When it introduced the Wii, Nintendo showed us that there’s more to video game controllers than just pressing buttons. Interestingly, the results of Nintendo’s motion control experiment went better than expected: the Wii became the top-selling console of its generation and the third best-selling console of all time. When the games industry realised that Nintendo was actually on to something, rivals suddenly started jumping on the bandwagon.
The problem with the bandwagon effect, however, is that they’re almost always merely a fad. Will motion controls eventually become a staple in gaming hardware and the games themselves? Or will it eventually be forgotten, just like the full-motion video games craze of the 1990s? To find out, let’s try looking at what’s in store for motion gaming.
According to Sony, 10.5 million units of the PlayStation Move have been shipped to retailers, although it’s unclear if this is a global or local figure, and how much of those were really sold. Unfortunately, the Move’s future doesn’t seem too bright despite being part of the PS3. That’s because game companies use terms like “support” or “incorporate” when referring to most games that use the Move. There are a few Move-only games, but the controller isn’t getting as much exposure as its rivals.
The Kinect, on the other hand, is the surprise hit among the two current-gen motion controls. Games like Kinect Star Wars, Kinect Adventures, Kinect Sports, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and several others have been part of bestselling lists at one time or another. Kinect isn’t limiting itself to casual gaming though, as Lionhead Studios is currently working on Fable: The Journey, an exclusive for the Xbox 360 peripheral. The future seems bright for Kinect as more games are being made for it, and more gamers are buying those games. And let’s not forget—there’s also a Kinect for Windows. Microsoft is really taking motion controls seriously.
Despite having an accelerometer and gyroscope, the 3DS has very few games with motion controls, which is unfortunate because there’s so much potential here. More developers are currently focusing on the handheld’s 3D capabilities instead, so it’s hard to see if motion controls would be part of its future.
The quickly evolving smartphone hardware has caused a massive boom in mobile games. But like the 3DS, there aren’t that many smartphones games that do use motion controls. Unfortunately, right now, motion controls in smartphones are mostly used for other functions like shuffling song line-ups. And yet, there is hope for this control scheme in mobile games because practically every smartphone model comes with built-in motion sensors.
The PlayStation Vita is a beast of a portable gaming device. It has a front and back camera, touch screen, rear touch pad, gyroscope, accelerometer, built-in compass, GPS receiver, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G and a quad core CPU to run all those nifty components. While the Vita games library is still rather limited at this time, there have been a few titles like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Wipeout 2048 which use motion controls. Based on the early support for the feature, it seems like motion control has a feature in the Vita.
The Wii U has a problem: Nintendo isn’t sure if it’s aimed at the casual crowd or core gamers. It bears the Wii name and is bundled with a casual game starring key Nintendo franchises, but the Wii U controller is something only a core gamer would use. As for the motion controls, it seems like there wouldn’t be any shortage of games with waggle so its future is pretty much set. The only question now is how well the Wii’s successor is going to sell. If Nintendo plunges back to third place in the next generation, there’s no assurance that we’ll see more motion controls in succeeding consoles.
The Hydra is the other motion controller for PCs. Think of it as manipulating two PlayStation Move controllers that are tracked by a base station with a magnet. Right now, the Hydra more than 100 PC games, including Left 4 Dead 2, World of Goo, Portal 2, Half-Life 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops. There’s a wireless version of the controller in the works. If the Hydra takes off and supplants the default mouse and keyboard combo (or at least find a considerably sized niche), we could see more motion control games in PCs.
Here’s further proof that Microsoft is completely sold in motion controls: Kinect is going to have a successor as well, just like other console hardware. So what exactly can Kinect 2 do? According to Eurogamer, the next Kinect would be so accurate that it can read your lips, and would be bundled with future Xboxes. That’s not all—rumours say Kinect 2 can also find out what direction you’re facing and sense when you’re angry, thanks to its ability to track facial expressions, and the volume and tone of your voice. Hopefully, Microsoft can make Kinect 2 more accurate as well.