Editor's note: Daniel believes that motion control is too new to judge properly, and he argues that it will improve with time. I'm somewhat ambivalent toward motion control, but I do think it's best to wait until the next console generation before we decide whether or not it's a passing fad. -James
Since the arrival of the Wii and the announcement of Project Natal and PlayStation Move, many long-time gamers have wanted nothing more than for motion control to disappear. In all likelihood it won’t, and I don’t think anyone can do anything about it.
Gamers who revile motion control need only point toward the Wii's flood of shovelware to make their case. But I think people who look to the Wii are calling the match way too early. Like any other advancement in gaming, consumers need to give motion control time.
Gaming’s first steps into the third dimension were equally awkward. Throughout most of the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation era, many game designers didn’t know what to do with an analog joystick. It took developers time and second round of 3D-capable consoles to fully refine the new control scheme.
It was the same with online gaming (on consoles). A relative few PlayStation 2 and Xbox owners played online. But now, online connectivity is integral to how consoles work, and over half of the gamers in North America keep their console connected to the Internet.
Generally speaking, it seems that major advancements in how games work take two console generations to reach a substantial level of refinement and penetration. It will likely be the same with motion controls.
In-house marketers say Project Natal and PlayStation Move will make a big difference in the immediate future. I think they’re laying the groundwork for the next hardware generation, which will likely feature motion controls out of the box. Right now Wii has native motion control cornered, and relatively few prominent developers have dared to tread that territory. When every platform has native motion control, everybody will be working with a similar tool set, and great ideas are sure to pop up somewhere — and eventually become gold standards. Those ideas probably won’t be anything like the hardcore gaming we know today.
Is a hardcore gamer someone who prefers playing games with buttons, or is a hardcore gamer someone who most cherishes depth and challenge?
During the PlayStation days, 2D and 3D gaming were at odds. Your Super NES skills probably won’t get you through most modern games, and you have the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 to thank for that. If someone designed a motion-controlled sword-fighting game every bit as deep as Soul Calibur, your current fighting game skills probably wouldn’t do you much good.
A while back, before the then-called “Revolution” had even taken shape, Game Informer magazine (can’t remember the issue, sorry) recorded a paragraph-long quote from Shigeru Miyamoto.
The basic thrust of what he said is that consoles gaming had evolved to a point where you could only play them if you’d been an enthusiast for the last 10 years. In order to get a broader audience on board, Nintendo decided to create an interface that was new to everyone. We’re in the NES era of that new control scheme, and it needs time.
Console gaming moves through cycles of innovation and refinement. The NES was a revelation that the Super NES refined. The Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation found improvement in the PlayStation 2 era. Motion control is going through the same growing pains.
When it gets there, motion control will probably have developed into something very different than what most people expect. A lot of people say that the ultimate gaming fantasy is Star Trek’s holodeck, but in reality, they probably wouldn’t be operating a holodeck with a 15-button controller. So if it were to appear tomorrow, would core gamers be willing to accept it?