My first impression of the Nintendo Revolution controller is: wow. I’m not exactly sure of the details, but it appears that they have a very good tracking system to detect the movement of the controller and where it’s pointing. For the last 20 years, every time I’ve seen someone new try to play a console video game, their first instinct is to yank their hands around — pushing, pulling, twisting, and jabbing with the action. You actually have to train yourself not to move your hands so that you don’t look like a total lamer.
By (finally) taking advantage of this instinct they’re going to open up console gaming to a much wider audience who wouldn’t normally want to take the time to learn how to play. So, what about existing gamers that use a typical controller like an extension of their hand? Nintendo is going to have to do some serious marketing. Historically, people have thought of Nintendo as the console for kids — which has hurt them as gamers have moved into adulthood. By making the controller this easy to use and employs those newbie first moves, they risk looking like a console for the non-gamer. The truth is, it adds a lot of flexibility and power. This is the first console controller that could make first-person-shooters playable, something all true gamers should love. Now I understand why Nintendo was so worried about Sony and Microsoft copying them.
Speaking of Microsoft, they’ve announced that the new XBox 360 will be available just in time for the holiday rush this year. No word yet on when the Play Station 3 will be available. I bet Nintendo would love to launch before they do, and if they’re announcing the controller, maybe that means they’re getting close. The question is: will there actually be enough fun games to make the entire console worth it? Nintendo needs to out price their competitors (I have no doubt they will), and they need to have at least one great game that will make buying the console worth it.
Update: Here’s a link to the keynote speech.