Move and Kinect – Innovation or desperation? (ARTICLES)

All this talk of new ways to ‘interact’ with your console has got me thinking.

Is this innovative or a sign of desperation form certain manufacturers?

YARSFor the last few years, if we wanted to get interactive with our console, we bought a Wii or if we were desperate EyeToy for PS2. It was a great innovation that changed the way many people played games. It also opened up games to a wider audience. I loved seeing little old dears playing Wii Bowling in their old people’s home. I even quite liked the EyeToy, even if it was a little underutilized.

The thing was, each was in its way an innovation – ish. Some could say that motion control is an old idea, remember powerglove (or any number of arcade games)? Same for the EyeToy, others have done it in the past with varying degrees of success.

But that is the past. We are now stepping into the future. We have the Sony Move now. A motion controller for the PS3 that uses two handheld controllers to track the motion of your hands as you play. Hold up, have I not seen something a bit like that not so long ago? No? Oh ok. Of course, who can forget that we are also getting the Kinect from Microsoft. A camera type system that tracks your movements and maps them into the game. mmm that sounds a bit like something Sony did once… no? Oh ok then.

Now we all know that this is nonsense. The move is very obviously ‘inspired’ by the Wii’s controls. Yes it is more accurate and uses a non copyright infringing method of doing things, but essentially it is a bit similar! Kinect is a system that has had some inspiration from the EyeToy. Again, it is much, much better than the EyeToy ever was. It puts you in the game rather than just layering you over it. But, you cannot ignore the fact that it has some similarities!!

So is this innovation? Is it innovative to take an idea that one company has and then make it a bit better and rebrand it? Of course it isn’t, but that is just the way things have always been. It is business. If your competitor has something that makes money, you make something that fits in the same market space and try to get in on the act. The PSP does not exist because Sony thought it might be nice for their users to play games on the move. The PSP exists to try and take some money from the handheld market space that Nintendo had been making so much from with the DS.

The same goes for this latest round of peripherals.

Nintendo released a console that on paper was just about the worst idea in history. It was only just more powerful than their previous generation of hardware (the GameCube). It had some bizarre control method that would have its players swinging their arms around like maniacs. It had some cutesy games launching with it and if I am honest I was shouting about what an immense flop it was going to be. And yes, I am man enough to admit I was very, very, very wrong!!

I underestimated just how much people wanted something a bit different. Games had become very hard to play. You needed to dedicate large parts of your life to them. It turns out that a lot of people just wanted to pick up a game and play it for a bit, then put it down and do something else. That was / is the beauty of the Wii. It let hardcore games get on with playing Halo and Kill zone and World of Warcraft, whilst the rest went off to play a bit of Wii tennis or Mario Kart.

So it was inevitable that eventually Sony and Microsoft would feel the need to get in on the act. It must have been incomprehensible to them that the Wii was such a success. Here they had machines that could boast some of the best technology available. Hell the American Air force use PS3s as supercomputers! Yet this tiny little white box was outselling them at every turn. Now at a point where in years past we would be expecting these giants to be releasing new more powerful hardware, they have chosen a different tactic. A much more Nintendo tactic. Rather than create new consoles, do something different with our current consoles.

So is it innovative, no. It was just inevitable and does feel a bit desperate. The surprise is that Sony and Microsoft have decided to stick with this generation of hardware for a bit longer. And this I have to applaud.

My fear is that games developers will try to do what they did for the Wii. Stick in control schemes that cater for the Move or Kinect – just because they are available – not because they improve the game in some way (in the same way as people are starting to use 3D, but that is another rant!). I also fear that this is going to mean even more hardware specific exclusives, something I personally dislike, but understand need for where business is concerned.

Of course just remember how wrong I was about the success of the Wii, I hope that I am once again proved wrong!

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