Forget the joysticks. Never mind those 16-button controllers. And make sure, gamers, that you're sitting down for this one.
Closing out nearly a year of fervent speculation, Nintendo has revealed the new controller for its next home console, code-named the Nintendo Revolution. And as promised, the company's controller looks and plays like nothing seen in video games before (see "Gamers Suggest Headset — Or Propeller — As New Nintendo Controller").
On Friday morning in Japan, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata kicked off this year's Tokyo Game Show by unveiling a white prototype Revolution controller that looks more like a TV remote than a gaming device. In a break from 20 years of hardware designs, it's designed to be used with just one hand.
The controller's most notable feature — invisible in still images — is that players will be able to affect onscreen movement by moving the controller through the air. With the help of two sensors positioned on each side of their TV, Revolution gamers will be able to twist, tilt and flick the controller in order to aim in first-person shooters, steer in racing games and zoom in for a closer view of onscreen action.
"The feeling is so natural and real, as soon as players use the controller, their minds will spin with the possibilities of how this will change gaming as we know it today," Iwata said in a statement.
For months Nintendo executives had promised that the Revolution controller would transform the way people play games. The new device clearly upends the status quo.
"It really is taking conventional wisdom and throwing it out of the window for how you've played games before," Nintendo's senior director of corporate relations, Beth Llewelyn, told MTV News. "When you pick up this controller, whereas you've always relied on pressing the buttons for any kind of movement, here ... the controller itself [dictates] what's happening onscreen."
Llewelyn offered some other examples of how the controller might function, suggesting the potential of a hypothetical Revolution fishing game. "If you can imagine casting, literally that motion you use with your wrist, that's what you use with the controller," she said. "If you're pulling back to catch a fish, pull back on the controller." For a game with a map, she said players might zoom in for a tighter view by moving the controller closer to the screen. In a first-person shooter, players can tether the controller to an add-on that bears an analog stick and shoulder buttons, using the add-on to move and shoot, while moving the new Revolution controller in the air to move the character's gun. That type of setup would resemble a merger of high-tech puppetry and "Doom."
Nintendo has long pushed for innovation in game control and set several industry standards along the way, including directional pads, analog sticks and even the horizontal, two-hands-needed orientation of most controllers released since the 1985 Nintendo Entertainment System.
But Nintendo was also the company behind the Nintendo Power Glove, a poorly received peripheral for the NES that was supposed to allow players to manipulate games with a wave of the hand. It also created the Virtual Boy, a 1995 gaming system designed to emulate virtual reality with a visor that showed games in shades of red and is the commercial failure most often cited by those who say Nintendo's experimentalism occasionally overreaches.
Last year the company experimented again, defying expectations that it would answer the introduction of Sony's powerful PSP handheld with a more powerful Game Boy. Instead Nintendo produced the two-screen DS, touting the dual displays and touch-screen functionality as the kind of innovation needed to freshen the gaming market.
Llewellyn likened the uniqueness of the Revolution controller to that of the DS. "It's definitely one of those things where when you get it in your hands it all clicks, like, 'Oh I get this.' "
The DS had initially been met with much critical head-scratching and has been losing market share to the PSP in America. But it significantly outsells the more powerful but more conventional PSP in Japan on the strength of the unconventional dog simulator "Nintendogs" (see "If You Enjoy Picking Up Virtual Doggy Doo, You'll Love 'Nintendogs' ") and a series of "Brain Training" mental-exercise games (see "With Video Games Slumping, Japan Flexes Its 'Brain' Power"). Both games take advantage of the system's unconventional abilities for functions like petting the dogs or handwriting answers to math problems. (The August release of "Nintendogs" in America has also signficantly boosted sales of the DS here.)
Nintendo hopes the Revolution's own oddities will also pay off. The Revolution controller has fewer buttons than today's game controllers. It includes three action buttons, a directional pad, a trigger on the underside and a trio of buttons labeled "start," "select" and "home." Held horizontally with two hands, the device bears a button layout that matches that of the NES controller, assumedly a feature that will be used for the Revolution's advertised ability to play games from Nintendo's four previous home consoles.
Llewelyn pointed to the system's sockets for GameCube controllers to explain how gamers might control games from that system on Revolution. She said control solutions for playing Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 games on Revolution are still being worked out.
The Nintendo Revolution is due in 2006.