I do like John Riccitiello. Mainly because he’s willing to share his views regarding the video game industry with anyone who’ll listen and his comments spark a lot of interesting debates. The latest musings from the boss of EA are his feelings towards motion controls and whether he believes they’ll ever replace the standard controller. The short answer is no but Riccitiello does see that type of gameplay carving out its own market and taking with it a few existing genres. Speaking with IndustryGamers, Riccitiello spoke of his cautious optimism towards both Move and Kinect with their gesture-based controls actually being a superior way to play certain genres like music, dance and exercise games, “It’s really hard to imagine an exercise game with your thumbs,” he said though the pedantic would point out that true exercise and dance games are a result of motion-based peripherals, superseding those that use plastic floor mats which are arguably just controllers played with your feet.
He added that the idea of solely using motion controls for games like first person shooters isn’t something he’d like to see: “It’s really hard to imagine that I’m going to play a future edition of Medal of Honor, or Call of Duty, or Battlefield, hiding behind my couch, making a gun out of my finger. I’ve tried driving with gesture-based controls; I don’t really like it.” A great example of this is GoldenEye for the Wii. A brilliant shooter that does a good job of using the Wii remote and nunchuck but is still ultimately best played using the classic controller. Riccitiello hypothesised that in the future we could see a merging of hands-free and controller-based gameplay with certain genres combining both mechanics while others only using one of the other. Again, Nintendo have shown that this concept can work remarkably well with their inspiring Super Mario Galaxy franchise. A perfect blend of traditional gaming methods with the waggle added for positive effect instead of shoehorning it in.
The concern Riccitiello has is just how long can gesture-based games last and whether gamers will buy enough of them to make it a worthwhile investment for developers. He uses his family as an example saying that games that primarily use motion controls aren’t ones that are revisited often with only one or two one the go at any one time. Compare that to traditional controlled games and how he could be playing through three or four at once, swapping between them all without viewing them as a novelty experience. Though that could just be down to a volume of quality titles. Take the Christmas season for Wii games. It was full of great titles and in fact is the system I play the most at the moment as I try and work through all of them. In the next few months however I’ll no doubt be going back to my Xbox 360 and PS3 as a wave of triple A releases are on the way.
But Riccitiello is right, motion controls simply won’t replace traditional methods for a number or reasons and I don’t think any of the three platform holders plan to either. Microsoft has always said that Kinect is an addition to the Xbox 360 rather than a successor to the game pad and while their focus on marketing is towards the new peripheral, none of their top franchises are being forced to use gesture-based controls. Sony may have been reported to emphasise the Move over their Dualshock 3 for certain games but again have only really used it where it seems a natural fit. Like LittleBigPlanet 2 for example. Riccitiello is more interested in what happens by the end of the year and if Kinect and Move will receive that killer app to make believers out of the cynics, “what’s going to trigger the hot game? What’s going to use Kinect in just that way?” Something like Infinity Blade maybe…