Motion Controls: What Tomorrow Holds

Motion Controls: What Tomorrow Holds

So, what’s the final verdict on video game motion controls? After a quick analysis of the Wii’s accomplishments alongside Microsoft’s Kinect and the PlayStation Move, we know that controller-free setups are capable of emulating tennis racquets. Oh, boy, can motion controls ever emulate tennis racquets.

But what happens after audiences finally grow tired of playing pretend-sports and doing pretend-dances? We have yet to see what motion controls are seriously capable of; the Wii’s potential was buried under an avalanche of mini-game collections, and the Kinect and Move are still newborns. With games like The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Dragon Quest Swords, Nintendo and Square-Enix took stabs at using the Wii remote to emulate sword-swinging action, if you pardon the pun. In fact, when the Wii was first unveiled, there were fantasies abound about going forth and slaying dragons and Sith alike with virtual swords and lightsabers. Unfortunately, the reality met few people’s expectations.

And that’s all right. There’s still lots of time to advance console remotes to something beyond a glorified laser pointer, and that includes the Wii. Wii owners still have The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword to look forward to, which will feature 1:1 sword fighting. Hopefully it will inspire some developers and simultaneously remind them that the Wii Remote Plus is out there and brimming with neglected potential.

Even if Nintendo has to wait until the next generation before it can burrow out of Mount Mini-Game and start fresh with new ideas, Sony already has plans to detach Move from sports game dependency. The recently-unveiled Playstation Move Sharp Shooter is a fetching shell that turns the family’s Move controller into a rifle (there are many like it, but this one is yours). The Sharp Shooter will release alongside Killzone 3 this winter, which features Move support for anyone who wants to use it. In this way, Sony will successfully mend the growing rift that has separated motion-interested “casual” gamers from the traditionalists/hardcore audience. Federal laws keep the Sharp Shooter from looking too much like a weapon of war, but it’s still an impressive accessory–much moreso than the Wii Zapper, which bore little of the iconic design that defined the original Nintendo Zapper. It might be enough to convince traditionalists that motion controls don’t necessarily have to be a totally separate experience from using a controller. Just having the option of one or the other in a popular game (instead of being forced settle for one control scheme) might do a lot to increase adoption rates amongst those who are cynical about the potential of motion controls outside of Wii Sports.

Sony probably knows a thing or two about inserting motion controls into a game with a great deal of care: There was a lot of backlash after the forced inclusion of SixAxis motion controls ruined one of the PlayStation 3’s big-name exclusives, Lair, and arguably contributed to the PlayStation 3’s slow start in the latest console race. No doubt Sony is charting its course more carefully with Move, and it’ll be interesting to see where the company ends up.

The real question mark in the controller-free race is Microsoft’s Kinect. When your body is a controller, where do you go from there? There’s no remote to swing or stab, and even pantomiming a sword seems like an empty experience compared to waving an object around. Theoretically, Microsoft or a third party might develop a sword accessory, but that defies the point of Microsoft’s whole “controller free!” pitch for the Kinect.

That means in the future, we’ll hopefully be playing some motion control-enabled games that turn us into warriors and soldiers–even though it may require grabbing a stick from the yard before we can do so.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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