Once in a while, in the middle of a long caffeine and video game binge, Joshua Wirtanen starts making wild predictions about the future of gaming. In this weekly column, we will take a closer look at some of these predictions. It's up to you, the reader, to decide whether these have any truth to them or if it's just the caffeine talking.
Back in 1989, Nintendo released a little device called the Power Glove. It was an actual glove that made you look like you had a robotic arm complete with a Nintendo controller built in. You could make various motions with your hand, like some sort of robotic space wizard, and these motions would translate into different controls to make your video game avatar run, jump, shoot, and perform all sorts of digital tricks.
In the film The Wizard, also released in 1989, Lucas Barton loved his Power Glove because it was "so bad." Of course, by "bad" he actually meant "good," but this product placement failed to convince gamers that this device was the next big thing. The world just wasn't ready for the Power Glove.
Fast forward twenty-plus years. In the 2010s, technology has evolved considerably. A supercomputer can fit in a briefcase, and a mobile phone can be carried in your jeans pocket. We no longer carry around Walkmans; now we have digital players that are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, yet they can hold thousands of hours worth of music and hundreds of hours of videos.
So, is it time for the Power Glove to make its triumphant return? I think so. In fact, there are two current trends in gaming that have prepared us for just such an event.
First of all, motion controls are finally catching on. The Wiimote brought motion controls into the homes of millions of people. Sony and Microsoft have finally caught onto this trend with the Move and the Kinect, respectively. Whether you like it or not, these things are revitalizing the gaming industry. In a year of declining video game sales all around, the Kinect and the Move both boosted the video game "hardware" category into very impressive sales figures. People just love to get physically involved in gaming.
A second important trend is the revival of retro gaming. Many game series are returning to their roots after they had previously forsaken them for the sake of "progress." The Mega Man series returned to the visual style of yesteryear with the 8-bit Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10. Mario returned to the 2D scene with New Super Mario Bros. and Sonic did the same with Sonic the Hedgehog 4. Even Mortal Kombat is jumping on the "old school" bandwagon by bringing the series back to the gameplay style of the 1990s (with a very improved graphical look, of course).
The indie gaming scene delivered some extremely tasty 2D platformers in 2010, epitomized by Super Meat Boy and the 8-bit VVVVVV. Both of these games brought back the sort of gameplay we would have expected in the 1980s.
To top it all off, games from a simpler era are doing very well these days. The Wii offers the Virtual Console, a place where gamers can purchase their favorite NES, Super NES, and Genesis classics. Nintendo is even taking it a step further by porting the beloved Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to their upcoming 3DS.