Why a handheld Wii is a terrible idea

From the looks of a patent recently filed by Nintendo, the Japanese games giant is currently flirting with the idea of a motion-sensitive, Wii-style handheld. Has Nintendo gone mad?

Sure, Wii's pick-up-and-play accessibility has been overwhelming in its appeal. And no doubt, in the jackpot-hunting minds of the number-crunchers at Nintendo HQ, it makes perfect sense to bring this fresh tech to a new "market." But that doesn't make it a good idea.

Here arejust five reasons why creating a motion-sensitive handheld iscrazier than a Jean-Claude Van Damme Oscar acceptance speech.

Above: Now just visualize yourself repeating these motions in public, surrounded by gawking bystanders

Wii have a bigger problem
A whole website phenomenon sprung up at the launch of Wii, triggered by a rash of injuries and other controller-inflicted damages. Black eyes, busted TVs, bruised spouses - it was nasty out there. Nintendo even had to step in and replace the Wiimote's wrist-strap, producing an even thicker harness for extra-clumsy gamers.

Now imagine this problem multiplied by the weight of an entire handheld. Forget bruises, we're talking broken bones. And while the Wiimote might survive a short trip through a monitor screen, your DS-size portable is highly unlikely to remain in one piece after being flung across a living room. Just a glance at the type of motions indicated on the patent screams "massive damage!"

How do you tell what's happening?
You don't need much in the way of design-know-how to realize that while you're shaking a motion-sensitive handheld like a salt shaker, the screen of said portable is utterly unreadable. Some games might be fine - racing ones, say, where you're just making tipping or turning movements. But try and do something interesting like sports sims or WarioWare-esque gestures, and we'll be playing blind. Which, surely, defeats the very idea of motion-sensitive gaming?

New developer problems
Code-heads outside of Nintendo HQ are still struggling to get the most out of Wii's motion-sensing capabilities - though Resident Evil4's successful port is a positive indication of things to come. Now imagine if DS developers had to start thinking up ways to use gesture technology. There are some brilliant games out for DS already, and none of which we can think would be made better with motion-sensing extras.

$200 for a controller?
Another possibility for the patent is the launch of an updated DS with the technology built-in. Which, then, would be used as a special controller for Wii games. So that's at least $200 for a Wiimote-substitute that, beyond a microphone, offers very little over the controllers already packaged with the console - and singing into what amounts to a plastic book isn't our ideal solution for Wii's lack of karaoke games.

Strange looks, wherever you go
Now, it's bad enough trying to train your Nintendog on the commute to work. If we get one more eyeballing from our fellow train-takers as we coo "play dead!" to our digital pet, we'll have reached a level of awkwardness we haven't experienced since puberty. Having to whirl the handheld around, shake it, flip it over or perform any other wild, over-exaggerated motion while we teach Fido to sit up and beg will only succeed in convincing the people surrounding us that, yes, we are utterly insane. Though having said that, we'd probably never have trouble finding a seat on our own again.

August 7, 2007