Consider for a moment Nintendo's Wiimote reveal at the 2005 Tokyo Game Show. Looking back at that video it is clear how the Wiimote was going to be used. If you wanted to be a chef it was your knife, a fisherman, your fishing pole and as a conductor, a baton. That presentation made it apparent that the Wiimote was the tool that let people act out their fantasies. It was a breakthrough moment - everyone understood the Wiimote. The most amazing part of the presentation was that Nintendo didn't even show games. They didn't have to, their idea and their messaging was so clearly articulated that despite everything else the Wii would eventually offer, by the time 2006 rolled around people knew one thing: Something magical was going to happen when they got that remote in their hand.
Fast forward to E3 2009, as Sony and Microsoft reveal their own motion based retorts to Nintendo, and it's clear that despite years of Nintendo observation both have walked away none the wiser. It's too early to do anything but speculate wildly, but after absorbing some news and a video or two from the Microsoft and Sony press conferences regarding their motion technologies, I can't help but feel like these two tech giants have missed the point once again. Somehow, they have managed to turn the really concrete idea of motion based control into another technologically esoteric arms race.
That's all they've conveyed to me in their presentations: that their motion technology is more accurate and possibly more interactive - with the addition of a camera - than Nintendo's. As of yet it's not entirely clear how they're going to use all this technology. The possibilities for these two control systems seem endless, and in watching the demonstration video for Microsoft's Natal I was a little overwhelmed by all the ideas they presented. Between the interaction with Madame Tussaud's escapee Milo and a daughter trying prom dresses out on her avatar with her friend via video conference, the video painted a picture of the next step in videogame interactivity. Sony's control system was a similar story, showcasing a technically impressive exactitude in motion control that the Wii lacks.
But they've given consumers too many ideas to mull over, and in doing so the possibilities of these two interesting technologies become muddled. If Sony and Microsoft want to break through to mainstream consumers, the group they are ostensibly targeting with these motion technologies, they've got to be measured in how much of their vision they present to the public. They've also got to make the mainstream public care. Knowing that made Sony's presentation all the more confusing as they seemed to be positioning their air traffic controller wands as a control solution for the hardcore gamer. In the presentation, the wands were used to control RTS, FPS and a sword fighting demonstrations. It seemed like Microsoft's presentation spoke more specifically to the casual audience, but Natal was shown being used in so many different ways, it was difficult to tell what one thing it might do well.