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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Revolution or Revulsion?: A Look at Nintendo's Newest Controller

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Revolution or Revulsion?
A Look at Nintendo's Newest Controller

By: ac / Editor: Richard Allen

With the demise of Sega as a console manufacturer, Nintendo stands alone as the industry's leading innovator of hardware design. From the curious gyro-bot (R.O.B.) to the funky, dual-screen goodness of the DS, Nintendo's reputation for springing inventive gadgets on unsuspecting (at times, unenthusiastic) gamers is indisputable. Hence, it comes as no surprise that Mario's latest turn – the controversial "Revolution" controller – should at first glance appear, well, revolutionary.

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With its oblong shape, downright odd button configuration and austere coloring, there's no doubt that it stands out among the current crop of dull, ergonomic controllers and Dual Shock wannabes. The question is: Is that necessarily a good thing? When it comes to controllers, is innovation more important than practical functionality? In their presentations at this year's Tokyo Games Show, Nintendo prez Satoru Iwata and gaming god Shigeru Miyamoto promised a device that would change the way games are played, using terms like "ground-breaking," "pioneering" and "intuitive." This sounds an awful lot like marketing fluff, the same kind of spiel we heard from Sega when it trotted out its ill-fated Activator peripheral for Genesis and from Sony when it gave us the PS2's EyeToy. Unique devices, sure. But catalysts for a sea change in gaming? Not even close.

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And while the Revolution controller appears to be the picture of simplicity, there's a lingering element of contradiction in its design. Miyamoto emphasized a desire to rid gamers of the hornet's nest of cables and cords that currently litter their living room floors and snake endlessly behind TV sets. Bravo. Yet, he later proclaimed that by placing a pair of satellite sensors on either side of their television, gamers would be able to use the controller as a pointing device, controlling their on-screen characters with a flick of the wrist. Furthermore, he promised an add-on analog stick and other peripherals that would connect directly to the controller. Two additional sensors? Plug-in peripherals? What happened to reducing clutter?

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I have no doubt that the Revolution will sport more than its fair share of brilliant titles. This is, after all, Nintendo we're talking about. One need only look at the Big N's latest breakout hit, Nintendogs, for confirmation of the company's commitment to innovative software. But, just as the Gamecube's over-thought controller design hindered that system's performance at the cash register, so too will the Revolution suffer. In Japan – where gadget-obsessed gamers spare no expense to pick up the latest "it" device – the Revolution and its alien controller will surely do well. In Japan, the outmoded Gameboy Advance regularly outsells Microsoft's Xbox. In America – where gamers will be left wondering, "How am I supposed to play Madden with this thing?" – the outcome will almost certainly be different.

What matters most to gamers is innovative game design, not unusual hardware. And in the ultra-competitive, three-way horse race that is the next-gen console war, it appears that Nintendo may have stumbled out of the gate. An intriguing stumble, to be sure, but a stumble nonetheless.

Related Links:
Nintendo Reveals 'Revolution'-ary Controller in Keynote Speech
Hands on with the Revolution Controller
GAF - News - Revolution Controller Accessories Galore



Anonymous Anonymous
The Power Glove was from Mattel, not Nintendo.  

Anonymous Anonymous
nintendo - revolution
your comment - revulsion  

Anonymous Anonymous
I am so tired of articles like these where the author obviously has a problem with change.

Stop supporting companies (Sony / MS) who keep releasing rehashes of the same old consoles.

The true winners will be the ones who understand that gaming is about FUN. Nintendo is the best at that. This controller looks FUN. Get it?

Besides, you reveal how little you know by assuming that Nintendo made the Powerglove. As the person pointed out above it was a 3rd party product.

Embrace creativity in a stale industry instead of hinting that it might be a mistake.  

Anonymous Anonymous
What matters most to gamers is innovative game design, not unusual hardware.

You have no idea what you are talking about. Hard-core gamers don't care about innovative game design, they want more of the same but with better graphics.

The point of this controller is that they hope to reach people other than hard-core gamers.  

Blogger Nicholas Roussos
Your article makes a lot of assumptions, but it fails to answer its basic question. Is it necessarily a good thing?

For instance, you assume that past controllers are more ergonomically correct than this one.

When you state "is innovation more important than practical functionality," You also assume that the innovations Nintendo have made are just that and do not in fact improve "practical functionality."

Most of all, you miss the biggest point. The new Nintendo controller is not only innovative for video games, but it is also innovative for input mechanisms in general. An affordable device that translates 3D space and movement into a digital signal is a pretty big breakthrough regardless of what it's used for.  

Blogger D.Vader
Anonymous said...
"The Power Glove was from Mattel, not Nintendo."

Well it did have the blessing of Nintendo. Not like they had nothing to do with it. It was probably a much better peripheral then the VirtuaBoy. I would think Nintendo would pay close attention to unconventional peripherals such as the powerglove.

Anonymous said...
"I am so tired of articles like these where the author obviously has a problem with change."

Necessity is the mother of all innovation. I don't see this as necessary.

"Stop supporting companies (Sony / MS) who keep releasing rehashes of the same old consoles."

Rehashes of the same consoles? Are you smoking something? The next generation stands to be one of the biggest leaps in computing power for most home users out there.

"The true winners will be the ones who understand that gaming is about FUN. Nintendo is the best at that. This controller looks FUN. Get it?"

Well you have have fun with your remote control now. This technology is nothing new, it's a PowerGlove and a Lightgun mixed together.

"Besides, you reveal how little you know by assuming that Nintendo made the Powerglove. As the person pointed out above it was a 3rd party product."

See my answer to the other anonymous coward above.

"Embrace creativity in a stale industry instead of hinting that it might be a mistake."

Nintendo seems to be the only company that says Gaming is stale. The market only has room to grow at this point, with or without weird attachments and controllers.

Anonymous said...
"What matters most to gamers is innovative game design, not unusual hardware.

You have no idea what you are talking about. Hard-core gamers don't care about innovative game design, they want more of the same but with better graphics."

You are completely oversimplifing the point of moving to a next-gen platform. Better graphics is only 1 peice of the puzzle. Some things you fail to recognize are:
Much Better AI
Much Better Sound
More Customizable Options
More Integrated Features (Networking, etc.)
Superior Development Kits


"The point of this controller is that they hope to reach people other than hard-core gamers."

Unfortunitly they may be sacrificing the Hard-Core gamer crowd. Honestly that is your real game buyer out there. The casual gamer doesn't buy as many games a year as the Hard-Core gamer. So it appears to me Nintendo might be spending a buck to lose $10.

I think the real point of this article is that some people were disappointed. After the months of mockups and secret emails from development houses we basically have a Remote Control that you can fish with.

BFD!
 

Anonymous NRB
D.Vader you are talking nonsense. You missed the point on almost everything that has been said.

1. The powerglove may have had the blessing of Nintendo, but the point was they did not create it as the author seems to believe.

2. Necessity creates many new technologies, however no console or game is necessary. The point being made is that the author seems to expect Nintendo to be another XB or PS and compete with the same market, it would be stupid of them to do so.

3. Just because the next consoles are bigger and better, doesn't mean they aren't rehashes. They are merely the equivelant of a sequel from the previous consoles. Nintendo, however have changed the console design rather than just doubling speed or increasing FPS.

4. This technology is nothing new? I'm pretty sure we haven't seen it before in the marketplace. If you have read any reviews, it is clear the controller is a whole different experience to any other controller and certainly the only resemblance to a tv remote control is the look.

5. The console market is growing, that is without doubt. However that is primarily because consoles are becoming more like PCs in both architecture and game titles offered. There is now a edge market where both overlap. However consoles used to be unique and carry games never seen before other than that console. Nintendo created games such as Super Smash Bros. and Mario Tennis, plus many others (the list is huge, trust me). However instead of altering their games' styles Sony and MS mostly carry games that are already or soon-to-be PC games or simple sequels we've seen over and over before. http://www.xbox.com/en-US/xbox360/gameslist.htm shows XB360 will simply be a lot of rehashes/sequels. Nintendo create new games, new styles and more unique games. This uniqueness provides fun, less stale environment for console gaming.

6. Hardcore gamers are not the largest marketshare, understand that. The casual gamer is the largest marketshare. Yes, hardcore gamers care about bigger and better hardware/features in a game they have already mastered. Gamers who play consoles usually prefer games that they don't usually play and they want these innovative features, styles and different ways in whcih to accomplish goals. Yes, Nintendo may indeed sacrifice the hardcore gamer market from buying the Revolution, but they have never really wanted them in the first place. The Revolution wil continue that style and provide a more fun and exciting environment rather than the same old we have and will see from Sony and MS in the next round.

I realise you have your own views, but if you condemn the Revolution and its controller before you have even tried it then you are an even bigger fool than I thought. Competition is the spice of life and if you tell the gaming industry you're happy for FIFA2010 and Halo 6 with no differing titles such as Pro Evolution Soccer or Metroid Prime then you will be the one to lose out in the end as you will only get games which are released every now and then when sales decrease on the last title, with 0.5 of a feature added here and there with slightly better graphics here and there too.  

Anonymous Joko
You are completely oversimplifing the point of moving to a next-gen platform. Better graphics is only 1 peice of the puzzle. Some things you fail to recognize are:
Much Better AI
Much Better Sound
More Customizable Options
More Integrated Features (Networking, etc.)
Superior Development Kits


On better AI in upcoming consoles - don't be silly. AI will be just as stupid as it always has been, ESPECIALLY for any game which has multiplayer ability. Why? Because they'll just give it an online multiplayer component and use other humans to substitute for good AI.

All the other stuff you said is exactly proving what people have been saying. The PS3 and XBOX360 are nothing more than rehashes of the same old thing... just prettier.

Of course the PS3 and XBOX will absolutely dominate the market, because most gamers are in a phase where they WANT the same old thing churned out a million times.

As for the explanation in the main article that Nintendo will do well in Japan only because Japanese gamers necessarily wanting 'the latest electronic gizmo', thats bullshit. PS2 above and beyond has the biggest slice of the gaming market in Japan. Nintendo has however managed to tap new markets in Japan with things like the DS.

All the same I hope Nintendo at least remains profitable enough to keep on churning out the odd good game or two to go with the interesting hardware theyve got now.  

Blogger D.Vader
Look Mattel didn't just work on the PowerGlove behind closed doors then they just surprised Nintendo with it. Nintendo had a large role in creating the odd device. They had to for the very least to at least make a development kit.

Did it not have the coveted Nintendo Seal of Approval?

Now I am removing the word PowerGlove from the article because I am tired of hearing you Ninny boys whine.

Joko. You basically just repeated the same crap that I rebutted from Anonymous.

More console resources will lead to more realistic games. They don't necessarily have to be more pretty.

For example, GTA III set the hallmark for freedom and "realism". Now I am sure you were crying and pissing and moaning back then the PS2 debuted would only be Rehash of PS1. But GTA III kinda throws a monkey wrench in your theory, because that game revolutionized how games were developed after it.

The same will happen with PS3 or Xbox 360. The more capabilities your machine has the more freedom, thus games can be much more realistic not just in the graphical sense.

Will there be rehashes? Of course. But who will be the king of rehashes this time around when they re-release Super Mario Bros, Zelda, Metroid, Kid Icarus, and all their titles? Nintendo, and I bet they won't even bother polishing the titles for Next Gen.

I stick by my PowerGlove + LightGun remark. Until I see otherwise. I am not saying the Revo Controller works just like the two, but ulitmately they could have emulated the same technology when they released the PowerGlove. Which makes me think it's less then revolutionary.  

Blogger D.Vader
One more thing. The fact that you all seem to think that we have reached some technical threshold with game development really shows a lack of creativity on yall's part.

I mean think about it. Do you really want some hacky device? Or do you really want the game you been dreaming of?

Ever played a game and said, "Oh I wish you could ___________" or "That would have been cool if you could ____________" or "That level would have been awesome if ___________"

You know what that is? That is you admitting that games still have room to innovate.

Now when was the last time you said...

I really wish I could fish with my Dual Shock?  

Anonymous Scnd
Necessity is the mother of all innovation. I don't see this as necessary.

The Necessity is not for the gamer, its for the company.

Heres what happens. I dont want to get in the way, but here.

Microsoft and Sony basically kicked Nintendo's Tail with xbox and ps2. Look on the shelves at your local blockbuster, you dont see two and a half walls of gamecube games, do you?

Nintendo sees this, they figure unless they do something origonal, they'll be out of the war completely. So they figure this, When you have two armys fighting against you by land, what do you do? you call in the air force. The controller is nintendo's airforce. Its their last resort. They've been top gun before with nes and snes, but now they're forced to revise their stratagy.

Microsoft and sony both look at what they have, and since they are both doing well, they dont have to do anything extreme to get gamers attention, so they boost it, they fortify their bases, they up their resources, make it work stronger better faster and harder. They want to be able to play the games that make bikers wet themselves.

To nintendo, this innovation is their wild card to try to get back their game that they started. I dont know if it'll work or not, but i have to give it a chance..

and on another note, i wonder if this sensor, these sensors. Will those be wireless too? Just a thought  

Blogger Ryan A.
SEGA is a video game publisher. That's how they made a name for themselves. They've since gone back to their roots; a smart decision to say the least.

SONY is an electronics giant. That's how they made a name for themselves.

Microsoft is a software giant. That's how they made a name for themselves.

Nintendo from day one was always a video game giant. More than any other company Nintendo understands the relationships between video games and humans. Sony and Microsoft do not. It's not that Nintendo constantly innovates it's that they know why and how to innovate.  

Blogger D.Vader
Ryan A. said...
"Nintendo from day one was always a video game giant. More than any other company Nintendo understands the relationships between video games and humans. Sony and Microsoft do not. It's not that Nintendo constantly innovates it's that they know why and how to innovate."

Nintendo started as a company that made playing cards.

If Sony did not understand the gamer, how have they been so successful? So much so they have relegated Sega back into making software.
 

Anonymous Anonymous
All I have to say is this. We've had three dimensional graphics for over a decade. Why is it just now that we get a controller that is also a three dimensional device? All a controller is, when you boil it all down, is your hands and feet in the gaming world. There is a certain level of seperation when you can do twenty different actions using a single press of any multitude of buttons on your control apperatus. The traditional controller isn't much more than a neurological interface to your game character. The controller is an oversimplified interface to the gaming worlds. You want to talk about a more realistic gaming experience, yet you want to discredit a company that tries to tear down the barrier between you and your interactive entertainment. Heaven forbid that a company should ask you to get up off your couch and play a game like you have a real gun or a sword in your hand.

The revolution tears down a barrier between the screen and you. The controller itself will be used as the tools you use in the videogames you like to play. No longer will you just push a button to unsheath your sword and then tap away at a button to mow down your enemies. The controller itself will be your weapon. What you see on your screen is directly in conflict with your own actions and decisions as opposed to what button you can mash when and where.

I hate to say this, but, it looks like the gaming universe will pass you by with your hard nosed cynicism. When you watch something like Star Trek, do you see the characters picking up a gamepad before walking into the holodeck? Technology moves forward, and so does our thirst for new ways of interaction. A gamepad can only have so many buttons and thumbsticks. Perhaps, the question that should be asked is, what kind of revolution are you looking for? That's right, you will only defend the status quo.  

Blogger D.Vader
You know if you Anonymous Homos would leave some information about yourself, I might contact you to create a PRO-Revo Controller article! :)

I want all perspectives, reguardless if I aggree or disaggree.

So how about it? The last comment looks like the beginnings of a good article.

Email me: theconsolewars@gmail.com  

Anonymous Anonymous
Don't you love it when fanboys bash each other's brains out?
Anyway, I have a question: why WOULDEN'T the Revolution controller have massive appeal to core gamers? The precision and flexibilty it brings to the table totally eclips evrything out there today. After playing Metriod Prime Hunters: First Hunt on my DS, I feal restricted when playing with an analog stick now: same idea here.
Nintendo's just upgrading the controller like they did between the SNES and the N64: then they added an analog stick, a big advancement in the amount of controll avalible; now they're adding 3d motion/position sensing, not only a fairly new technology, but also a HUGE advancement in the controll avalible for play.
Sony is doing more of a light gun aproach, with their wand; and no one's doing anything like the power glove. If you are so mathematic that you need a formula, try this: PC mouse + game controller + the 3rd demention - two-hand-grip restricitions = Revolution controller.  

Anonymous Jake the gamer
I TOTALY agree with the last anonymous comment. For one, I deffinitely consider myself a hardcore gamer (playing 4 hours weekdays, 8 hours weekends), and I think the revolution controler is a HUGE spep up in gaming. Wouldn't it be cool to play a Zelda game where your controler is the sword? I can't wait till the revolution comes out, and this is coming from a Halo 2/Morrowind crazed gamer. And D.Vader, your willingness to change sides just shows how cool the Revo. controler is.  

Blogger Adi
Thank you for sharing.
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