Nintendo and controllers

Here’s a couple of things that popped into my head recently that re-inforce my views on Nintendo. These are based on facts and are easily researchable on the internet.

See what you think:

Nintendo and analogue
There’s many that would argue that Nintendo, with the N64, introduced analogue control into gaming. Others resist this notion and are often greeted with “Ah, well if they didn’t invent it it’s them that made it popular”.

Nintendo are also frequently credited with the introduction of the d-pad as the common method of control in videogames.

With the above borne in mind, it’s well worth pointing out that many of the earliest videogame controllers were, in fact, analogue joysticks. Furthermore, many early arcade games such as Pong and Missile Command used analogue control in the form of twistable paddles or a trackball.

These methods of control were commonplace before Nintendo introduced the d-pad. In doing so, Nintendo nullified the existence of analogue control (whereby movement is detected in both direction and degrees of travel) and replaced it with digital control (directional control that is either on or off – you are either pushing UP or you aren’t).

With the above borne in mind, did Nintendo really innovate analogue control in games with the N64 or did they simply return what was commonplace in gaming before they saw fit to take it away?

Secondly, and more relevantly

Nintendo and complex controllers
Part of Nintendo’s mantra of the Revolution is to state that game controllers are too complex and are off-putting to fringe gamers who may wish to play games but not wrestle with today’s controllers. By simplifying this culture of complexity they believe they will widen the market and appeal to more people.

Often, statements such as these make their way into gamer culture and are accompanied by statements suggesting that Nintendo have often innovated in the area of game controllers.

Again, bearing in mind the text above, consider this:

Who made game controllers complex in the first place?

In the 8-bit era when Atari had a single button on their joystick – who added three more to their d-pad (don’t forget start and select)

In the 16 bit era, when the Megadrive had 4 surface buttons (a,b,c,start) who added 2 more to the surface and 2 more to the shoulders?

Who introduced two types of directional control to one pad? Who started hiding buttons underneath that pad? Who added analogue control? Who added rumble to console controllers? Who created a design of pad that suggested to the fringe-gamer that they would need three hands to hold it?

Are Nintendo really ‘choosing a new direction and thinking differently’ or are they just tidying up the mess they created in the first place?

I wonder, in a decade’s time – will Nintendo be claiming that games are too short, physically tiring and focus too heavily on one type of gameplay mechanic. Will they ‘once again’ show the rest of the industry how only they can create a solution but, as they do today, attempt to suggest that someone else created the problem?

Give it some thought.

1 Response

  1. Daymo April 26, 2006 / 1:14 pm

    They do know how to go back on themselves!

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