Why Do We Love Motion Controls?

Why Do We Love Motion Controls?

Kinect’s runaway success over the holiday season has helped Microsoft vault into record revenue for its second fiscal quarter (the three-month period ending on December 31, 2010). Eight million Kinects were sold within the hands-free controller’s first 60 days of life. Sony didn’t do too bad either with over 4 million PlayStation Move systems sold as well. What do all these numbers translate into? Undeniable proof that people love motion-based controls. So what’s the appeal?

The mainstream’s attraction to motion controls is threefold. First, it suits non-gamers who long ago convinced themselves that modern game consoles and controllers have too many buttons and doodads to bother with. That’s not to say an Xbox 360 controller is the most complex piece of technology on Earth. But when someone hands you a Wii remote, it looks so fresh and uncomplicated that it’s suddenly harder to stick to your declaration about games being too complicated. It becomes even more difficult when everyone around you–also non-gamers–starts laughing and having fun with Wii Bowling.

As for the Kinect’s success, Microsoft simplified motion controls even further by removing all traces of plastic from the user’s hands. Now grandfathers nation-wide have no excuse when they’re pestered by their grandkids to play video games.

Second: Exercise. The entire developed world is obsessed about losing weight and getting into shape. Many motion control-based games promise to melt away flab, and they deliver that promise–to varying degrees. Sticking to an exercise program means finding a way to overcome the tedium of repetition, but motion controls coupled with exercise games manage to provide fun, varied activities. Wii Fit 2 is still one of the game industry’s bestsellers for a reason.

Like so many exercise bikes and treadmills, however, exercise games are apt to fall out of favor as the user’s interest in weight loss wanes. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft could probably care less how often you play said games, however. Once they have your money, their job is done. Even so, the companies should take a minute to send out Thank You cards to the crafty tots around the world who say, “Mom, dad, if you buy a Kinect for the family, you could also use it to exercise…”

Another appealing thing about motion control-based gaming, and this applies to hardcore and casual alike, is that it’s simply different. Even if you consider yourself something of a gaming traditionalist, it’s silly to force yourself away from motion controls. What constitutes the act of gaming, anyhow? Standing at an arcade cabin with a trackball? Sitting on the couch with a controller? Talking into a headset and clicking around with a mouse? Standing up and throwing imaginary strikes at a virtual batter?

Happily, only the most stubborn amongst us believe there’s absolutely nothing they’d enjoy in any of the games offered up by the Wii, the Kinect, or Sony’s PlayStation Move. Everybody else finds reason to put down the controller, jump up, and have a good time once in a while. Hence eight million Kinect units sold.

Well, eight million and counting.

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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