With the Game Developers Conference well underway and you, me and every other diehard gamer is soaking up all the gaming news and new technologies coming out like a sponge its giving me a lot to think. The majority of this thought is where games have come from and what has or hasn't worked. A quick example of some of the changes are from cartridges to cd to dvds. Not to get ahead of myself but a lot of times when I watch these events its almost like watching a rerun or having a deja Vu. Having been into games for nearly 3 decades I have seen most of these products already on the shelves once/twice/multi times in some form or another and so here is my take on some things that are being toted as new but are infact anything but. Its also an assessment of items that didn't work then but over time have been excepted.
The Sony Move has just been shown at the GDC (the Natal by Microsoft is right around the corner and the Move could be a forshadowing of the Natal's fate) and whether it will be a hit or not is something that we will see in not to long. Its not the newest technology because there were many things like it years ago that were not the greatest thing to happen to video game systems. My last blog was about the amount of money that certain video game products/games were worth and a lot of that is based on the rarity of certain items such as the power pad, the power glove, etc. Most things are rare because they were unwanted or didn't sell well.
Some technology is a really good ideas for video games but the timing may be wrong or it just doesn't work out correctly on first introduction. I have got on the band wagon a few times for a technology or gadget that wouldn't really be in games for years after I initially thought it would be a hit. Heres a few items that worked well, didn't work well or tech that just took years to actually take off like it should have. I will stay away from video games themselves because that would be just too much of an endeavour to complete so I will stay with just gadgets.
Firstly, wireless controller. It would be painful now to have to be tied down to a game system by a cord. Atleast. thats what we say now but wireless controllers of the past were no good and having a wireless controller 15 yrs ago was equally as painful as a 1/2ft corded controller would be today. The first wireless controller I used was for the Sega Genesis and if I remember correctly it was infrared controlled which meant, if it wasn't pointed at the receiver it wasn't working correctly. That basically means you had a 3''x3'' area to aim at; who though is able to keep their hands steady enough to keep it aimed at that spot, I sure wasn't. Now I don't mean in the whereabouts of the base but directly at the base. Something that made that even more difficult is that it was hugely heavier were the batteries were than the rest of it. The worst was the batteries though because it took AAA's and went through them every few hours. Now though, if you look at any system, there is some type of wireless controller for it and having anything else is silly Not only that, but everythings is wireless: wireless internet connection, wireless headset, wireless extra components.
Sense I mentioned internet, lets focus on that for a minute. Internet for gaming is nothing new, it has been around for a long long time. Even when I bought an internet adapter item for my PS2 it had been around forever. The problem was that the internet was the weakest link and not the game systems. Almost no PS2 games I had actually worked with the internet because Sony just didn't get behind the technology like they should have because more and more people were getting signed onto the internet and games like Half-life were paving the way for whats to come. Sony got behind internet access eventually, it only took another 5+ yrs with the PS3. The only PS2 game I can remember was Tiger woods golf that supported internet. Most people I knew around the early 00's had dialup internet and not even moderate speed dialup so having internet set up would have been pointless; I would say they were lucky to have 14.4K whereas most DSl is a minimum of 10x that speed. The first system to have internet I believe was sometime in the 80's (if you remember the system just let me know and I will add it to the blog; it was well before the Saturn). Now, the companies actually cater to the internet instead of treating it like a hindrance and almost every game has some type of internet functionality to them. Speeds also got out of the stone age; in only 5-10yrs people went from 14.4k to a min of 1.5mb. Higher is preferred if you don't want lag.
Some stuff (light guns) for systems is mostly a bonus for games but could be done without that product. Case in point is something like a "gun" for shooting games, a running pad for exercise games or steering wheels for driving games. Most of these are met with little success but the people that use them most of the time are thankful for owning it. Now, Nintendo did a great thing of adding the NES Zapper with the nintendo not long after the original release of the system because once you owned the Zapper why not buy other games for use with it but people who had system that didn't include the zapper were way less likely to use games that would require the buying of it. Then Nintendo took what made the Zapper great and went the other way with the Scope. They made it bigger (bazooka length at 2.5 ft); it took 6 batteries and went through them fast; and the biggest killer, it wasn't easy to find to buy and it cost a lot. If they made it small like the Zapper and bundled it, it would have sold more gun games. Other system sold weapons for their systems but they met with even less success than the Scope.
Think about this. Is it worth owning a game you need to buy extra components for that may total $200 total (game and stuff) if theres no other game that you find fun with that product? Or, would you rather use that money to buy 4+ other games?
great when bundled; worthless apart
The new Wii Zapper is a blast to the past in that Nintendo realized its old mistakes with the Scope and did everything right on the new Zapper which is why its sales are quite high. The same can no be said for the other system guns. As far as I know, Sony, Sega, xbox, etc have never made a gun that they have got behind which may be why all the light guns have failed.
There's the exercise items like the Powerpad that sold poorly because the cost was very high back then for a game accessory and there was almost no support except for the game it came with. That wasn't the only thing wrong with it; half the time the pad didn't realize you jumped or ran so its demise was welcomed. A $100+ pad and a midiocre Olympic game felt like the biggest ripoff of the Nintendo era. Once again Nintendo saw the faults with it and now theres the Wii balance beam that also sells well and realizes that your doing movements.
Steering wheels. Another item that never really sold well but people want if their into that type of game is steering wheels. No system ever really had a sanctioned wheel for driving games but if you played games like Gran Turismo you would love to have one. There were tons of 3rd party wheels that were available but the problem is that they worked well on a game here or there but as a whole were very faulty. A few wheels I remember are for the PS1 and either the steering was horrible or the gas peddle/brake were unresponsive. That's another item Nintendo learned from the mistakes of old. I tried their steering wheel and I loved the fact that when I turned, so did the vehicle. Its supported by all games, it's responsive and I have heard it comes bundled.
FAIL*.................................. FAIL*.......................... WIN
*Not this particular brand but any PS, PS2, Sega, etc steering wheel. These are just to show you examples of what the system steering wheels look like.
There was the powerglove from the old original nintendo. As a kid it was an awesome item to just look at. Here was this glove that you would put on and play games with that was suppose to help you win games. It had the look of the newest upcoming technology as to a kid it was just one step away from something that could read your mind and do what you want in the game off brain waves. We'll, the product did not work like that. I played a few games with that item (like Mad Dog, and Mario and well, I have to say, it made the difficulty infinitely higher; worst of all, you actually look dumber with the glove on.
So, here's a link to the angry video game nerds view of it but I have to warn you; theres a lot of cussing and crude statements but overall he gives you an idea of how the item really is.
So, Nintendo over the years found out what did and didn't work with the power glove and improved it hugely. I have played the Wii a bit and for some of the games, the Wii remote is quite good. I couldn't imagine the Wii without that item. So, for Nintendo, it saw what didn't work in the past and decided to fix it which is just what history teachers tell you. Sony though, didn't do so well with it with one aspect of its controllers and you can see that clearly in the game Lair where the whole game is run by motion control.
Poor sales, but innovative. ......................Massive success................................ Good controller; bad sixaxis.
Yet to see but if they follow their old gameplan consider this a FAIL.
Project Natal, your in the same boat as the Move.
So, taking a note from history overtime with commercial flops and wins with games its all up to Sony on how this does. If they make it something that makes it so gamers can't live without it or play the game without it, the product with be a commercial money maker; or if it adds elements and or functionality to games it may also work out well. But, if they have it as a gimmicky item that is only good on games specifically for it and treat it like nintendo did with the Glove, Power pad or Sony's first try at online gaming it will be a huge flop. The most advantageous venture they could do is take a chapter from Nintendo and add it to the system's bundle that way people will be more inclined to buy games that work with it and it wouldn't be a waste of R&D money. Project Natal, your in the same predicament. If you think your exempt from failure happening your wrong. I don't want to see either of these expensive ventures fail But, if they do the same actions they or others have done in the past after spending tons of time/money creating a product, that makes them stupid, because the definition of stupidity is to try something over and over the same way while hoping for different results.
Notes: I own a PS3 not a Wii but I think Nintendo plans better and knows how to sell accessories well whereas xbox and Playstation.