Monday, September 19, 2005
Controlling the revolution
I am back from Egypt, where I witnessed Nintendo´s Revolution from my new PDA cell phone. My first thought about the controller was this: Isn´t it ironic how we all knew what technology would be the focus point of the controller? Yet the actual revolution is in the shape. Like a TV remote, it is a one-handed controller with possible add-ons. So apart from the gyroscopic technology, the only other rumour that somehow fitted the truth turns out to be that of a controller that breaks apart. I never really took this one all too seriously, I must admit. In fact, most of us still imagined a shape that would be held by both hands. But Gyroscopes track your movement in three dimensions, so a gyroscopic controller can be a simple shape with buttons on it, held in one hand. And Nintendo was after simplicity. It should have been easy to come to that conclusion, yet noone did. Me neither.
But so much has been said about the controller itself. Let me turn to some bigger issues. Who is a winner of the revolution that we witnessed? Well, Nintendo undoubtedly is. They managed to keep the controller a secret until Iwata´s speech. No leaks, not even hints surfaced. Yet publishers were quick to comment on the controller after the revelation, proving that they had known for some time. Nintendo exercised complete control. Unlike Microsoft, whose Xbox360 had its debut on the internet days before the official unveiling on MTV.
What makes Nintendo´s feat even more amazing is that they exercised complete control while the internet was abuzz with theories, rumours and fakes. We were eating up any apparent information, no matter how ridiculous, and still asked for seconds. People who were in the know must have been itching all the more to spill the beans. Yet the last four months went exactly according to Nintendo´s plans: maximum hype, no leaks.
Of course, such a hype is a volatile state that can easily turn to frustration if the truth does not live up to the people´s often wild expectations. Most punters seem to be more than satisfied with what they got, though. These fan-made add-ons prove both the flexibility of the controller design, as well as the imagination of the community, which Nintendo seems to have captured. The bottom line is: It all turned out beautiful for Nintendo.
But there are also losers of the revolution. To some extent, IGN is one of them. Many people believed that IGN was exclusively partnered with Nintendo and knew far more than any other medium. In fact, they fueled this kind of speculation themselves, cryptically showing off the basic console design before its unveiling at the E3 press conference. They may have seen ´Teh Nitedo Revolution´ beforehand. But in the last few days, they appeared more and more clueless. It became obvious that IGN was not in on the secret. They even seemed to downplay expectations that Iwata would show the controller during the TGS keynote, which really makes me wonder. Even I knew this would happen, because someone at Nintendo told me. Of course, I could not post this information here. But I certainly never tried to downplay expectations. Strongly hinting at having seen the console beforehand was a smart move that put IGN in the pole position back in May and for months to come. But they were unable to repeat this PR stunt for the controller - when it really mattered. So they ended up shooting themselves in the foot.
Naturally, the biggest losers are those infantile idiots like Seriousgamer007, Osoko Tanaka and Aries - as well as the people who believed them. It is perhaps only now that most people realise that any such leaks would have been tremendously harmful to Nintendo. Only by being exercising full control over the unveiling of the revolution controller, Nintendo was perceived as a force to be reckoned with. They have finally delivered on their promise of a revolution. And they controlled it.