Why The Wii Will Beat Project Natal And PlayStation Move
So, motion controllers? Are they really the future of gaming, or just a big fad that only kids and grandparents enjoy? Without being able to travel twenty years into the future to pass judgement, you can only hazard a guess that neither of those two statements prove to be implicitly true. Motion-sensing controllers may well be integrated into all future gaming systems in the same way analogue control, force-feedback and wireless handsets have been in today’s generation.
Nintendo’s bold attempt at widening the market with its fantabulous motion-sensing Wii remote has so far paid off and, inevitably, the competition are not far behind. At the same time however, traditional controllers aren’t going to be completely eradicated, at least not if gaming companies want to avoid the largest flaming campaign since internet records began.
So if they are here to stay, which of the three efforts will be seen to be the most successful in years to come? Hopefully you’ve already read our previous articles on Natal and Move – now it’s the turn of the Wii and Motion Plus!
The biggest reason why Nintendo will stay ahead of the game is that it’s already been there, done that, worn the T-Shirt and banked millions of dollars in the process. Being the first to a new market is incredibly important, and if things go your way, it can make your market share unassailable. Nintendo had already poured millions into R&D for the DS and Wii before Sony and Microsoft started to follow suit. They even had time to refine the motion-sensing technology, in the form of motion-plus, before any rival system was available. For Microsoft and Sony to get to the same point, tech-wise, they must have spent huge amounts of dollars – money that would surely have been siphoned from ‘core’ development. In the end, the R&D bill would have been far more than Nintendo’s outlay due in part to the need to ‘beat’ Nintendo’s technology but also, crucially, due to the extra costs hi-definition development brings with it.
This is another key point, at least from a developer’s point of view; on the Wii, costs for an experimental title aren’t far off those for a PS2-gen title.
It was pretty clear, especially in the first year of the Wii’s life, that publishers weren’t keen on taking a risk and pouring large amounts of money into developing for an unproven platform, judging by the poor-looking works from Ubisoft, EA etc. Those that did take a chance and tried to do something interesting with the new technology got their fingers burnt. Just look at sales of Zack & Wiki, Pro Evo and Mad World for a hint at the general apathy such experimental titles faced at retail. Now imagine a publisher’s reaction to having to take the same risk but with the additional costs of hi-definition presentation thrown in. The flip-side of this argument is that nicer graphics could equal bigger sales, and this is very much a great unknown factor. It’s very possible that the core demographic would pay more attention to a hi-def natal bowling game, or a key franchise updated with built in-motion controller support (such as the upcoming Resident Evil 5 for PS3). The trouble is, unknown factors don’t sit well with those having to front the cash.
Costs associated with early Wii development were offset to an extent by developing multiplatform versions alongside a Wii game. The same can be said for 360 and PS3 development. There is no such luxury with Natal and Move; it’s pretty much all or nothing. You can’t even co-develop between the platforms, as the technologies the two are using aren’t easily compatible (Natal has no associated physical controller for example). So far, there hasn’t been a torrent of games announced from developers, and you shouldn’t expect many to be revealed until either of the new peripherals start racking up the sorts of numbers Wii/Motion-Plus/Wii Fit has accumulated, making exclusive titles a viable option.
Speaking of numbers, Nintendo has this aspect tied up already. For every gamer obsessed with having the coolest, most powerful machine, or the one with the technical intelligence, there are millions of regular people who don’t have a clue what a polygon is, or why having lots of them is so important. All they want to do is have a little fun. It’s this crowd that Nintendo has already won over with Wii and it’s this mass popularity which will ultimately make them the winner of the motion-sensor war. No matter how good Natal or Move are from a technical standpoint, to the untrained eye they are just another rip-off of the Wii.
They are both, undoubtedly, very impressive pieces of kit, but can you see all those casual gamers who have long since put the Wii on the shelf (if some cynics are to be believed) forking out for yet another expensive ‘fad’?