Thursday, April 21, 2011

MovieBob's Insane Wii2 Theory

(posted to both blogs, because it's relevant)

Okay. By now, everyone is reasonably-certain that "Wii2" gets revealed at E3. And slightly-less-than-everyone is reasonably-certain that it's mystery-controller A.) isn't a Wii-Remote successor but rather can interface with one or something like one (knowing Nintendo this means peripheral backwards-compatibility, which they'd be INSANE not to do after selling everyone's mom a fortune in Wii Sports toolkits) and B.) incorporates a camera and mini-LCD touch screen into it's design - with most rumors suggesting the screen is roughly the size of an iPhone's, which would be HUGE for something that most are assuming is going to be "built-in" to a conventional dual-stick/buttons controller.

I've got a different theory...

I'll say upfront that I'm almost-certainly 100% off-base about this; largely because I have no talent or skillset for engineering. But on the off chance I'm right (or that it's not Nintendo's idea but not a bad one either...) here we go:

What if the touch-screen is an "everycontroller?"

Here's the idea: The screen will "fit" because it isn't there in-addition to action-buttons, but INSTEAD of action buttons. Basically, instead of dedicated action-buttons that every game has to be engineered for, the controller is just one or two analog sticks with NO dedicated action-buttons - instead, the touch-screen generates a set of "buttons" the arrangement and "form" of which are SPECIFIC to each individual game. Arcade-style buttons for a fighter, NES/SNES setup for a platformer, a PC-style stylus-oriented inventory menu for a sim (or an MMO?), something else for whole other genres I'm not thinking of or haven't been invented yet?

So, yeah. Crazy, probably not even close. But I don't think anyone could deny that this sounds EXACTLY like something Nintendo would do, right? Attention-getting, table-upturning, callous disregard for how 3rd party developers will feel about having to be controller-builders as well as game-designers and - this is the important part - it would LOOK ultra-revolutionary and cutting edge but can actually be built entirely out of decades-old technology their tech-teams are already well-versed in from the DS line. (Hmm... slightly-less insane theory: The controler will look like the bottom half of a 3DS, and a 3DS could be used in-place of one.)

So... uh-huh, that's kind of it: A controller that can turn into "any" controller - at least, that's how they'd sell it.

20 comments:

john said...

I seriously doubt they'd abandon physical buttons. That works on a smartphone where tactile feedback is just a minor nicety, but it's goddamn crucial for gaming.

(And it also means no shoulder buttons, unless you want to have buttons on the sides of the controller but inexplicably not on the face.)

The "bottom half of a 3DS" thing I could see, though.

counterpoint said...

very, VERY interesting idea.

i'm with john above, though - the lack of touch feedback could present a problem.

dkh said...

As the other two have said, tactile response is just far too important.

Still... This is Nintendo we're talking about. The Wii very much has been a rebuke of "classic" gaming, for good and for ill, and I have trouble believing they'd be able to attack the market head on against Sony and MS if they tried.

Interestingly, there is a system that sort of did that. The Intellivision. The face of the controller had twelve buttons with an additional two on each side for a total of sixteen. 'Course, that was some 30 years ago and it wasn't very good.... heh.

Popcorn Dave said...

I think you might be onto something, I've been wondering the same. The people who bought the Wii are probably now playing Angry Birds on their smartphones, and this might be a good way to capture that market once again. You could easily get some good casual games using this tech (using two or three big buttons instead of a whole controller that they don't understand). And you could label the buttons stuff like "attack", "block" etc. rather than XABY, even flashing stuff like "PRESS HERE" on the screen in tutorials and stuff. It would definitely solve the most common complaint made by non-gamers; that the controllers are too complicated.

Damnit though, it had better feature some hard buttons for "normal" games. I ain't playing Mario Galaxy 3 on no stinkin' touchscreen, and I think people would view that as Nintendo's final "fuck you" to their core fanbase. If the iPhone taught us anything it's that touchscreens are just plain horrible for console-style games.

I think the bottom half of a 3DS is VERY plausible, though, and it would be extra-cool if the hard buttons could be context sensitive like they are on the Razer Switchblade. THAT setup could easily satisfy both hardcore gamers and casuals, just like... well, just like the DS did. Although let's be honest, you won't be able to use the 3DS instead, or if you are, you'll have to buy a special "adapter". You think Nintendo would pass up a chance to sell an accessory? Now that really IS insane!

ZAENGO said...

im certain this isnt going to happen. nintedo would never abandon physical buttons, mainly because its a TERRIBLE IDEA.

"a controller that can turn into 'any' controller" - no. it wouldnt be that. it wouldnt be anything like that. IT WOULD BE A GODDAMN TOUCHSCREEN.
come on, bob. nintendo isnt the kind of company that would sell an iphone with joysticks and call it a controller.

Reverend Allan Ironside said...

MobvieBob, I have my own theory. I call it "The Nintedo Pattern" Basically, Nintendo's consoles follow the same pattern each time.

The pattern is simple:
1:Innovation
2: Upgrade

First their console innovates the industry. The console that preceeds it is merely an upgrade of the existing console, but the console after THAT will be an innovator.

See, the NES innovated by providing a home console. The SNES was an upgrade.

N64 was innovative, Gamecube was an upgrade.

Gameboy was innovation, Gameboy Advance was an upgrade.

DS was an innovation, 3DS is the upgrade.

Wii was the innovation, so what we're going to get is without a doubt the upgrade to it, which is fine by me.

All of you watch. See if I'm wrong. The Nintendo Pattern must flow.

matallic said...

I actually like that idea the only problem I see in that is shoulder buttons. But other than that it's perfect. To the people out there that needs to "feel" the buttons needs to step up their gaming skills.

AniMerrill said...

Yeah, this is actually what came to mind when I heard about the new game controller having a touch screen. Although I was wary about this at first, with the iPhone having this capability with some games (having a virtual controller in the game's overlay), for some reason I trust Nintendo to do it better/make it awesome. I honestly welcome it open handedly, especially as a potential developer for a (hopefully) better market for indie games on the new system, but that's probably a far shot in the dark.

I just hope they pull a DS hat-trick.... what I mean was how we could play nearly ANY Gameboy game almost up until the DS was released, and then suddenly only GBA games and then suddenly... none. If Wii 2 doesn't have Gamecube/Wii backwards compatability, that'll be a big hit against it for me. I'm also gonna be kinda upset if they pull a Twilight Princess with the new Skyward Sword.......

But I digress.

Popcorn Dave said...

"To the people out there that needs to "feel" the buttons needs to step up their gaming skills."

What a load of bollocks. Games should be easy or hard because they're designed that way, not because you're suddenly expected to play them by stroking a piece of glass.

Replacing buttons with a touchscreen just makes the games more annoying and difficult for no good reason. Nintendo will be making a big mistake if they try to market the Wii2 as [i]purely[/i] touchscreen controlled, since it will make their core games like Zelda and Mario a giant pain in the ass.

Adam said...

It's an interesting thought. Didn't the iPhone ports of Street Fighter IV and Secret of Mana do exactly that? I think they did but I have no idea how well it worked.

But I agree with others that have said the controller basically sounds like the bottom half of a DS which is fine by me just as long as it's not too expensive.

I also agree with Reverend with the Innovation/Upgrade pattern. Many people complain at the applications of motion controls, but really I feel most peoples' problems with the Wii stem from the fact that it was so graphically inferior to the HD twins. If the rumors hold true with this thing it really seems like Nintendo taking with they have and just giving it a lot more juice.

To be honest I don't care too much at this point. What I really want to hear from Nintendo at E3 is that all those Japanese games (Last Story, Xenoblade, etc.) and Skywayrd Sword will be available in the West before the end of this year.

MovieBob said...

@Popcorn Dave,
See, the thing is... I think Nintendo actually has a better grasp of what their "core fanbase" will tolerate than the core fanbase itself does.

They've basically got three "devoted fanbases" - people my age who grew up with NES/SNES, people a generation younger who had N64/Cubes and played Smash Bros. and Mario Party to memorization, and Pokemon devotees. And what all three have in common is that they're following franchises - not hardware. Nintendo's assumption is that the vast majority of them will "get used to" whatever new control/hardware format they're asked to in order to play the next Mario/Zelda/Kirby/Metroid/Pokemon/etc., and their probably right.

@Adam,
We might as well just be angry about this NOW and get it over with: Skyward Sword is probably going to get delayed in order to be a (dual?) launch-title for the Wii2. The "salve" that'll be intended to make us less angry about this will be a glimpse of the return of Racoon Mario in New SMB2 or the announcement of Smash Bros 3DS.

Chris Evans said...

Not a bad idea, could totally see nintendo doing it.

What it would also point to is a possible future handhold device like the PSP phone. A device like the one you describe wouldn't be far different than a smart phone.

Hasse said...

My theory is different. In my point of view you didn't take the codename into consideration and I don't think you thought it through enough, really. A controller with a changable button layout just doesn't cut it for Nintendo.

This is what I think it might be(also a crazy theory):
Project Cafe will be a game system where it is possible to play more than one game at once, thanks to some good hardware and the video streaming to the controllers in addition to the TV screen. Therefore, like a cafe, you can gather with friends and family and enjoy different games as well as easy drop-in co-op and vs. games, etc. Kind of how at a cafe you can sit with a friend while reading different newspapers, but still share a good story with your friend if you feel like it and engage in discussion.

Adam said...

@MovieBob

Yes that probably is what's going to happen as that is pretty much what everyone else saying. In the back of my mind I've accepted this but until Nintendo actually says it I can pretend otherwise.

The one thing that makes me wonder is that if the new console is as powerful as rumors say holding Zelda over seems strange as there will be a noticeble difference between it and whatever other launch titles there are (assuming they don't update its look, which doesn't seem likely). While the Twilight Princess delay was aggravating it still looked good on the Wii since the Wii wasn't that much more powerful. Heck TP still looks better than a lot of current Wii efforts despite being a GC game at the core.

But whatever. Nintendo will do and the faithful (like me) will wait regardless.

Axle said...

I think the only thing wrong with that idea is the lack of shoulder buttons or buttons that are on the back side.

Dave said...

That would be terrible. The whole point of buttons is tactile feedback. No complex control system could be supported on a touch surface.

I have my own prediction. When Cafe comes out and is more powerful than the 360 or ps3, nintendo fanboys will suddenly discover that graphics matter again. And will overlook the archaic featureset due to the shiny.

Popcorn Dave said...

MovieBob: Good point - when it comes to franchises, we gamers always shout "won't get fooled again!" but happily go out and buy everything from franchise X without a second thought.

We shouldn't forget just how pissed off people are at how the Wii turned out, though. If they go ahead with full touchscreen, no decent third party developer is going to want to touch it and we'll have YET ANOTHER Nintendo console which gets five or six first party games every year and absolutely nothing else. And if the first party games continue to be glorified remakes, then... well, let's just say, not every "Nintendo fan" is as committed as you.

Of course, Ninty won't care about third party devs if they can hook the casual market again (these are the guys who let Square get away, after all), but casuals are a fickle crowd and it's a risky move to rely on them again. Let's not forget, casual gamers are now accustomed to paying 99p a game or less, on devices that an also do phone, Internet, etc; things have changed a lot since 2006.

"nintendo fanboys will suddenly discover that graphics matter again"

HAH! That will indeed be beautiful. "Stupid PS3 noobs, your graphics are sooooo outdated! Don't you know graphics are what it's all about?"

Clayton said...

I could actually see this happening. And well, let's face it, Nintendo has managed to do touch-screens and motion control to a LOT of their franchises and they've done GREAT. Nintendo seems to be one of the few developers that knows what TRUE innovation is

Dave said...

@Rev

Another thing worth noting is that by and large, the upgrades are less financially successful and less well thought of than the innovators. Given the wii's rather lackluster use as a modern game device, doesn't bode well.

@Popcorn

An excellent point. IN 2006, the wii was the only system I was excited about. I bought my xbox to tide me over till the less expensive wii. Guess what happened? My xbox became my primary console, microsoft became my favourite gaming company and nintendo slowly eroded my trust over 5 years.

The reason I started watching the overthinker movies


And the casual set is fickle. My neighbour is a woman in her 40s who had a wii. Just 2 months ago she called me over to hook up her kinect.

The list of hardcore gamers who still are interested in nintendo is getting smaller and smaller. And the more nintendo relies on nostalgia to sell their games, the more out of date they get. We already know Chair can make a better metroid game than nintendo...and do so on a budget. And the indie scene is fast outstripping the 2d mario games. Not many safe places left, especially if the online portion of the new console is as horribly antiquated as it has been.

Popcorn Dave said...

While the Wii was mainly marketed to non-gamers, there was a lot for gamers to get excited about too. A new Zelda game, except now you can swing your sword to attack! Nice! Steer your car in Mario Kart by turning the controller? Awesome! First Red Steel ad, showing the guy firing off guns, swords and even throwing grenades using over-the-top hand gestures? Badass! So even though motion control was clearly a gimmick, it certainly had people hooked at the start.

I don't think "a new Zelda game, except this time on a touchscreen like you use for Angry Birds" would have the same attraction. It would have a good shot at hooking the casual market (since touchscreens are, like, really futuristic, maaaan) but most gamers and third party devs wouldn't touch the thing. And yeah, maybe like Bob says, the true Ninty-lovers will buy it anyway just because they're desperate to buy the next Mario, but I think he's overestimating how large a group that is when there are so many good alternatives. Even if they hooked the casual market with the touchscreen-only controller, it wouldn't be any good, we'd just have a load of touchscreen shovelware.

As a side note, I'm a bit worried about the timing of this. I've heard a lot of people saying it'll be like the XBox 360 - getting a foot in the door before anyone else is ready - but it could just as easily be like the Dreamcast - completely ignored because everyone knew something better was just around the corner.