Tag Archives | Wii

Tiger Woods with Wii MotionPlus: Does it Work?

tigermotionplusOver the weekend, I finally had a chance to dig into Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 with the Wii MotionPlus, an accuracy-boosting dongle for the motion controller.

The game itself is a blast — there’s something inherently addicting about creating a likeness of yourself and molding it into a pro golfer — but for our purposes here, I’m more interested in the MotionPlus. The peripheral can detect pretty much exactly what you’re doing in real space and translate it into something on screen, but what really counts is how the game responds to that input, and it’s hard to find a metric with more subtleties than golf.

One thing’s certain: The game is staggeringly different with the added motion controls. Unplugging the dongle mid-game is a reminder of how awful the Wii’s controls were before, requiring little more than a slight arm flick to execute a full golf swing. The MotionPlus, by comparison, takes into account backswing, stroke speed and slight twists of the wrists.

On the game’s “Standard” difficulty setting, you can get away with plenty of non-traditional swings, including one-handed strokes and slapshots that channel Happy Gilmore. On this difficulty level, all that matters is how far your arms go back over your shoulder, stroke speed and how straight your wrists are aligned when “hitting the ball,” so to speak.

But crank the difficulty up to “Advanced” and the exploits become harder. It’s actually advantageous to swing like a real golfer on this setting, winding up without bending your elbows, then twisting the wrists slightly to bring the club all the way back. On the follow-through, hooks and slices become much more common.

Still, I’m not sure the Wii MotionPlus could teach someone how to swing properly, because there’s not enough feedback within the game. If you mess up, the game suggests that you try an easier setting, but it doesn’t explain in detail what’s wrong with the player’s swing. It’s impossible to tell whether a slice was caused by a twisted wrist or incorrect fundamentals.

If someone releases a proper golf trainer, we’ll know for sure how precise the MotionPlus can be. For now, I’m content to have fun.


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Why Mandatory Wii MotionPlus is a Good Thing

When Nintendo releases the accuracy-boosting Wii MotionPlus peripheral next month, it’s possible that game developers won’t force players to use it, and those that do may consider it a gamble.

I get that impression from recent comments by Jason Vandenberghe, creative director for Red Steel 2. Speaking to Nintendo Power magazine (via Nintendo Dpad) , Vandenberghe said making MotionPlus mandatory for the hack-and-shoot game is “a huge risk,” but there’s no way around it.

“We have no idea what the penetration rate for Wii MotionPlus will be,” he said. “We assume high. We would like it to be high. I would love to say to you that it’ll be compatible with just a regular controller, but the gameplay simply isn’t there without MotionPlus.”

Given the Wii’s 45 million lifetime unit sales, I understand not every game maker wants to limit their product to a subgroup of players, but I always assumed the concept of MotionPlus would reboot the Wii and terminate the era of gimmicky gesture controls. Now, I’m not so sure.

Some game makers will try to have it both ways. Producers for EA’s Grand Slam Tennis, one of the first games to showcase MotionPlus, will also let players use a standard Wii Remote at no disadvantage against players with the peripheral. The intent is good — Wii owners won’t have to spend $20 more on each controller — but it reminds me of the way Mario Kart Wii allows you to use a thumbstick instead of steering the remote. If more accurate motion control isn’t a crucial part of the game, is it really an improvement?

Red Steel 2, meanwhile, will reportedly feature “more comprehensive tracking of a player’s arm position and orientation, providing players with an unmatched level of precision and immersion,” CVG reports. That sounds a lot more interesting than merely replacing static crosshairs with a moving pointer, as previous shooters have done, or relying on a limited set of pre-determined gestures to simulate swordplay.

I’m glad the producers of Red Steel are taking the leap. I hope it works out, and that other game developers follow suit, wholeheartedly.


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Holding Out Hope for Motion Control

wiimotionplusWe’re just over a month away from the release of Wii MotionPlus, an attachment to the Wii Remote that adds much-needed precision. Two EA Sports games, Tiger Woods 10 and Grand Slam Tennis, will be the first to show off the new technology, and hopefully they’ll be the antidote to Wii Sports’ heartless wrist flicking.

But an opinion piece by Crave’s Jeff Bakalar, titled “Is MotionPlus too little, too late for Nintendo?” got me thinking. The article brings up a familiar criticism of some Wii games’ tacked-on waggle controls when simple button presses would do and wonders, without a definitive conclusion, whether motion control’s ship has sailed.

For me, at least, accurate swordplay and sports simulation — both ideas that currently exist in half-baked form — still sound like a blast. To answer the core question, though, Nintendo may have missed its opportunity to dominate that experience.

It depends on whether Microsoft and Sony unveil their own motion control devices in the near future. Rumors of motion-tracking camera technology coming to the Xbox 360, which we reported on in February, have surfaced again, and Sony reportedly has its own motion controller in store. Now that everyone’s expected to cough up extra money for a cool gaming peripheral, the playing field is level.

As year after year of dominant Wii sales suggests, the average buyer of Nintendo’s console either didn’t know or didn’t care about the Wii Remote’s lack of accuracy when making the purchase. In more dedicated gaming circles, however, you still hear talk of “1:1” control — that elusive idea of seeing one’s gestures mimicked precisely on screen, no matter how complex. Nintendo may be working with a bigger install base, but I don’t think its customers will be more inclined to pick up a new peripheral than owners of the other two consoles.

Come E3, if motion control comes to the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, it’s anybody’s game. Best of all, the competition could inspire some great video games for everyone.


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Japan's Wii Video is No YouTube or Hulu

wiivideo1

There appears to be a world domination plot afoot with Nintendo’s “Wii no Ma” video service, which will launch next week in Japan.

Until now, details on the service were slim, other than an announced partnership between Nintendo and media giant Dentsu to produce original content. The full scoop, revealed on Nintendo’s Japanese Web site and conveniently translated by Andria Sang, talks of a virtual world that blends eerily with the real.

The channel places Mii characters in a living room, where time passes by in equal proportion to the outside world. This is the hub for various other services offered in the channel. Foremost is the video channel, providing paid and ad-supported shows, as previously reported. Partner companies will have their own content, accessed by clicking on a plant in the room, as well as product samples that can be delivered to a pre-entered real world address. Weirder still, celebrities will occasionally visit the virtual home as “concierges” peddling additional programming.

In addition, DSi owners will be able to sync the handheld to the channel and download virtual coupons, which can be redeemed at participating retailers.

This is all pretty wild stuff — sort of like Second Life, but much more restrained — and you have to wonder how much of it, if any, will make it out of Japan. I can see the original content coming west, as it allows Nintendo to bypass the licensing kerfuffles that are making a mess of existing online video sites. And the delivery system is smart, drawing families in with another channel for their Miis.

But samples in the mail? Celebrity avatars invading your virtual home? They could be failures stateside, or Nintendo could strike gold again. I won’t venture a prediction.


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At Last, the Wii Gets Real SD Storage

wiiFunny thing about the Internet age: When a video game company announces a significant improvement in its console, there needn’t be any countdown to implementation.

So it went at the Game Developers Conference today, where Nintendo announced common-sense SD card support for the Wii and said users could reap the benefits right now. Sure enough, when I updated my console (which, admittedly, took about 5 minutes), a small SD icon appeared in the lower left side of the Wii menu. Popping an SD card into the console’s front slot and selecting the menu icon revealed a bounty of open channel slots, ready to store my data. Kotaku reports that cards of up to 32 GB are now supported.

While downloadable games — such the classic NES titles offered through the Wii Shop channel — could be transferred to an SD card before, it was impossible to play them without transferring the file back to the Wii’s internal memory. You can now download games directly to the card, or transfer existing ones from the Wii’s internal memory, and load them from the SD menu. To protect against piracy, the Wii still uses a bit of system memory to load these games, but it’s a much more serviceable solution than before.

If you’re the kind of Wii owner who hasn’t drifted far from Wii Sports and maybe a few classic Virtual Console selections, you’ll probably never use the SD support. Still, it’s a big deal because of last year’s addition of WiiWare, a library of new games available for download. Nintendo has been quietly adding titles to the WiiWare catalog since last May, including the excellent World of Goo, but the Wii’s 512 MB built-in flash drive made it difficult to download too many of them. Maybe SD support will change that.

Now, if only Nintendo would allow demos for those WiiWare games, then we’d really have a fully-functional console on our hands…


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The Wii's Identity Crisis

madworldFor over two years, the Wii was regarded as a family system, and in many ways, it still is, with Wii Sports, Wii Fit and Mario Kart commanding most of the revolutionary console’s popularity. But a sudden turn of events hint of changes on the horizon.

This week’s release of Madworld — a high-profile and thoroughly blood-soaked affair — drew the ire of the National Institute on Media and the Family. The game’s main character uses a chainsaw and a variety of deadly environmental objects to maim his foes, earning more points for more gruesome kills. Here’s a statement from the watchdog group:

“In the past, the Wii has successfully sold itself as being the gaming console for the entire family and a way to bring family-game nights back into people’s living rooms. Unfortunately, Nintendo opened its doors to the violent video game genre. The National Institute on Media and the Family hopes that Nintendo does not lose sight of its initial audience and continues to offer quality, family-friendly games.”

I don’t think Nintendo will abandon the family audience — it’s too big of a market to lose, for one thing — but there are signs that the Wii is moving away from its image as a console strictly for kids, parents and the elderly.

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Sony’s Hirai Suffers Delusion, Thinks PS3 Leads Market

sonylogoI think somebody’s off their rocker. In comments to the company’s official rag PlayStation Magazine, Sony Computer Entertainment Chief Kaz Hirai made the unusual claim that install base numbers are worthless: the PS3 is still the official leader in the industry.

Pay no attention to the fact that the console is in third in overall console sales, that it was outsold by the Xbox by a 2-to-1 margin over the holiday, or that it still cannot attract decent exclusives. Because Mr. Hirai says it, we shall all bow to the PS3’s power.

Of course, Hirai’s comments are peppered with jabs at its competitors: that the Xbox is aimed at short term success while the PS3 is on a ten-year plan, and that Nintendo operates “in a different world.”

Nevermind that the console is difficult to program for because Sony did that on purpose, Hirai claims. His argument is this: if the console was easy to develop for, then developers would not take full advantage of the consoles power.

Okay, that makes sense. Make life difficult for the people who sell your equipment. That should work! I bet any game developer wants to spend twice the amount of time just to develop for a console that in the end has a smaller install base than its competitors.

I think its time for Sony to start realizing that the PS3’s business model did NOT work. I sure hope when it comes around to the fourth generation the company applies what it learns, but as stubborn as Sony is, I’m betting that won’t happen.


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YouTube Comes to PlayStation 3, Wii

Here’s a statistic that’s bandied about by game industry cheerleaders: roughly 40 percent of U.S. homes own a video game console.

It’s also a figure that will likely be loathed by cable providers if more streaming video Web sites follow YouTube’s lead. Yesterday, Google’s video juggernaut launched a sleek interface for the PlayStation 3 and Wii. It was as good a reason as any to dust off Nintendo’s waggle box, so I checked it out. The service is basically what you would expect and hope for–a browsing and viewing experience that’s tailored to the size of your television screen. A similar channel is already available for TiVo owners.

Of course, YouTube is best for short bursts of random entertainment, and it only makes me yearn for support of a full-featured TV Web site, like Hulu or TV.com. See, I recently gave up cable to find out how much content I could replace with the Internet (and I’m not alone). As a cost-cutting measure, it’s great, but running an RGB cable between my computer and laptop isn’t ideal when I just want to lounge on the couch.

Solutions are on the way, like media streamers and possibly HDTVs that can support Hulu, but that requires an extra purchase. If you’re among the 40 percent that already has a gaming console, chances are you’d want it to be the hub for streaming Internet television instead of something extra. There is a utility called PlayOn that lets you watch Hulu and other sites on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, but it requires a computer as the middleman. This can get clumsy if your wireless Internet is on the spotty side.

There’s been some hinting at integration with streaming TV Web sites, at least for the Xbox 360. Here’s hoping it actually happens.


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Nintendo Dominates ’08 in Sales Figure Shocker

Super MarioI can be sarcastic in a headline, right? No matter, retail research firm NPD released last year’s video game sales data today, revealing–of course–that Nintendo’s Wii console and DS handheld were the big winners.

Perhaps there’s some surprise in knowing the DS was the most popular last-minute holiday item, selling 3.04 million units to the Wii’s 2.15 million units in December. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 came in second place, selling 1.44 million consoles last month. Sony’s PSP handheld sold 1.02 million units in December, besting the Playstation 3’s 726,000 units.

Overall, sales of video games, consoles and related products in 2008 rose 19 percent from the year before. I was going to break out the calculator, do some research, and compile a list of total 2008 console sales, but realized the kind folks at Video Game Sales Wiki already took care of that, so here are the numbers:

Wii: 10,151,000

Nintendo DS: 9,951,100

Xbox 360: 4,735,400

PSP: 3,829,600

Playstation 3: 3,544,900

With everything laid out like this, the 1.2 million unit difference between the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 isn’t so bad, especially when you consider how handily the Wii stomped both of them.

As for games, Wii Play and its bundled Wii Remote was the top seller of 2008 — you’d know this by standing in a GameStop and seeing the employees pitch it to everyone buying a console — with Mario Kart Wii and Wii Fit taking silver and bronze respectively. Careful, though, because NPD’s counts the same game separately when released for more than one console. Add Grand Theft Auto IV’s PS3 and Xbox 360 sales together, and it’s actually in second place overall.

NPD Analyst Anita Frazier noted that most of the best-sellers were released long before the holiday season. “Get some high profile releases out in the first and second quarters,” she suggested. Some publishers are taking this advice to heart, with big name titles like Lord of the Rings: Conquest and Halo Wars being saved for the first quarter of 2009.

Frazier also noted that as the economy melted in the fourth quarter, people kept buying games. Add that to the list of unsurprising revelations of 2008.


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Wild Prediction: New Game Consoles in 2010, 2011

Nintendo Entertainment SystemAdmittedly I’m no Michael Pachter when it comes to foretelling the future of video games, but with Microsoft exec Robbie Bach saying that we won’t see a new Xbox 360 for a while, the temptation to speculate is too overwhelming. So join me as I wildly predict when the next round of consoles will come along.

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