Talkin 'bout a Revolution

18th October 2005

Nintendo have caused a furore with their new Buck Rogers control pad. Listen in on any discussion in GAME or log on to any gaming forum on the internet and you'll find fanboys mournfully weeping or engaged in gleeful mockery of the Kyoto giant's quiet revolution. They say Nintendo have, after years of getting it slightly wrong, finally and decisively shot themselves in the foot. No-one in their right minds would be seen dead waving that thing around at the TV! They must be joking. Who would choose that underpowered remote-controlled gimmick when they could have a 360 or a PS3? The answer: everyone else.

Why did Nintendo feel assured enough to make such a radical break from the traditional console mould? From where did they get the confidence to stake their business (more or less) on a videogame console most videogame players think looks stupid? I mean, aren't gamers their target market? If we won't buy it, it'll be a flop, right? Wrong. The reason is this: the Revolution is not for us. I'll say that again, to make sure you heard.


By "us", I mean committed gamers. (If you're reading this and you're not a gamer, God bless you. I didn't expect you to be here, but I hope you'll stick around 'til the end. There'll be cheese and wine afterwards.)

Ahem. We committed gamers have certain concepts ingrained on our psyches: A to jump, B to attack, left stick to move, right stick for camera. These are facts, things we take for granted, and we forget that non-gamers don't have that unconscious understanding of how to control a game. Right trigger to accelerate, left trigger to brake. Put a PS2 pad in our hands and we feel totally at home; press one into Mum's hands and she won't know her R3 from her elbow. Down, down-right, right + punch; ha-do-ken.

The point is that people require training before they can use videogames. Modern control pads, the things that let us interact with these dazzling interactive fantasies, are complex, baffling devices. How many prospective gamers have been put off because they didn't have the time or inclination to learn how to use a control pad? Why bother, when you can put on a DVD?

The Revolution's "remote controller" isn't complex or baffling. It's intuitive (okay, okay, it looks intuitive. Obviously I haven't used it yet). Press it into Mum's hand and, after a couple of explanatory swipes, she'll be as much an expert as anyone. And then she'll be able to beat you at Virtua Tennis.