The most obvious of these issues is simply that the tech itself is just not up to snuff yet. Most core gamers are not clinging to their gamepads today because of some irrational grudge against the motion control audience (though some sad souls certainly are), but rather because a joystick-and-buttons setup is still more comfortable to use. When your product is based on the promise of making things simpler, and many of your potential consumers are finding that said product is only creating another barrier to their hobby, you probably need to reconsider the quality of the products you're pushing.
Yet that's exactly the basis of the Wii, Kinect, Move and other motion control platforms' sales: their promise. The thing about Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony and others promoting "the future of gaming" is that they're implicitly acknowledging that they're not selling for the present. Right here and right now, the traditional controller setup simply works better. There'll be no calibration issues, no forced repeating of particular motions, no waving your arms around like a weirdo to no avail. There's a reason they call it a "controller," after all—it's direct, reliable, and gets the job done, once you get used to it. Motion controls can't always promise to be that way at the moment.
It's been said before, but it's difficult not to view this generation of motion controls as some sort of beta period for whatever future motion tech the coming generations may bring. Many have decided to hop aboard to get a taste of how our children and children's children may play their games, but for now, the idea of motion control setups being anything more than a supplement or alternative to the traditional gaming experience seems pretty far from reality. Promises can only get you so far; eventually, results are going to be required to sustain the public's interest.
Which brings us to the most crucial reason motion controls haven't "changed gaming" for the better in the eyes of most longtime gamers: There just aren't many good games that utilize the motion control devices yet. Gamers, as you can guess, love games. They especially like good games. But most motion-enabled titles either aren't that good (think Kinect Star Wars), are shallow (think Sports Champions), are very genre-specific and tend alienate that "core" market (think Just Dance), or downplay the actual motion control aspect of their experiences (think almost every other motion control game released). Again, the diagnosis is pretty simple: Hardware needs good software in order to succeed.
Sure, the Wii has produced some wonderful games over its lifespan—it'd be impossible to sell 100 million units otherwise—but many of those games seem to treat their non-traditional controls as something tacked on, or somewhat unnecessary to truly enjoying their experiences. Look at it this way: Could you imagine playing and enjoying Super Mario Galaxy with traditional controls for picking up stars, doing spin attacks, and floating around through space? Could you imagine enjoying it more that way? Did swinging a sword in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker come more naturally for you than in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (which was hailed as finally "getting" the Wii controls right, seven years into the console's life)?
Many players would still answer "yes" to questions like these, and as such, they tend to see motion controls as more distracting than rewarding to their games. Since the technology itself is not quite there yet, and since many game developers are still learning how to work with the stuff, that judgment is only that much easier to make.
Ultimately, for motion controls to bring more positive change to the industry—something besides just getting more people to buy the products—killer apps, ones which utilize the technology as a fundamental part of their experiences, need to be made. The controls for those experiences then need to, you know, work all the time. It's easier said than done, for sure, but, as is often the case with dilemmas like these, a complex problem only requires a few simple fixes.
Motion game-making companies have done a good job of bringing a great portion of the sizable audience necessary for making the platform take off, but unless the distinction between "motion gamer" and "core gamer" is lessened, it's hard to imagine this trend sustaining itself in the long run. Meanwhile, the dream of continuously rewarding, non-awkward motion controls will remain just that: a dream. Until that promise becomes a reality, gamers will continue to be stuck in this weird middle ground—while some people will continue to laugh and wave their hands around, the rest of us are either going to ignore the tech entirely, or be left feeling like clowns.
Date: August 7, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central. This week's is also purely a work of fiction*