Button Wars: The Reckoning

The stage is set. The sides are chosen. The bla bla bla is in the bla  bla bla or something. You heard me. Since the beginning of this generation, we all knew it was coming. From the gentle swings of a Wii-mote, to the enjoyment of mom actually playing a video game, this has been inevitable. No one knows who shot first (Nintendo), but the others quickly retaliated, and started a war that will continue through this generation and beyond. I speak, of course, about the war on buttons.

Ever since the Wii was announced, we got a look at a new controller unlike anything before it. It looked like a T.V. remote (first thought in my mind). Never in a million years could figure out how I would use such a thing to manipulate Mario or Zelda. I was far from what you would call a “believer.” This, of course, was before Miyamoto famously demonstrated the remote as a baton, conducting a symphony of Mii’s on stage. This event converted a lot of doubt in to excitement for this new revolution.

However, this event didn’t convert everyone. Even after play testing, many hard core gamers would still argue pressing a button is easier, faster, and more efficient than flailing your arms. Unfortunately for these people, the war on buttons was just beginning, and there was more wand swinging on the horizon.

If you’ve been playing games for a long time like me (i.e. no life) you probably don’t have any issues with two thumb sticks and 12 buttons. Unfortunately, your neighbor down the street, who hasn’t played a game since Asteroids, would never touch such a beast. Nintendo knew this and took action. Games could have continued to grow more complicated with more buttons and better graphics, but your gameless neighbor would have been left behind. You might say “Who the fuck cares?” and I might say the same thing, but I’m not as malicious as you are. Unfortunately, Nintendo cares. Anyone not playing a game is a lost wad of cash, and thanks to Nintendo’s success, Sony and Microsoft care too.

After a few years of Nintendo’s total motion domination, Sony and Microsoft decide they want a piece of the casual pie. Microsoft unveils the Kinect, a complex camera system with no controller required (the ultimate newb machine). Sony presents the Move (Wii, only more accurate). Could this spell death for the controller loyalists? Both Microsoft and Sony are already a few years into their consoles life cycles. Because of this, both companies will attempt to satisfy the hardcore and casual audience. Can it be done? Is there enough software so every motion lover and controller loyalist is content?

No. After the senseless beatings of the Wii’s success and the announcement of the Kinect and Move, hardcore gamers take another big kick in the nuts. Microsoft’s first party line up is very different now than it was three years ago. This past E3, Microsoft gave us a press conference that was 90% Kinect. In 2007, Microsoft’s hardcore titles were countless. Today, Halo and Gears seem to be the only titles meant for the hardcore. Fable looks to have gone casual, and every other title was full of jumping and kicking.

Sony didn’t go as nuts as Microsoft. They had some motion control titles at E3, but they still showed off quite a bit of their serious side. Sony has also made an effort to try and implement motion in titles previously thought to be impossible without a controller. I still prefer the controller, but at least Sony isn’t trying to leave the hardcore completely in the dust.

The war is in full force and it’s not looking good for me and my button loving brethren. I have no problem playing motion games from time to time. I play with non-gamer friends and the family. However, hardcore games are my bread and butter. I love experiences too complex for a couple buttons and an arm swing. Mom and dad can have all the table tennis they want, as long as I can still run home to my shooters. This is where I feel a threat.

So many companies have realized the growing market in motion gaming, I’m dying from hardcore withdrawals. Suffering through an E3 with even more motion games than the year before it, I fear the hardcore market might keep getting smaller and smaller as more casual gamers decide it’s easy to dance in front of a camera.

Some think we can still coexist. The WiiU aims to do just that (Nintendo claims). As of this moment, I am on the losing side of a war over control. I need my 40 hour experiences. I need my two handed command center. I need my graphics. Unfortunately, every year there’s more motion. Every year there’s less hardcore. Motion sells. When something sells, companies invest. New intellectual properties are made every year, but unless every casual gamer drops dead tomorrow, those games probably won’t be hardcore.