Friday, September 16, 2005

Nintendo: the revolution is in the controller

Yesterday at the Tokyo Game Show, Nintendo's president Satoru Iwata revealed the controller for Nintendo's next-generation console, Revolution.

Nintendo certainly is not following the crowd with this one. The controller resembles, very simply, a remote control like you would have for your tv. At first I didn't quite know what to think. With all the hype around this thing I expected some wild ergonomic analog stick button-fest, but here is this simple device. It's revolutionary by being the most ordinary thing to see on your coffee table.

First watch this movie to give you an idea of how this thing can be used. It is essentially a 3D mouse, able to detect movement of the controller in six directions, up, down, left, right, forward and back.

You can imagine controlling a sword (or lightsaber!), golf club or fishing pole by actually swinging the controller around. Notice that if you rotate the controller 90 degress the D-pad is on the left and "b" and "a" buttons are on the right, just like the old Nintendo NES controller -- perfect for the back library of old games Nintendo will be making available for download to Revolution. Apparently the demos shown to some of the media gave just these types of examples. The best article I've found is on 1up. Briefly, the demos showed:

1. The controller functioning as a light gun, aiming it at the screen;
2. The controller functioning as a fishing pole;
3. The controller guiding an object through a side-scrolling maze;
4. The controller in an air hockey game;
5. A basketball variation;
6. "Where's Waldo?" variation showing the ability to zoom-in (potential: sniper rifle)
7. Flying a plane by holding the controller as a paper airplane; and
8. An adaptation for a first-person-shooter, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.

There's tons of articles out right now(developer response), including the official press release from Nintendo. It's still very early on, so it'll be interesting to see the response to this.

My opinion is that this has a lot of potential. Not only in the creative sense, but this will likely help Nintendo reach its goal to bring in non-gamers and casual gamers by having a simple, non-intimidating controller that is intuitive for just about anyone to use. It's crazy, just watching the above demo movie makes me smile. That's fun, and that's what Nintendo wants.

Hopefully Nintendo will make it easy for developers to translate traditional controller schemes to this new configuration. If that can be done easily, Nintendo has a winner. It may not rise to the level of a coup, dethroning Microsoft and Sony, but a "Revolution" has to begin somewhere, right?

No comments: