The future of motion controls in gaming
Since the release of the Nintendo Wii in 2006 the games industry has experienced a major shift towards gesture based control systems; both in place of, and to supplement traditional controllers. It’s not clear however how far this trend will carry the industry. With Mircosoft’s release of the motion sensing camera add-on Kinect, and Sony’s new Wii-mote like Playstation move controller, all three console manufacturers have their sights set firmly on motion controls.
“Whereas Mircosoft views Kinect as a rebirth for the Xbox 360, Sony sees Move as more of an add on” (Christopher Dring 10/09/10)
Microsoft’s Xbox 360 currently stands in second place in terms of market share, they’ve slowly been loosing ground to Sony’s PS3 since it’s launch, and have been unable to close the lead held by Nintendo’s Wii. The Xbox’s original demographic of dedicated “core” gamers is split between Sony and Mircosoft and beginning to reach saturation, meanwhile Nintendo’s “casual” gaming audience must (,at the time of kinect’s conception,) have looked like an unlimited source of new customers. It’s understandable that Mircosoft would want to expand into that market. They see kinect as the transformation of the xbox from a console catering for the “core” gaming audience, to a console catering to all audiences.
Sony on the other hand is more willing to rely on their strong lineup of 1st party intellectual properties and don’t seem to be pushing towards motion controls as hard. Few games at present are being designed with the Move as their primary input, it’s instead being used as an optional enhancement.
“I think motion controls are a complete dead end for gaming.” (Ben “Yahtzee” Choshaw 28/02/11)”
Ben Chroshaw argues that without any kind of tactile feedback from gesture controls the entire concept is essentially pointless. Designating functions to specific controller movements or gestures in front of a camera has the same effect as simply pushing a button. Increasing the magnitude of the movements players have to make in order to control their on-screen avatars only adds an unecessary obstacle to gameplay. It removes some of the precision timing and interrupts a game’s flow, in can lead to reducing player immersion rather than building it.
“Sixense technology and the Razer Hydra product are very impressive.” (Christopher Grant 08/01/11)
With all three consoles now equipped with gesture based control options, there has been renewed interest in making the technology viable on the PC as well. Wii-mote hacks, kinect mods, and peripherals which track movement in three dimensions have all been tried before, but usually as short-lived experiments. Razer, a company known on the PC for producing high-end keyboard and mouse set ups designed for gaming, have recently released a new gesture controller modelled on those created for the consoles. The product is high-profile enough to have a tie-in agreement with Valve’s new game Portal 2, with several additional leveled included designed specifically to be tackled with this new controller. It’s a sure sign that for better or for worse motion controls are becoming a mainstream aspect of gaming.
MCV magazine, November 2010 issue, page 21