This Revolution will be televised. And remote controlled.
What, no smart pun in the title? Nope, it’s been done to death. But I couldn’t resist doing one in the caption. Sorry.
The “console wars” have begun (do they ever stop?), the Xbox360 has hit the markets all over the world (even in Australia), and hopefully both the PlayStation3 and the Nintendo Revolution will arrive before the end of this year.
Earlier, I’ve mentioned that I’m enthusiastic about the possibilities for SingStar on the PlayStation 3. However, when it comes to consoles, I’m firmly in the Nintendo camp. That’s quite natural considering I grew up with the 8-bit NES and the 16-bit SNES. They lost me when they moved to 3D with the Nintendo 64, but they are still my favourite gaming company. Games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, StarWing, Super Mario Kart and Pilotwings ensure that it’s probably going to stay that way.
The past two console generations have seen other companies take the lead, however. First Sony usurped Nintendo’s N64 with the first PlayStation; then Sony and Microsoft became the major players with their PlayStation 2 and Xbox consoles in the previous generation, although Nintendo isn’t that far behind Microsoft.
For some time now, it’s been clear that Nintendo’s not interested in competing on Sony’s and Microsoft’s terms. Those terms can be summed up thus: “Make it faster, cooler, make games that are more complex with higher production values.” This results in consoles filled with expensive hardware and games that require tons of resources to create (high-quality graphics require high-quality artwork, for instance). This is pretty much what PC gaming has been about all along – and now and then something innovative happens. My favourite example is the gameplay of Battlefield 1942 and commander/squad roles of Battlefield 2.
The Nintendo Revolution
With their next console, Nintendo’s taking a different approach. Rather than pouring resources into basic hardware development to try and make a more powerful console megahertz-wise, they’ve focused on the input device – the joypad. Except it’s no joypad anymore, it looks like a remote control. The “Revolution controller” as it’s often called is a pointing device that’s also able to sense its own orientation – in other words, it knows where you’re aiming it and it knows which way it’s angled. It’s something that’s hard to explain, but the concept is easy to grasp if you see it – and reputedly also feels a lot more natural to use than you might think. Check out a concept video here (Google Video).
A totally new way to play, really novel, and all we have is a concept video, and you’re not convinced it’s anything more than a fancy gimmick? Well, this thread (Nintendo forums) gives a nice overview of what people think about it – including people who’ve actually tried it. There are quite a few smart people there, and most are very positive.
There are a few really obvious applications for such a controller. First-person shooters will have a control that lets you aim and fire in a natural fashion. The same is true for shoot’em ups. And then there’s all the stuff I can’t think of, of which some is displayed in the video on Google. I’m very excited about this, but there’s even more that tickles me about the Revolution.
Nintendo is planning to publish its entire back catalogue of games for it and make them downloadable. You’ll have to pay for them, but if this feature is priced right, it could take off. Even Duck Hunt sounds great if I can use a wireless controller to fire. Imagine playing Duck Hunt with a friend or three, furiously blasting away at the screen whenever a bird rises from the forest. (I happen to have a projector, which makes this even more exciting.) There’s a ton of old games I can’t wait to play again.
This fun is going to be relatively cheap. Nintendo has focused on the controller, and the hardware in the box itself will be pretty weak by Xbox360 standards (IGN). To be specific, IGN is talking about a 729 mhz processor and 88 megabytes of system memory. My guess is that this means it will be somewhat more powerful than the original Xbox, but it will have nowhere near the horsepower of the 360 or PlayStation 3. Part of the justification for the slow hardware is that Nintendo isn’t supporting computationally demanding high-definition TV output. Nintendo states that they want to focus on innovative gameplay that’s accessible to all – not just more advanced graphics. For people like me, this means that I don’t have to invest in a HDTV projector to get all the value out of my Revolution. And of course, the projected low cost of the console (149 – 199$ compared to 299-399$ for the XBox and 399$++ for the PlayStation 3) means that buying one will be something I will do without a second thought.
Wow, this is going to be great. I can see myself playing A Link to the Past on my projector with the wireless controller and enjoying games that require fast reflexes and vigorous pointing action. There are just two concerns: Will it make it to Europe this year? And can I possibly talk Nintendo into creating a SingStar clone?!
PS: There’s another advantage of the comparatively weak hardware. It’ll be small, sleek and probably slient.
Wikipedia: Nintendo GameCube
Nintendo Revolution unconfirmed hardware details on IGN
Nintendo president vows cheap games on CNN/Money
Forum thread at Nintendo forums giving an overview of opinions on and support for the Nintendo Revolution controller
Nintendo Revolution trailer at Google Video
Nintedo’s Revolution web site
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past in GameSpot’s Greatest games of all time feature