A Lack of Peripheral Vision?
Why do many peripherals and hardware turn out to be such disappointments?
The last few years have seen a considerable amount of innovation; for example, there’s been the launch of Kinect for the XBox 360, PlayStation Move for the PS3 and Nintendo hopped on the 3D bandwagon and put the 3DS in our pockets. Then E3 arrived, and we were introduced to the Wii U, the PlayStation Vita and, well, a ton of sequels. While all these arrivals and announcements are all very exciting, I can’t help but feel that the industry – and therefore gamers – would benefit from taking a little time out, and actually deliver on the potential that’s currently languishing unfulfilled.
Four PlayStation Move controllers – but are there more than four Move games worth playing?
Take the 3DS, Kinect and PlayStation Move as examples. These three devices are arguably the biggest innovations to have hit shop shelves in recent memory, and all are very capable – and very interesting – in their own right. But I would argue that, to date, none of these has achieved anywhere near their full potential and this is largely down to a borderline-woeful lack of support from their creators.
The 3DS is struggling commercially, and it’s not hard to see why; though it is a lovely device (see my review for more detail) and there are some great 3DS games available (Super Street Fighter IV and Zelda: Ocarina of Time, for example), its catalogue remains extremely slight, with much of what is available being rehashes of older titles. Aside from the incredibly niche (and essentially 2D) Steel Diver, even Nintendo itself have yet to release a big new IP – or, heck, even a brand NEW addition to an established franchise for the system – no new Zelda, Mario, MarioKart. Even the long awaiting new instalment of Pilotwings was essentially a tweaked-port of Wii Sports Resort. Things look even worse when you take the eStore into account: How many 3DS owners laid down £180 of their hard earned cash so that they could play re-releases of old Gameboy games? In monochrome? In two-dimensions? Not many I suspect, and yet such titles have taken up the lion’s share of eStore releases.
Super Mario Land on the 3DS…in all its 2D glory…
To make matters worse,that Shigeru Miyamoto felt the need to publicly state that he thinks it is “fair for people to say, ‘Oh yeah, for this section of the game, I’m just going to turn the 3D depth slider off’” was a real kick in the 3DS’s teeth. Whatever happened to that Nintendo confidence of old? How can a comment such as this inspire anything other than indifference to the 3DS from both developers and consumers alike? Early PR statements on the system heralded the potential for glasses-free 3D to open a whole new world of gameplay possibilities…and yet here we are – 4 months into the system’s lifespan – and even Miyamoto seems to have had his confidence in the handheld’s core USP shaken… The upward-curve towards the innovation that we were promised seems to be flat-lining already…and the 3DS is not alone in this.
Kinect – Microsoft’s massively hyped (not to mention 10 million+ selling) controller-free motion gaming device – has also been under-supported, with a library consisting mainly of throw-away party games, fitness titles and Wii Sports wannabe’s, very little of which evidences the true potential of the device. Sure, Child of Eden looks lovely…but aside from that it’s tumble-weed city as far as I can see.
The PlayStation Move is in a similar position, with neither Sony nor any third parties really capitalising on the potential showcased in Sony’s own tech-demos. Sport Champions’ table-tennis was admittedly wonderful; Killzone 3 was solid and Tumble was reasonably interesting… but there is very little outside of these that really makes use of the Move’s accuracy – the very thing that was supposed to raise it above the Wiimote (and I think it’s best we not mention PlayStation Move Heroes….).
Really taking the biscuit in unfulfilled potential though is Nintendo’s Wii Motion Plus. The company promised great things with this little dongle, but to date only a handful of games support it (a quick look on Wikipedia tells us that, worldwide, 32 games support it, of which only 5 require it), and there is little (or, indeed, anything) that actually manages to do something interesting with the technology . In fairness, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is looming large on the horizon, but this is too little, too late as far as I’m concerned – I laid down the best part of £50 for two Wii Motion Plus’, and this has without question been a wasted investment.
The blue circles are there to remind you that Wii Motion Plus exists.
The most frustrating thing is that the big three – namely Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft – at times seem reluctant lead from the front when it comes to peripherals and hardware innovations; it’s all well and good showing us tech demos and making promises about what something is capable of; but if neither first or third party developers makes use of these features, it’s pie in the sky.
I love innovation as much as the next games-geek – the PlayStation Move is a lovely bit of kit; Kinect is a fascinating evolution of PlayStation Eye; Wii Motion Plus should have been great…but where are the games to make these peripherals sing? Where is the content to meet all the promises made? In short: Where is the vision; the innovation; the software to justify these devices existence?
Child of Eden – a game of rare beauty…and sadly also a Kinect rarity…
Each time a peripheral or new piece of hardware launches only to be followed up by lack-lustre software support, a little bit of consumer confidence is chipped away – and this can only be a bad thing for the industry as whole.
Sadly, my hope that this year’s E3 would come with a flurry of Move, Kinect and 3DS titles that would turn ‘potential’ into ‘reality’ didn’t come fruition. Kinect continued stubbornly down the casual route (frighteningly managing to be more saccharine than the infamous ‘Skittles‘ segment at last year’s press conference) and PlayStation Move only received a smattering of sports games and fantasy-medieval’ em up. The 3DS didn’t fare a lot better, playing second fiddle to the Wii U.
Though it pains me to say it, the upshot of all the above is that I’m finding it increasingly difficult to get excited about the next big thing (yes – with a certain sadness – Wii U, I am looking at you) when the current crop of innovations have largely proved to be so frustratingly under-supported.
This piece originally appeared on the gametaroo! Blog on Monday 4th July 2011
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