20: Out of Our Hands

How we control our input into video games has become diverse and fascinating. But where is it heading? What is the future of the gamepad, given the introductions of Wii MotionPlus, Project Natal and Sony’s motion wands? Sinan Kubba and Joe DeLia are joined by Brainy Gamer author and host Michael Abbott and Mitch Krpata, games critic and author of the Insult Swordfighting blog.

7 Responses to “20: Out of Our Hands”
  1. I can finally rest easy knowing my moustache is Joe approved.

  2. Oh, and to add to what Michale was saying re: Harry Potter…

    I do think it’s a shame that there’s never bee a great Harry Potter game yet, though I’d argue that HP has become such a huge part of the pop-culture lexicon that while the movie tie-ins have generally been rushed and mediocre, I’d imagine once the final movie comes out we’ll get a lackluster game of it, followed by years of HP silence, then out of the blue, some major publisher like Ubisoft will step up and create the ultimate in Harry Potter videogame magic. It will be based more on the books and completely reimagine the universe from the movies. It may even contain missions played out from other characters in battles that were happening off-screen in the movies (think Dumbledore’s quest for the horcruxes). I can just imagine J.K. Rowlings refusing to do another book, but agreeing to pen these side-stories.

    My theory behind this lies with Star Wars. Star Wars games were popular even when we hadn’t had a SW movie in 15 years. They’re still popular despite lackluster prequels. I see HP as a fantasy universe that will only get bigger in time with lots of spin-offs and room to reinvent.

  3. Joe DeLia says:

    To be fair Jeff, the best Star Wars games have come out at times when there is no tie-in movie. But, Lord of the Rings went in the opposite direction, with the tie-in games being solid but Conquest being a hunk of garbage.

    What fate shall await Harry? Who the hell knows…

  4. Xan says:

    I listened to the show this morning (sorry I am a bit behind). I loved the discussion but I thought I’d chime in with another view on Natal:

    The target audience for Natal is not enthusiast gamers, or even casual gamers who love Wii Sports, but the huge untapped market that is represented by Wii Fit. The success of Wii Fit has been enormous, and the fitness industry is worth billions. Wii Fit has shown that a video game platform can tap into that market, and EA Sports Active has done equally well. Many a Wii has been sold in a Wii Fit bundle as a fitness product.

    Natal has massive potential to tap into the fitness market. Imagine the possibility of a digital fitness training who can measure your motion and fitness through the sensor. EA Sports has already said they plan to be one of the first games out to support Natal, and I am sure that Microsoft and EA can already smell the money, if they can crack that new market.

  5. Sinan Kubba says:

    I would question that… It’s difficult to know how many people just bought a Wii for Wii Fit. There was no real continous spike in Wii sales when it came out, just ridiculous Wii Fit sales. I’m not saying people didn’t, because people certainly did, but I think a lot, and probably the majority of its sales came from people who already owned a Wii. I’d say that the Wii Fit/Wii Sports crowd are not that separate, and I think Natal is currently being aimed at the Wii crowd, the Wii Fit crowd if they are separate, and the Xbox 360 crowd… and that’s too many crowds for one thing to aim for at this stage. Like I said on the show, I think it would make sense for Microsoft to go one way or the other, and probably towards the Wii side from a business perspective.

    Glad y’all liked the show. Michael and Mitch were supoib.

  6. Strident says:

    It was a great show. I could listen to Michael talk for hours and I’ve been really enjoying the Insult Swordfighting blog.

    Natal definitely has the potential to really work in the fitness genre. I’ve used EA Sports Active pretty solidly for a month and it just falls short so badly when it comes to actually monitoring and feeding back on your performance. The use of the nunchuck in the leg strap is very clever but the two motion sensors can only ever monitor half of your body, at most, and due to their poor sensitivity they do that pretty badly.

    A move to camera based systems, which would be what Natal and Sony Motion are using, would really make a huge difference and I fully expect EA to take advantage of them. Whether Microsoft or Sony can, or choose, to sell their products to the Wii Fit crowd remains to be seen. If Microsoft can use their Facebook, Netflix, LastFM, Twitter cards and come up with a really well marketed package then they could really appeal to the “soccer mom” crowd.

    My main problem with all this move to motion controls is this…

    Aside from all the sports games and Boomblox…. I have yet to experience a game that uses motion controls well. In fact… I have yet to experience a decent game that really even uses motion controls in a way that adds any real measurable enjoyment to the title. Remember… I am saying excluding the sports games… they are the only area where motion control makes sense to me.

    Mapping button presses to waggles doesn’t work. Just churning out traditional games doesn’t work. We really need to brilliant game designers to actually identify and realise the potential of the motion controls. If they can do that then I will happily welcome in the motion control generation.

  7. Xan says:

    I think the data suggests that Wii Fit gave the Wii a big mid-life boost. Wii sales had started to settle just before Wii-Fit launched but then climbed upward again, for almost 9 months, on the back of Wii-Fit. (based on NPD data).

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