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Question of the Week Responses: Controller Revolution?

Amid the buzz generated by Nintendo's unveiling of the Revolution controller, we asked: “Now that Nintendo has revealed details of the controller for its Revolution next-gen console, do you think this bold move is beneficial for Nintendo itself, third-party developers, and the industry in general?”

Quang Hong, Blogger

September 28, 2005

26 Min Read

Last week, we asked: “Now that Nintendo has revealed details of the controller for its Revolution next-gen console, do you think this bold move is beneficial for Nintendo itself, third-party developers, and the industry in general?” The general buzz from game professionals is that the controller creates a great opportunity for innovation within the game industry, and would benefit all parties involved, as well as the industry as a whole.


In terms of whether or not the controller will benefit Nintendo from a financial standpoint, the response was fairly positive. Many noted that, of course, while Sony and Microsoft are going after the same market, Nintendo is positioning itself for a broader demographic. However, a few of those who replied wondered whether innovation would necessarily translate into financial success.

Because all player actions are mediated through a controller, it would be difficult to overestimate the importance of a well-designed innovation here can have on the experience/form of a game. Of course, it might also be difficult to underestimate our ability to take something so promising and squander it; novelty doesn't preclude banality. It hasn't been since the introduction of the original Dual Shock controller that a console controller has been this exciting though the promises this device would seem to be making are much greater. If we assume that they are kept, then there is no doubt that game designs will benefit and, with them, all the rest of us.
-Isaac Barry, Secret Lair Studios

I certainly hope [the controller will be beneficial]. More of the same thinking in terms of developing the future of games can only take us so far. As a lifelong gamer and game developer, I urge everybody in our industry to support the innovation and risks taken by Nintendo on sheer principle. We always lament that there is no creativity and innovation in the games industry anymore. Guys, we have to rally around these initiatives. It brings a tear to my eye that somebody out there in this big brutal word of ROI and risk management still dares to go out on a limb like that to push gaming further. And my mouth waters when I think of designing for such hardware.
-Marque Sondergaard, Powerhouse

[Beneficial for] Nintendo: Yes. It will give Nintendo a unique place in the next generation. They probably won't "win", but they'll do well.
[Beneficial for] third-parties: Nope. This will be a challenge to develop for, and doesn't allow easy cross-platform development. They won't get a ton of games, but Nintendo likes to thrive on a few good first-party games.
[Beneficial for the] industry: Change is good. Evolution is good. This could open up new possibilities, both in gameplay and in audience.
-Tom Smith, High Voltage Software

Beneficial for all -- with the exception of developers/publishers that build run-of-the-mill games and port to every platform. Obviously the stock Nintendo controller could present them with some porting challenges. However, I think development trends on the current generation of game consoles have shown that Nintendo can't count on cross-platform porting to ensure a steady stream of games. In the coming generation, a SKU which targets Xbox 360 and PS3 may require too much processing power for the Revolution and have resources downgraded to match the platform's capabilities. This could easily make the Revolution look like an also-ran. A similar bad result would be for developers to shoehorn gameplay from a standard game controller format into the Revolution controller format under the guise of "full support" for the Revolution controller. More than ever, Nintendo needs original games, developed primarily for its platform. It has adopted a strategy of pushing its platform away from resource intensive, large scale, long play session games (expensive to develop and expensive for the consumer) and towards casual games, mini games and "market expansion games" (which encompasses titles like Nintendogs). A niche market in the short term -- but potentially a far larger market than the hardcore gaming market over the long haul. From a business standpoint, this is a risky but vastly superior strategy to that of going head to head with Microsoft and Sony. It also opens the door to smaller developers and publishers who may not have the cash reserves to develop asset rich next-gen titles, but who would rather rely on innovative (and perhaps unproven) game mechanics to differentiate their games. The greatest risk here is that Nintendo performs poor quality control on third party games, and the Revolution becomes a platform flooded with quirky/gimmicky games rather than those that are truly innovative and fun.

I honestly don't see who doesn't benefit from this. Microsoft and Sony get to battle it out for the existing market, and if all goes according to plan, Nintendo gets to create a new one. If the Revolution content checks out, as a gamer on a budget, you'll be left with a choice. Which 'other' console to pick up?
-Mike Kasprzak

Personally, I welcome the new controller design from Nintendo. Whether the Revolution controller is going to be a success or not, of course, still remains to be seen. The novelty and sheer "differentness" of the design has divided many people into pro and con factions, and who is going to be right whole depends on if people can think outside the conventional game interfaces. What the controller design and Nintendo's video has done is to make developers think of totally new ways to interact with the games, which in my book is a success already in itself. The controller is the last part of a console design that hasn't been evolving at the same pace as every other machine part, and this new design is certainly a kick in the head for many people. Hooray for innovation and hopefully we, as game designers, will be able to wield the new mechanics that has been made available to us.
-Soeren Lund, Deadline Games

I think everyone was shocked when the controller was unveiled - it's very different. But it certainly looks like an extension of the strategy Nintendo pursued with the DS, and having seen the innovative games that came from that, I think they're on the right track. The most interesting part of the new controller to me is the expandability. This will hopefully give developers a lower barrier to entry for providing their own game interfaces. We could see all sorts of interesting games and new genres invented just because of that feature. On the other hand, though, if a conventional controller attachment is released, it could drain support for the new gameplay methods by giving developers a crutch to fall back on. So - It could go either way for everyone. If third-party developers do a good job making use of the opportunities, and are willing to forgo easy cross-platform development, they can make some exciting new games. If that happens, Nintendo will succeed, and if that happens, the industry as a whole will have grown - at least in diversity, and hopefully in the number of gamers playing our products. If the controller fails, however... I fear the industry may become even more risk-averse, and continue its spiral towards stagnation.

It's beneficial for Nintendo in that they have essentially reinvented themselves to appeal to a broader audience by simply changing the appeal of the controller. The simplicity of the controller allows unsurpassed levels of control, while at the same time, appears unintimidating. I would expect third party support to gain momentum as more consumers 'pick it up'. The keynote speech also talked about less need for developer horsepower in favor of unique gameplay options. The industry as a whole may follow Nintendo's lead, not only for profits, but for the ability to incorporate interesting gameplay into licensed and sports titles as well as developers' passion projects.

Absolutely [beneficial]. As I was reading the press release I was imagining in my head what it would be like to control a current game (I'm playing through the modern Prince of Persia right now), and I could envisage how easy it would be to use this control for that sort of game. It's intuitive, and that's the key. Nintendo claim anyone could pick this up and start playing, and I'm inclined to believe them. At the same time, it should open up the possibilities for a whole new range of game mechanics. We've all seen how much fun EyeToy is. And with the Revolution controller shipping with the console and every Revolution game supporting it, it's going to be amazing.

This new control system really differentiates Nintendo from its competition and should allow them to position the Revolution in the marketplace very clearly. IDG did a study that shows that more households will go multiconsole when the next-gen systems hit. Gamers may consider the Revolution as a good companion system to their more mainstream consoles (Xbox 360 or PS3). There's a lot of potential with the controller as far as game design, I'm sure designers all over the world are probably thinking of ways to exploit this technology. We could see some really amazing games and possibly new game genres making its debut on the Revolution. How much support the Revolution gets is entirely up to Nintendo. Software sells hardware and the launch line-up for the Revolution and clever marketing from Nintendo will determine if this gamble pays off. This is a chance for developers to break out of the mold of "formulaic game design" and really explore what games can be, possibly expanding the audience at the same time.
-Carlo Delallana, Ubisoft

Everyone seems to count Nintendo out. But most people forget that Nintendo isn't after the same market as Sony and Microsoft. The new controller is neither beneficial nor detrimental to Nintendo itself; a control scheme in and of itself doesn't define the future of the console. Looked at another way, the controller is an expression of Nintendo's corporate philosophy about what kind of entertainment they want to provide, and whom they want to provide it for. The proof will be in the software, and the accessibility of that software _combined with the control scheme_ to Nintendo's desired consumers. Right now, it is too early to tell how this will play out. But ESA research data would seem to suggest that Nintendo isn't as dumb as most of the hardcore gaming audience thinks. After all, the majority of the game playing public isn't a hardcore gamer. Incremental sales spread among a larger audience translate into much greater volume--and income--in retail. Also consider that Nintendo is seeking to attract an audience who otherwise doesn't play games at all. Even among game players, it is important to remember that it is Nintendo's own IPs that drives its sales. The ability to download titles from their back catalog for a modest fee is a clever alternate revenue stream. And Nintendo has been remarkably consistent with the quality of most of their franchises. I'm sure this quality control will continue into the next generation. I'm also sure that first-party development will reveal interesting applications for the hardware, and some first rate entertainment experiences. I'm just as sure that the novelty of the controller as compared to more standard interfaces (i.e. control pads) will alienate most third-party developers. Even if Nintendo releases a standard game pad for the Revolution (which either they or a third party hardware manufacturer almost certainly will), the demographics and philosophy of the platform itself will make third party developers reluctant to port titles to the system. For the Revolution's desired mainstream audience, a lack of sports titles will hurt in particular. However, the system will hopefully open the doors to titles developed specifically with an eye toward simpler, more accessible game play.
-Thomas Kim

I think that Nintendo has at the least secured second place for the next console cycle with this control scheme. There are a lot of games that it really won't add a great deal to, and I can see a lot of hard core gamers being resistant to this. But what I am dead certain of is that Nintendo is going to quietly dominate at retail due to demo units of the Revolution. This thing will draw in crowds. I am thinking that even given what Nintendo will lose from jaded gamers who cannot stand any more "kiddie crap" to Microsoft and Sony, that they will pick up at least that many from the Nintendogs crowd.
-Nicki Vankoughnett, Exile Interactive

This move is beneficial to Nintendo and the game industry as a whole. We will always be able to push graphics and computing hardware, but it takes something truly innovative to change how we interact with our games. It seems to be the mind set that we have come to the peak of controller design and nothing could beat the PS2 controller configuration. Unfortunately, that mind set limits our industry. We should never stop exploring new ways to interact with our games. With a new interface comes new game genres, and new ways to experience games as a whole. What makes this controller great in design is that not only will it allow for new genre types, but it's also perfectly compatible with current genres out there, and if any thing it can push these old genres to a whole new level in their own right. Yet, with this much functionality the controller is still simple in design and look. Nintendo has built this simplicity into a form people are already comfortable with, a standard TV remote. This will surely grab people that were scared by the complexity of the current controller schemes, yet allow them as much control as a player who uses a PS2 controller. It's a risky move to develop a whole new way to interact with our games. I'm sure a lot of third parties are scared, and they're worried about the potential for porting their product to the Nintendo system, but once Nintendo releases some first party titles and shows the market how to truly utilize the controller, the fear will wane. I even think that if these third parties port their title right, they will play even better on the Revolution because of the controller. I also feel that Nintendo isn't dependent on the third parties to launch its system; most people I know buy a Nintendo for the first party titles alone. Honestly, we should thank Nintendo for continually pushing the envelope and trying to move our industry to the next level.
-Cameron Christian, Luxoflux

The move is beneficial for Nintendo because they are offering something compelling and different with the potential to make them a lot of money. It's beneficial for third party developers because it gives us an opportunity to develop new concepts into intuitive and groundbreaking games which don't have to be impossibly ambitious to be exciting and impressive. It's beneficial for the industry in general because it has the potential to expand the market to folks who might otherwise be intimidated. So, for the record, that's a yes, a yes, and a yes.
-Jordan Blackman, NovaLogic

This will benefit everyone around Nintendo... They have literally been thinking outside of the box this time. Let's hope it works. Watching the player's behavior tells a lot about the experience they receive. But what they need to do now is to put these new tools in to the hands of the developers and see what comes out of it. New technology of this kind always seems to have some new angel of use that they didn't think of… Like the mouse and FPSes.
-Mikael Wahlberg, Starbreeze

I hope it does well. It's a step in the right direction for widespread distribution of a very popular VR interface. Hopefully the path they've chosen is popular with their third party partners who will need to develop more immersive environments. With the direction that Nintendo is headed in (including dynamic learning and real world utilitarian content), they might have something of a revolution indeed.

User interface is nearly everything to a successful game and today's current console controllers still lack a level of fine control. If the controller for the Revolution solves that problem, we will see the controller copied to other platforms. It's always good to be the first with something new as long as there are games available that make good use of the new technology. I think it's good for the whole industry, to see a big manufacturer tamper with the user interface; it lets us know that it's acceptable to think outside the box and make big moves forward. Nintendo is not waiting for everyone else; they are leading the way with the user interface, with the DS and now the Revolution. New types of games and maybe better gameplay for the old type is in store for us, that should be good for Nintendo.
-Kent Simon, NovaLogic

The new controller from Nintendo will absolutely be beneficial to the game industry in general. It is a very public challenge to our assumptions about how we interact with games and anything that makes us re-examine assumptions is healthy for this industry. Much like with the DS, this new approach will create opportunities for third-party developers that are positioned to work with the new controller. The only entity that this move is likely to hurt is Nintendo itself, but despite a certain ‘lack of love' from the industry press, I think Nintendo still has the kind of clout and mind-share capital with consumers to pull it off.
-Tim Turner, Mind Control Software

I think it's a fantastic move for the industry (and gamers). Who isn't looking forward to seeing what fun and unique new games Nintendo comes up with? I know I'll be first in line. If anyone can deliver on the promise of expanding the market, it's Nintendo - and they've proved that in Japan with DS Brain Training and Nintendogs. I think it's also a good move for Nintendo's bottom line as well, as it further differentiates them (in a positive manner) from Sony and Microsoft, which is critical. As for third parties, I think it will be successful for companies that invest the resources to create Nintendo-caliber games. I doubt you'll see as much third party support for the Revolution as the PS3 & Xbox 360, which leaves a great big opening of opportunity for adventurous or niche developers to fill. But companies whose businesses are built on raw cross-platform development are going to see the fewest copies sold on the Revolution.
-Vince Dickinson, EA-Tiburon

Nintendo's choice for controller design seems to be a move that will take them out of competition with Sony and Microsoft for good. Will Nintendo be able to carve its own niche by being able to offer what its competitors cannot? Well, that remains to be seen. Having been in a solid third place, it's easy to see why Nintendo would look towards offering something that the other two consoles cannot. By supporting more party games and alternative software titles that use a control scheme that is impossible to mimic on other consoles, Nintendo may find a way to flourish on the side while the two champs dive headfirst into a next-gen slugfest.

While I too was surprised when I first saw the controller, I do believe that the move is beneficial for Nintendo, 3rd parties, and the industry. While I can't say whether anyone will benefit financially, I believe that the current state of the industry could use some innovation like Nintendo is offering with this new controller. Nintendo is going out on a limb to offer the industry a tool that can potentially revolutionize games. Whether 3rd parties support this move or not is really up to them. I would leave you with this thought though: When Nintendo created the gamepad it was adopted as the norm; when they created the analog stick it was adopted as the norm; when they created rumble it was adopted as the norm. Their track record is strong. I hope that this new controller allows developers to offer gamers new and unique ways to interface with the medium.
-Alex Neuse, Activision

I think that Nintendo has just designed the controllers for the generation after the one that is upon us. The biggest problem with the next generation is that there is really no difference between the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Both consoles are going to have gorgeous graphics, online options and the like. If Nintendo went the usual, typical route, then we would be looking at three consoles that are too similar. With their new controller, Nintendo has given us something distinctive, something that is unique. They have given us something that is not quite what you expected and a reason to look forward to the next gen. I know what I'm getting when I play with a 360 controller or a PS3 controller. There are no real surprises there. That's not a bad thing but it also doesn't really excite me about the experience. The Metroid Prime demo really blew me away when I read the impressions. I think that dual analog control schemes for FPS are loony compared to mouse-look setups. The NDS is the only other real option for accurate FPS controls outside of a PC. The Revolution controller offers a potential option outside of the PC as well as a potentially good use of light gun schemes, steering wheel set ups, mouse-like selection and management in strategy games...the possibilities are there. I think Nintendo is on the right track by trying to do something different. If they tried to fight the good fight between Sony and Microsoft, they would lose horribly. Even if Nintendo secured great third party support, branding would work against them since most of the core demograph would get theirs on 360 or PS3 first anyway. Nintendo needed to get creative to bring something new to the fold, while keeping their fanbase and pushing the industry. I say, "Well done! Show me the actual Revolution and some games Nintendo. Now, you have my attention"
-Victor Bunn, Solo Mission Studios

It definitely seems to be beneficial for Nintendo. With Sony and MS both going for the high-powered, third party fueled, traditional gaming market, Nintendo needed a really good way to differentiate itself, and boy did it find one. It's potentially a good move for some third party developers, as it presents so many new gameplay possibilities, and you can get away with lower production costs if the core gameplay is new and fun. Good for the industry in general? Of course, how could new and innovative ideas be bad? People still have Sony and Microsoft to rely on for the same old, same old, and now they can get something different as well.
-Robert Green, Sidhe Interactive

Nintendo undoubtedly finished last in the current generation console race mainly because of their lack of online gaming and their overall game selection. With that said, I feel that this move is beneficial because its shows that Nintendo is sought to create the most innovative console/controller for their upcoming retail feud with Microsoft and Sony. I think this controller is also beneficial for developers and the industry because it provides more options for game design and offers a more unique style of gameplay for the players.
-Brian DeLay

This will be great for the industry in general. The majority of our customers are too dense to understand that there are better ways to play games than joysticks, mice, and keyboards. They don't even understand why you'd want to move in true 3D space (all 6 degrees of freedom), or why you'd want to touch a screen instead of positioning a cursor on it. They think that technology from 20 years back is still used to control games because it's still the best. It's ridiculous. I work for a company that has been selling a motion tracking game input device since 2001 (based on your simple head movement, instead of a wand/remote), and we're fascinated to see how Nintendo handles the paradigm shift. It will be a huge benefit for innovative companies (hardware or software) when Nintendo educates the mass market about what new technology can offer.
-Warren Blyth, NaturalPoint

While initial images of the controller had me confused and worried, reading about the technical capabilities of the device has left me greatly anticipating Nintendo's Revolution system. The potential for this controller to fundamentally change the way we interact with games, as many have noted, is incredibly deep. Further, the design of the controller's features appears to take into account the natural tendency of gamers to move themselves, even the entire controller, during intense gameplay experiences. Now instead of looking like morons we may actually be able to affect the outcome of our gaming efforts.
-Jason Ward, Ugly Baby Studios

Absolutely. The new controller will set Nintendo apart in a console market dominated by hardware specs, open up a new playing field for developers, and give consumers the new experiences they've been clamoring for. Now that processing resources are virtually unlimited, it's going to take a drastic move to bring gaming to the next level—something that the Revolution's controller could very well accomplish.
-Ben Serviss, Creo Ludus Entertainment

When people are asked who they think of when thinking of video games, the majority of the answers are “Mario” or “Nintendo.” Nintendo is video games. They have led the industry with innovations since their inception, and now they're simply kicking it up a notch. This move for them puts them in a place where no other console has ever ventured before - the non-gamer market. So, yes I do think this is a good move for developers and the industry in general. It gives gamers a chance to experience games in an entirely different light, and it pushes us developers to think outside the box. As for the new controller design being a good idea for Nintendo, well time will only tell.
-Darren Schnare

Nintendo's ingenuity and willingness to experiment with new designs is great for all involved. The Revolution has been immensely from the attention generated by the new design. 3rd party developers now have an entirely new control system to design to. At first, it may lengthen their design cycles, but in the end it will yield more intriguing titles.
-Patrick Lister, Infinity Ward

The new revolution controller is Nintendo's way of saying "without this, the new system will be the same as the old system", which is reasonably true of all the next-gen systems. It is however, a very good idea, if not just for Nintendo, then for the industry in general. Why? Simple, remember 1980? The game development market crashed because we stayed too long at the same level of technology and games didn't really get any different. The past few years we have had increasing technology - but as a consumer we're not really able to see it. All the games look just the same. This new twist will revive all the gamers who stopped playing because everything's exactly the same as it used to be, and is going to be really good for the industry
-Michael McCarthy, Algonquin

I shudder to think what the game industry would look life if only Microsoft and Sony were left to duel it out. I could honestly see another crash looming were it not for Nintendo's breath of fresh air. The PS3 and X360 are so homogenized it's not even funny. They both have virtually the same specs and have functionally identical controllers. As a designer I'm extremely excited by all the new possibilities the Revolution controller will bring. As a gamer I'm salivating. When the most innovative thing Microsoft or Sony could come up with is higher resolutions, Nintendo comes out of left field with something that just may be a Revolution. I can't see this thing failing 3rd party support or not.
-Ian Fisch, Gameloft

If the relative 3D orientation of the controller works in anywhere in the room, the possibilities are endless. What else can a developer ask for?
-Donald William

I believe the Revolution is a huge step in the right direction for creating new types of games for casual and hardcore gamers. I think everyone will benefit from this system. However, the person who will benefit the most is my wife since we will finally be able to play games together! She is left handed, and has never been able to get into the current complex controllers or genres. It's like the Revolution was specially designed for her! Add in the classic titles and backwards compatibility (I was broke after college and missed out on a ton of good Gamecube titles) this system will definitely have a place in my home.

While most respondents were quite positive, one respondent had a more negative outlook on the prospects and viability of the Revolution controller:

They say change is good. Looking at the controller, I would say, “If it isn't broke, don't fix it.” In my opinion, the only saving grace is that players will be able to use the original GameCube controller with the Revolution. It would be a much better peripheral than its main controller. Keep in mind, all of this is based on looks, being since I have yet to play with the controller. But, grabbing my TV remote and tilting it to move, etc, like the new Rev controller is supposed to act, I got a cramp in my wrist and it felt unnatural. At least it's got everyone talking about the Revolution, perhaps that was the plan all along. They say that to change the way we play games, we must change the way we interact with them. This might be partially true, but I think what the industry needs is innovation in game design, not game control. I don't necessarily want to change the way I interact with games. After all, if that was so important, we all would be wearing Virtual Boys today.


[Please note that the opinions of individual employees responding to the Question Of The Week may not represent those of their company.]

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About the Author(s)

Quang Hong


Quang Hong is the Features Editor of Gamasutra.com.

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