“Motion controls” as in controlling games with body motions was a distant concept in the early years in video game design. Although there were some prototypes, technology was limited. Then in the year 2005, one of the biggest video game companies, Nintendo took the innovative step and announced the first widely available video game console with Motion Controls. The name of the game console was “Nintendo Wii”. The game controller for the Wii console was named “Wii-mote”, and it was looking similar to a TV remote controller. Players could play games by moving these controllers in the air. Especially sports-themed games such as tennis or golf benefitted this motion controls technology the best. Players could swing the tennis racket of the golf club in a game via by swinging their Wii-mote similarly as they would do in the real sport. When Nintendo released Wii Consoles in 2012, it quickly became a hit in the market. Wii-mote motion controls attracted many people by being easy to learn and fun for all ages. And Wii sold about 100 million units worldwide.
After Nintendo made a large sales numbers thanks to Motion Controls, video game business couldn’t ignore the concept. For a while, most video game design studios developed projects to play with this kind of controls. Other largest video game console manufacturers also developed their Motion Controls technologies too.
Sony developed a system for motion controls called “PlayStation Move” to be used with “PlayStation 3” video game consoles. Although Sony’s system was more capable than Wii-mote in some aspects, it didn’t sell as good as Wii-mote because it has lacked enough content to use Move controllers. (This would change when Sony used the same motion controls with PlayStation 4 Virtual Reality games.)
Microsoft went with a different route. The company developed a system called “Kinect” for their video game console “Xbox 360”. This system didn’t use a controller to receive motion controls. Instead, it followed the player’s body shape via a specialized camera and carried over the player’s gestures into the games. Even though this system was technically impressive, video game designers didn’t use these motion controls in their games as much as Microsoft wanted. Although the Kinect system became a bundled part of the next generation Xbox consoles, players didn’t want to pay for it since there weren’t enough games to play with it. Eventually, Microsoft terminated the production of Kinect systems after a while to eliminate the costs.
The trend in the market has diminished after its first years. However, most video game design schools continued to consider motion controls important enough to teach. Many brilliant students used motion controls technologies for their projects such as flying a helicopter, capturing animations or operating computers using Kinect.
After Virtual Reality technologies became the new trend, motion controls returned to the scenes yet again. Every company that manufactured VR headsets developed a motion-sensing controller for it. Oculus, Valve, and HTC created the first examples of VR motion controls. While Sony was using its legacy Move controllers as its next-generation VR controllers, Microsoft developed controllers for their Mixed-Reality platform that tracked inside-out by the headset itself.
Some hardcore gamers may dislike the idea of swinging devices and getting tired to play games. However, the concept of motion controls, in general, allows even the people who don’t usually play video games to enjoy them as a form of interactive media.
What we need is finding new ways to Integrate these mechanics into new games, well enough to be immersive. And, this is a task for the new generation of students in Video Game Design Schools.
Motion controls have serious potential in tomorrow’s video game market. With some creative skills and a decent game design education, you might earn millions of dollars with a unique motion-controlled video game design.