Oh dear. I think I'm turning into a Nintendo fanboy. After all these years of stoic resistance, too. I was pointed in the direction of a teaser video for the next-gen Nintendo console today - the Nintendo Revolution. There's no gameplay video in the teaser, which makes me think that they've just got a bunch of actors to ponce about infront of the camera with sound effects, but I'm willing to give Ninty the benefit of the doubt at this point. Whilst I remain to be convinced about the ergonomics of using a DVD remote format game controller for a long period of time, I can really see the potential here.
It's about bloody time someone shook up the way we interacted with our videogames. The DS's touch-screen (and games that exploit it like Meteos) was the primary factor in my decision to get my hands on one over a PSP. I've maintained for quite some time that developers should be trying to slim down control sets and make games more accessible, and this certainly threatens to do that.
The way that the controller can sense motion and orientation opens up all sorts of possibilities to revolutionise the videogame interface. Imagine a golf game where you use the controller as your club or putter. Imagine a tennis game where the controller represents your racquet (as in the video). Imagine an FPS where you aim with the controller and move with the attached analogue stick. People who struggle with remembering "Press Button X to do Y" are now going to find that they can play games much more intuitively - and that, my friends, is rather exciting. Just making the controller look like a remote control is going to take away the normal boundaries a non-games player would subconsciously have in their head if you handed them a gamepad. It's going to provoke an "I know what this is!", rather than a "What the fuck is this fiendish tool of the Devil?" reaction.
The only downside is the ever-present social death aspect. Just watching the video of people leaping about and waving their arms manically is cringemaking. It might be fun at gaming parties, but you'd certainly want to keep the curtains drawn if you were playing on your own and your front room is overlooked by a crowded street. It makes playing on the EyeToy or a dance mat look normal and well adjusted.
Nintendo: Revolutionising the way you can look like a complete cock in the safety of your own home!
Of course, whether it will be successful or not depends upon the games, and whether Nintendo can reclaim some of the ground lost to Sony and Microsoft. I find it oddly reassuring that Nintendo have stepped away from the specification wars: it makes me hope that they're going to concentrate on the games and try to make them reach as large a potential market as possible. With this announcement today, I think Nintendo have made a large first step towards closing the gap.