With Sony and Microsoft finally showing off their own motion-based controllers at E3, we can at last put away the waggle jokes and the stories about HDTV sets broken by flying controllers and accept it: Love it or hate it, motion control is the future of gaming.
Since the day the Wii was revealed, there has been no going back. Motion control had been attempted in many forms before, but with the Wii, Nintendo made it commercially viable. We can no more go back to only standard controllers than we could go back to just d-pads once the analog stick was part of our toolbox.
This doesn't mean that the future holds nothing but motion-controlled games - to continue the analogy, the DS, the best-selling game system on the market, doesn't have an analog stick. But the fact that each first party now has its own motion model means both developers and gamers are going to have to think about it seriously.
Gamers are the easy part. Motion has gotten a bad name merely through idiotic fanboy prejudice - the same prejudice that would have you believe Halo 3 sucks, or that there are no good games on the PS3. A few choice motion-controlled games on each system will have gamers won over in no time.
No, the hard part is getting to those games in the first place. In typical games industry fashion, we're not making the transition to this new technology easy. While Sony and Microsoft have finally joined Nintendo in loving motion control, all three first parties now have completely different, incompatible technologies. Each one of their systems seems to work, and control, in completely different ways.
On top of that, plans for the rollout of Sony and Microsoft's motion systems are still up in the air. Rumors abound that Project Natal will be used both for the Xbox 360 and for an upcoming console to succeed it. Sony doesn't even have a name for its new controller, much less a plan for rollout, but with Sony's famed 10-year model for PS3 it's hard to believe it'll be used for anything other than the PS3.
How are these models going to work in practice? There was a time after R.O.B., the Superscope, the 32X, and the 64DD that the accepted wisdom in the games industry was that peripherals could not be successful, period. The success of the Wii Balance Board and the various guitar-related games have disproved that old adage. But while Microsoft's big E3 push last year, the New Xbox Experience, was a massive success in rejuvenating its system, it was free and downloaded itself. Getting Natal to customers will take a lot more work.