Thursday, July 12, 2007

Nothing Enhances Your Gaming Experience Like A Cheap Piece Of Plastic

If you're any kind of gamer, odds are you've owned numerous consoles over the years. And each of those consoles had a specific controller. But that wasn't all - it probably had some specialized controllers as well, that either came with the main unit, were bundled with a game, or were sold separately. Some of these controllers were useful, like the NES Advantage - one of my personal favorites. Some, not so much.

Light guns usually fell somewhere in between. The were hella cool, and worked pretty well. In fact, to this day, light guns are still sold for consoles in Japan. That being said, they weren't very popular. This wasn't due to a problem with the gun itself, mind you, but with the lack of software for it. When you think of light gun games, one instantly comes to mind - Duck Hunt. But can you name five? I didn't think so.

There's another problem with light guns - they only work with direct view (or CRT) televisions. This means that they're not compatible with all those fancy flat screen HDTVs that the kids are buying these days. So whatever is a game company to do? Easy - release a piece of plastic that looks like a gun. And that's exactly what Nintendo is doing. Currently dubbed the Wii Zapper, this piece is actually just a controller shell that your Wiimore and Nunchuk snap into. Essentially, it adds no functionality to a game, since it is just a hollow piece of plastic. But it looks like a gun, sort of.

The fun doesn't stop there, folks. The big N has also announced that a new version of the venerable Mario Kart series would debut on the Wii soon, and it will include a plastic steering wheel to help ease casual gamers into the driving experience. Again, the piece will just be a plastic shell that the Wiimote plugs into, and adds no actual functionality to the game.

Now I'm all for enhancing game play, but are cheap plastic accessories the way to do it? I want good games, not gimmicks. I don't see myself ever holding a toy plastic steering wheel to play Mario Kart - I've managed just fine on every other version of the game without it. And sure, I could see the Zapper being somewhat useful, but for how many games? Are people going to buy this thing just so they can download Duck Hunt and Hogan's Alley (there's #2 for ya) off the Virtual Console? I guess history really does tend to repeat itself.

If we've learned one thing throughout the years in the gaming industry, it's that software is king. It doesn't matter if you have the most expensive console or the cheapest console. If you don't have any good games, you're doomed to failure. And no accessory, no matter how cheap or cool, is going to change that.

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