Nintendo Revolution controller
By now you’ve probably all seen the Nintendo Revolution’s controller. If you haven’t, you should have a look at the video. This will give you a good idea of the intentions for how to use the controller.
You can also watch and listen to Iwata-san’s presentation at Nintendo’s Tokyo Game Show press conference.
Nintendo is crazy like a fox. They do wacky, innovative things sometimes. Controller design has typically been something they’ve been very good at. However, you can also point to things that didn’t catch on quite as well: Virtua Boy, Gameboy Printer, Gameboy Camera…
At first glance the new controller looks like a TV remote. Something that non-gamers are very familiar with. So this makes it friendly to new audiences right away. However, for existing game players it brings one to a head-scratching moment. How to play Madden? How to play Grand Theft Auto? How to play Resident Evil? Fortunately there is an analog stick attachment planned. Notice though how much more challenging it is to use an analog stick when you have it balanced in one hand, as opposed to two.
Nintendo says that an answer for ported third-party games will be a “standard” controller that the wand slots into. This is also the solution for their library of games from consoles past. Certainly, these are both solutions which make sense from a technical standpoint; but will players really go purchase a peripheral in order to play Madden on their Revolution? Or, will publishers and developers take the time to make the significant design changes that will be required to support the positional aspect of the freehand controller?
Ultimately it comes down to the installed base. If a lot of people by the Revolution, then of course the savvy publisher will have their developers target the console in order to maximize their audience. Typically, this means that Nintendo first-party software will have to be compelling enough to move units – the Nintendo DS being a good example of this. The console must also be inexpensive to develop for, and have low cost for manufacturing – Gamecube was fairly easy to develop for, so the “enhanced Gamecube architecture” which presumably makes up the Revolution should also be somewhat simple, and the DVD format should hopefully be cheaper than the Gamecube mini-disc.
But luring the hardcore gamer, and core games, over to Revolution will certainly be a challenge for Nintendo. It’s not something they’ve done well at recently, and with this latest controller design it doesn’t seem like something they’re particularly interested in. Nintendo has always been a toy company, and this latest design re-affirms that philosophy. Nintendo may have success with Revolution, but if so it will be with a different market segment; they’ve abandoned going head-to-head with Sony and Microsoft with the design of Revolution. They may still do well with the new device – but it will be a lot of work for them, convincing new players to give the Revolution a try.