whole industry off-guard. In an effort to respond, Microsoft and Sony released their own efforts just as the furor over the control system died down, and to an extent, Microsoft have buoyed the market proving there is life yet in the world of motion controlled games. But for how long?

Moving away from motion control?

For me, motion control will now always be a part of the industry in one way or another, but it will never again hit the heights that Nintendo reached when Wii was at its peak, and it is for this reason I foresee companies watering down the use of motion control or forgoing it altogether in favour of newer and more conventional ways of playing games. Don’t get me wrong, I have a strong feeling that companies will implement and actively encourage motion play in their games, but as for long-term sustainability I really cannot see it happening. When this chapter is closed and studied by video game scholars I have a feeling they will see the play style for exactly what it is: a primitive way of playing, which excited our brains for a decade or so, before petering out into the night, never to see the dawn again.

Motion control is having its moment in the light, and to a certain extent, this will continue going forward into the next generation. But beyond this, I cannot envisage a future where the play style is relevant or necessary. It is all well and good enticing people into a product, like Nintendo did with Wii, but keeping these people playing is maybe the biggest challenge. If your demographic is the casual gamer, then they will remain just that: casual. With no real passion for video games, their heads can easily be turned by the next “big thing” (whether it be video-game related or not), quickly forgetting about the technology that came before. The industry will no doubt persist with the playstyle until the last ounce of blood is drawn from its disheveled carcass, but for me at least, it is merely a fad that adds little, possibly less, to the experience of playing a game. Nintendo have made plans for Wii U, and hopefully it will be a console for all– not just one that gravitates towards the casual market. But we will see.

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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

  • 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)

  • 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.

    • 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..

      • 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.

        • 1332 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.

        • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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…

  • 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.

  • 1244 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.

  • 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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