Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wii U - Is Nitendo behind or ahead of the competition?

Paddle. Joystick. Controller. Remote. Whatever you call it, you know how important it's been to console gaming since video games moved off of computers and onto our TV sets. And, up until today, I was convinced that within the next several years, the only way to play video games with something that requires your hands would be--ironically--a computer.

In recent years, we've seen motion-sensor controllers dominate the marketplace. The Wii showed us how cool it could be to go bowling in your living room, and how easy it was for grandma to pick up a Wii-mote and knock in a hole-in-one on Wii Golf. Sony saw that and one-upped it with a better controller that functioned with games played in HD--which honestly would have been a great move one year sooner, since we're a couple years away from the next era in console gaming. Microsoft furthered the trend of getting away from the traditional button-mashing controller and eliminated it altogether with the Kinect. I for one am troubled that video gaming has gotten so far away from the controller in favor of "new" or "flashy" ideas. Most console video gamers have grown up with a controller in their hand, and curmudgeons like me don't like having it taken away.

That's why, after today's press conference by Nintendo at E3, I was instantly relieved and excited that there was a major game-making company not hell-bent on forcing me off of my couch to dance around or coming up with weird peripherals that at best will become running jokes in a decade or two. Nintendo will get mocked (and rightly so) for its stupid console name, but seeing how they've advanced the controller on their last two consoles gives me some peace of mind. Mostly in knowing that at least in the next 20 years, I won't have to play games exclusively by moving around like an idiot or sending certain brain waves through an ungodly contraption covering my head. All right, I'll stop giving Microsoft ideas.

Nintendo has been mocked for not being HD or being too kiddie-friendly, but I subscribe to a different school of thought.

1. Don't we want kids to be playing games? If we ignore an entire generation of gamers, chances are the industry doesn't do well when those of us who played Mario before we could even walk (or older) have no new ideas, games or consoles to enjoy later in our lives

2. Why not let other companies get out in front with HD gaming, see what they do, and then improve upon it or give a different spin on years-old ideas?

The logic is flawed to some--newer is better, and if you're in the market where just about everyone has an HD TV and you don't support that, then you shouldn't be in the market. Maybe Nintendo could have rushed out a year sooner with things, but ultimately, what they've done is innovate once again and they tipped their hand with the Wii. The Wii-Mote has internal storage, plays sounds and is a motion-sensor. The WiiU-mote adds more buttons (standard to current consoles), expandable memory, and a touchscreen.

Why does this controller give me hope? Jimmie Kaska, you love the old controllers, wouldn't you prefer something simple? Actually, I love the fact that Nintendo is stealing a page from the cell phone industry and giving us something that the majority of younger generations are familiar with: touchscreens. Pointing and clicking at the screen is fun, and waving your hands around trying to swat an endless barrage of dodgeballs is cool too. But most of us couldn't just touch the TV screen to make things happen. In a way, we're eliminating the motion detection pointer for our very own finger--making the Wii-Mote seem obsolete. In reality, we're given a controller that gives us more, well, control. Instead of a static image of a finger on the TV, we get to use our own finger to make things happen.

Taking the controller out of the hands of gamers is a step in the wrong direction. As cool of a toy as the Kinect is, it's just not a practical application for most games where you can move your fingers faster than moving your body. The Move is an improved Wii-Mote. Just when you thought Nintendo would have to improve upon the Wii-Mote to counter the Move, they bust out a controller that combines modern technology and old-school charm; a controller that lets you control your actions in video games. Nintendo did the right thing by putting the controller back in the hands of the video gamer, and despite its weird name, the WiiU is something that we can get excited about.

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