At the Tokyo Game Show in September 2005, Satoru Iwata revealed the prototype of the Wii controller. Just over a year later it had been launched all across the world. The Wii has now sold in excess of 50 million units and is the best selling “next gen” console in the world. The motion sensing controller has opened the world of video games to all types of people, from the elderly to the very young, giving the console a truely global appeal. However, hardcore gamers shun the Wii, or think of it as a toy to be played after a few drinks. The number of real hardcore games available on the Wii can be counted on one hand. The rest of the games, of which there are many, are aimed more towards the casual games market. Nintendo can’t be blamed for this though. At the end of the day they are a business and they want to make money. The number of casual gamers, and the potential market, is vast compared to the hardcore.
Thankfully, we ( I count myself as a hardcore gamer) still have the xbox 360 and PS3. We can waste a little time on the Wii before we get down to the serious business of saving the world. But how long for???
At E3 2009 both Sony and Microsoft revealed their entries into the motion sensing controller market. The Sony entry was very similar to the Wii controller in that the player waves the “wand” and these movements are simulated on screen. The Microsoft version, currently known as project Natal, was a whole different beast. Utilising camera motion sensing technology, all the movements of the player are translated in game. It even has facial recognition enabling your console to greet you when you enter the room. Both of these devices are still in development, but Sony and Microsoft will, I am sure, be rushing to complete and get them on the market in order to get themselves a slice of the casual gamers market.
So where does this leave the hardcore gamer. With the next Xbox rumoured to be shipping with Natal as standard, I am sure that Sony will follow suit. Does this mean that controllers in the traditional sense will become optional extras? I personally have spent years perfecting my controller skills. Will video gaming become nothing more than an jumping around the living room, waving arms and legs like a crazy person in an attempt to hit a ball, even though hitting the ball will be more luck than skill? If Sony and Microsoft take the same route as Nintendo then that is exactly what it will become. Will developers create huge numbers of casual games and dumbed down versions of the games we all love, in order to cater to the casual market rather than develop the hardcore games we yearn for? That is the thought that keeps me awake at night.
Only time will tell where this trend is heading. I, personally, look towards the future of video gaming nervously, wondering if there will even be a place for the hardcore gamer in the motion sensing world.