Sunday, June 7, 2009

Too much motion, not enough action

When Nintendo's Project Revolution was announced, they promised gamers a new way to play; one that would enhance the gaming experience for the hardcore, but also provide an intuitive point of entry for casual and non gamers. This "Revolution" turned out to be the Wii. Its motion sensing controls made a huge impact on the industry, and since its release it has been the best selling system of this console generation.

Now everyone is vying for a piece of Nintendo's pie. For the PlayStation 3, Sony released the SIXAXIS, a wireless Dual Analog controller with motion sensing capabilities; though the motion controls have only been used in a handful of games, and often to much criticism. Last year, Microsoft rolled out the New Xbox Experience (NXE), a new, streamlined version of the Xbox 360's Dashboard. This update featured, among other enhancements, Avatars: customizable cartoony characters similar to Nintendo's Miis. This year at E3, both companies revealed their biggest move towards imitating the Wii's winning formula: full motion control. Each company has come up with their own variation, but they both have one common goal: to take sales away from the Wii. Can mo-con be the final, go-to solution to market domination? Or will these devices end up adding to the long list of failed after-market peripherals?

Here are the issues:

  • The Wii has already found its niche market; so have the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Whenever a company tries to expand into another's territory, they run the risk of alienating their established market. We've already heard some of the outcry from the Xbox community about their push for more casual gamers.

  • The 360, and especially the PS3, are more expensive than the Wii (though the 360 Arcade bundle is cheaper). If they're hoping to capture the Wii's market, they need to match the Wii's price, remembering that motion controls are an additional accessory, meaning additional cost.

  • The Wii already has a head start on motion games. The 360 and the PS3 will need a strong introductory library of motion games if they want to compete with the Wii's 2½ year library (probably more like four, by the time the competition hits retail). They'll also need first and third party killer apps like Nintendo's Wii Sports, EA's Boom Blox or Sega's MadWorld in order to sell mo-con to the masses.

Even if Microsoft and Sony can overcome all these obstacles, there's still one gigantic hurtle: The Wii experience is not just about motion controls, nor is it about casual games, nor price, nor gaming icons, nor any one factor, nor even the combination of factors. It's about the whole package. The Wii was shipped with everything it needed for the whole experience: a console, a controller (Remote and Nunchuk), 6 casual games, motion control set-up, all the required hook-ups, and internal memory for storage… all for under $300. For another $50, consumers could buy another Remote and 9 more casual games. They also did all this 2½ years ago, when the competition was $400 or more, meaning they already have an edge on the market. Plus, there are really no other accessories required to play most games, and with the exception of the Balance Board (which comes with its required game), and Rock Band/Guitar Hero instruments (included with special edition packages of their respective games), most other accessories are under $20.

Project Natal is expected to be "under $100," according to a Microsoft rep, and that's in addition to the cost of the console. Sony hasn't mentioned a price for their PlayStation Motion Controller yet, but we already know it requires the $40 PlayStation Eye, and the $400 PS3. And unlike the Wii, there's no guarantee either will even be supported beyond the first year. Add-ons rarely get massive support, because the developers can't depend on enough users having them to make it worth the cost of learning how to code for them, and producing the games. Nintendo has learned this lesson the hard way, repeatedly. If you ask me, Microsoft's and Sony's best hope is to sell their motion control to hardcore gamers, and hope they have casual gamers in the family who'd want to use it.


  1. Well spoken! I didn't expect my point to be taken so well.

  2. don;t forget, lack of unessary hardware (like a dvd player) and no fully integrated online play (which i like).