Shake, Rattle, Roll

If more motion controllers show at E3, all eyes should be on the software.

Published as part of our sister-site GamesIndustry.biz' widely-read weekly newsletter, the GamesIndustry.biz Editorial is a weekly dissection of one of the issues weighing on the minds of the people at the top of the games business. It appears on Eurogamer after it goes out to GI.biz newsletter subscribers.

It's now well over a year since the rumours of Wiimote-alike controllers in development at both Microsoft and Sony first surfaced - but even if several supposed unveilings haven't come to fruition, the evidence for the existence of such projects has only become more compelling in the past 12 months.

From loose-lipped developers who claim to have seen or worked on prototype hardware, publishers who have supposedly been briefed and various other sources, information about motion controllers has gone from a trickle to a flood in the past few months. All the signs point to one platform holder, at least, finally going public at E3 - with Microsoft the most likely candidate, since Sony may wish to focus attention on the probable reveal of its updated PSP hardware.

Yet, in all of this, there has been remarkably little consideration of what motion controls actually mean to the videogames market. The unspoken assumption is that the Wii has a motion control system, and the Wii is the fastest-selling console with the broadest appeal in the industry's history - therefore, motion controls can help companies to tap into that extraordinary market.

The reality is rather more complex. Motion control is certainly an important part of the Wii's success story, having allowed Nintendo to craft interfaces which are friendly and intuitive, dispensing with decades of development on joypads which have left them complicated, intimidating and altogether over-specified for the majority of the potential audience.

However, motion control is only one part of the equation. The Wii isn't a success story because it allows people to wave their arms around - it's a success story due to a remarkable, synergistic combination between the hardware, the software, the services, the business model and the marketing.

Few of the 50 million people who have put Wii consoles into their front rooms did so because they liked the "idea" of motion control. They bought a Wii because of Wii Sports (perhaps the most inspired pack-in bundle in the industry's history), or because of subsequent releases like Mario Galaxy and Wii Fit. They were pushed in that direction by good marketing and powerful word of mouth, spread both through traditional channels and through social networking sites.

Their purchasing decisions were made possible by a business model which eschewed the hardware battles of the past in favour of selling older systems at lower prices - and Nintendo's bottom line was guaranteed by carefully avoiding the razors-and-razorblades model, making every unit sold profitable so that even casual customers who only pick up a couple of games a year are still valuable customers.

That's a pretty broad ecosystem, and each component of it has been crucial to the success of the Wii. Given this, just how much impact can the launch of a motion control peripheral make on the fortunes of another console?

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