April 15, 2008 // 11:06 pm
- A few days ago a rumor started that Microsoft were making a motion-sensing controller, codenamed Newton, that looked very similar to the Wii remote.
Now fortunately I managed to resist making some stupid Isaac Newton joke in the title like: 'New 360 remote isn't down to earth' or '360 Motion control, a bad apple waiting to fall'. Ok enough with the the Newton jokes, they barely even make sense. Lets get this over and done with.
For those of you who don't know, the Microsoft motion sensing controller promises to have a microphone, speaker, A, B, X and Y buttons, a trigger and an analogue stick. Sound vaguely familiar to you?
Of course it does, you can't say motion sensing these days without thinking of the Wii and obviously this controller has similarities to Nintendo's console. Now I think if Microsoft release this controller, they will be maing a big mistake. Here's why.
The Wii has been a storming success, with casual and hardcore gamers buying the console. Nintendo are in the money once again and Microsoft want to cash in on it. After all, Sony released the SIX-AXIS so why shouldn't Microsoft join the party? What Microsoft don't seem to understand is that the Wii's motion controls, while making it stand out, are not the Wii's only selling feature.
As much as I try, I cannot think of a game that has impressed me so much with its motion sensing controls, that I couldn't play the game without it (except Wario Ware). Very few Wii games actually use the motion sensing controls to their full potential, often favouring convoluted methods. For instance to open a door you might have to draw a circle in the air while holding a button, instead of just pushing the remote away from you. It's motion control, but not translated from real life. Motion control is just one of many selling points for the Wii and not the sole reason it is popular.
Secondly how will Microsoft integrate this new controller? They certainly won't replace the standard controller. They have four options:
1. Bundle it with all the SKU's, as well as the standard controller.
2. Bundle it with some, but not all of the SKU's, further confusing the consumer.
3. Create a new bundle with the new controller in. Again, this will divide the market.
4. Release it as an optional peripheral.
I have to say I don't see Microsoft bundling in another controller into any of the SKU's, it's far too generous. That leaves two options: create a new bundle, or release separately. If Microsoft creates a new bundle with just the Newton then that means all games will have to support the new controls (more on this in just a second), but if they release it separately they face low sales.
Next comes the problem of integrating the controls into games. It would be near impossible for Microsoft to integrate controls into every game released so far - it would require all the released games to be patched with the new controls and this would be impossible for games like Shadowrun, whose developers now no longer exist. That means that they could just update the popular games, such as Halo and Burnout Paradise, and then make sure all future games support it from then on. Alternatively, they could update the popular games from the back catalog, and then make motion controls and optional extra for developers to use. Obviously, we don't know how much or how well, developers would use this new tool.
Next up, there's the little problem of why anyone would buy this. Obviously 360 only owners may pick it up, but why would a Wii owner buy it? I do not see the majority of Wii owners heading out onto the streets (or ordering online if you prefer) to go and pick up an accessory that does the same thing that their existing console does. PS3 owners have SIX-AXIS, and if they wanted better motion controls they would probably pick up a Wii for a lower price.
Now I've touched on this next point already, but I decided to give it a whole paragraph to itself. Wii games are good because of their content and design, not because of motion sensing. Can you honestly tell me that if motion sensing was removed from Mario Galaxy or Metroid, they it would still not be good games? Of course they'd still be good. Both the games are well designed and fun to play, regardless of the controls. The Wii remote is a gimmick, and while it can really improve a game if done well, most of the time it adds nothing (obviously there are exceptions like Wario Ware). I mean, shaking a controller to attack doesn't improve gameplay that much, if at all. So this means that unless developers integrated motion controls extremely well, which is unlikely given that it would not be the default controller, motion control will not add anything to an already good game. Microsoft would still sell their games based on quality, not a new control scheme, much like the Wii and this leaves little reason to release a motion sensing controller.
Finally we mustn't forget that Microsoft have had a go with motion controls already, with the Vision camera. I know it's not exactly the same as Newton, but it's still a new way to play games. There are pretty much two main games that are controlled with the Vision camera on the 360: Totemball and Rayman Raving Rabbids. These games are controlled directly with the Vision camera and both are pretty weak - Totemball especially. Microsoft have barely supported the camera, and what is to say that this won;t happen again with Newton?
So, overall it's looking pretty bleak for Newton. I reckon if it was launched, it would flop (due to gravity). With Microsoft dividing the market further and having to try and integrate controls into existing games, it looks like they would have a lot on their plate. Obviously this is a rumour and it could turn out that they have no plans of releasing a controller, but I have a feeling they will. So what do you think? Good idea, or bad idea?