Seems like we can’t go more than a week without someone bringing up 3D games, 3D TVs or the Nintendo 3DS. And just when we were about to move on from the “whoa motion controls!” days, Microsoft and Sony decide to trot out their waggle-ready tech just as the Wii fervor was dying down. Normally we’d tolerate repeated use of modern buzzwords, but that’s just it – these aren’t modern buzzwords at all.
Just about all of the industry’s current innovations are polished failures of gaming’s dark past. Publishers and developers can throw as much glitter as they want at their latest gadgets and gizmos, but we can smell an old turd from a mile away, and need to won over if we’re going to embrace that bad idea all over again.
Hands-free gaming gone bad
Classic failure: Power Pad (1987)
Current technology: Wii Balance Board (2008)
Maybe Nintendo was crazy to think gamers would want to get off their couches to run and jump on a tiny plastic mat. Or, maybe the company had a genius plan that wouldn’t properly pan out for another 20 years. Either way, the Power Pad enjoyed a year of relative success, then faded into nothingness once the games dried up. Some devs tried to get creative (Short Order and Eggsplode come to mind), but most of the Power Pad games involved a lot of strenuous, frustrated running.
Above: This is fun exactly twice
If we really wanted to run our asses off, we would have gone outside to play like our mothers demanded. Instead, we ran in place until our hearts threatened to burst right out of our chests. Today, the Wii Balance Board provides a much more sensible experience, emphasizing small movements instead of fast-as-you-can running that barely functioned in the first place.
Above: “They should totally bring the Power Pad ba… oh”
Truth be told, Nintendo was never responsible for the Power Pad. Its origins lie with Bandai (now Namco Bandai), which makes the recent Active Life series the real Power Pad successor. And surprise, it’s still not all that fun.
Classic failure: Power Glove (1989)
Current technology: Wii Remote (2006)
When we were kids, the talk around the schoolyard was the Power Glove, one of the earliest attempts to pass off unusable garbage as a cutting-edge videogame tool. Everything from the advertising to Nintendo Power coverage to its infamous appearance in The Wizard led us to think this was going to be virtual reality. After all, how cool would it be to throw Mario’s fireballs with our own hands? But just like the Power Pad, this controller never lived up to its potential.
Above: No, really, it is so bad
As with the Power Pad, the Power Glove had a horrible interface, limited functionality and barely any games to justify its existence. Decades later Nintendo would revisit the basic concept with its Wii Remote, and then further tweak the technology with 2009’s Wii MotionPlus. This brings us to Sony’s Move line of games, set to release this fall. Is there room for more than waggle wand? Will gamers eat it up for a third time?
Classic failure: Sega Activator (1993)
Current technology: Microsoft’s Project Natal (2010)
“You are the controller.” That is Sega’s statement in the instructional video for the Activator – an octagonal body-sensing controller that was hopelessly ahead of its time. The Activator was supposed to take gaming to a brand new level of interactivity. We were finally going to feel like we were inside of a game, interacting with the environment and characters like never before. Does this sound like something familiar? This is exactly what Microsoft plans to accomplish when it releases Project Natal later this year.
Above: “Thanks for buying a Sega Activator, sucker!”
Judging by the four minute explanatory video, you kinda get the sense this thing doesn’t work too well. That sense would be 100% correct, meaning yet another pile of plastic ends up in the trash less than a year after it debuts. Of course Natal will be light years ahead of the Activator – but will it be fun and different enough to matter? E3 2010 will be enlightening indeed.
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