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Next- Gen: Two potential problems – developer confusion and accessibility

I believe that motion controls and dual screen systems will be integrated into the next 3 major consoles and traditional controllers will be returning to the Wii U, as seen in the Wii U remote. This is going to create at least two major issues, first is developer confusion, the 3 consoles are using vary different systems and a variety of add-ons that may be incompatible with each other. These official add-ons will make it harder for developers to decide what system or peripheral too make their game for and risk losing money if they use the wrong add-on or system for their game. Secondly, these new add-ons are becoming in accessible for people with certain disabilities.

Problem 1
In the not so distant past, all major consoles were relatively similar, the Xbox and Ps2 particularly. Both the Xbox and PS2 had comparable rendering power (close enough that games could be ported to each), supported DVD and CD formats, and sported a similar controller, featuring 2 analog sticks, triggers (4 triggers for PS2, 2 triggers on XBOX, but 2 extra buttons on face of the controller) d-pad and 4 primary buttons. However, the Game Cube featured a different controller scheme, rendering power and storage style that led to significantly less third party support and abandonment by many companies. With the release of the Wii, the radically different console suffered even more from a lack of major games with cross platform support. Instead of getting games that were released on all consoles (including pc), the Wii usually got nothing or exclusive versions such as Destroy all humans: Big Willy Unleashed. Luckily, the Wii was successful enough to survive and thrive on largely Nintendo’s internal IPs. This has created an arms race for innovations were each manufacturer is trying to outdo (or in some cases rip off) each other.

To date, the Wii U currently supports the following add-ons:
Wii U Gamepad
Wii U pro controller
Balance Board
Wii mote+ and Nunchuk
Classic Controller or pro version (potentially)

For Microsoft and the Xbox 8 it has been speculated that it will have the following add-ons
Xbox 8 remote
The new Kinect System
Smart Glass-(Microsoft also owns Windows which will have native Xbox support in the 8 version so there may be expanded play between the console, smart phone, tablet or pc itself. However the technology is aimed mostly at tablets and so far that market is largely dominated by IPad and Android platforms. It remains to be seen if windows 8 will make a lasting break into that market for smart screen to really be viable).

For Sony and PS4 there has been limited leaks, so this area is more of speculation on my part:
The PS4 controller- (probably, largely similar to its predecessor)
The move system or an enhanced one
PS Vita as a controller (also keep in mind that Sony said they wanted to make it possible to play console games on the go and recently purchased Gaikai so cloud gaming through Vita may be in the future.)

With all these new input devices, developers are going to be face with more choices on what to develop for. While more choice can be good, it also has downsides, as it fragments the user base and lowers the amount of potential customers. For instance, Steal battalion heavy armor requires users to have both a kinect and a controller in order to play. This problem can be largely prevented if the new kinect and similarly move add-ons are packaged in with their respective console, upon release. A more pressing concern will be in the touch screen and it is likely that tablets (smart screen) and vitas will not be included with the console. If the Wii U is the least bit as successful as the Wii, one can expect third party developers will take advantage of the touch functionality and potentially ported to the other major consoles. If the touch screens functionality is not a built in feature, of the PS4 and Xbox 8 you could see some games not being ported to them or features crippled by this. A good example is the Batman Arkham City Armored Edition, as previous versions of the game do not feature this, making the Wii U edition different and possibly better (may be released as DLC once Wii U comes out). However I believe smart glass and vita connectivity are more of a stop gap measure and we will probably see a more permanent touch system implemented on the next- gen consoles.

(Here is a graph I pulled from “thesixthaxis.com” and I cannot state definitively on its accuracy. Though it is a visual for the stated problem, what percentage of people owns both a PS3 and Vita in the PS3 population?)
I don’t see this problem drastically effecting indie developers as much, as their development costs are usually significantly lower and have the ability to cater to niche audiences and don’t require has high a number of sales in order to recue losses or turn a profit. This could be a huge problem for AAA publishers as their development costs are often astronomical and require significant sales to just break even. This could lead to less risk on new ventures and the ever prevalent clone problem in games (i.e. Wii sports, kinect sports, Sports Champion (PS3)).
Problem 2
First, I would like to separate what I mean by reasonable accommodations as opposed to unreasonable ones. Reasonable accommodations are when a developer puts subtitles in a game for the deaf; unreasonable ones would be for the developer to remove all sound from the game to keep it fair for the deaf player. So the issue a hand here is motion controls and how it has impacted the disabled. The easiest example would be how it affects the wheel chair bounded person, as they are unable to move certain parts of their body which may be required for the game. This is a particular problem for Kinect games as they are full body. Going back to the Steal Battalion example, in parts of the game you need to stand up and again these people can’t. Now some will say create a work around, an auxiliary action to accomplish that action. That creates two potential problems, extraneous moves and exploitability. The more moves you add to the game, the more chance you have for the game to miss read one move for another; just take a look at Steel battalion’s problems. Secondly, if there are extra moves intended for disabled people, than “normal” people may be able to exploit it in order to get an advantage as certain moves may be faster than others. A way to prevent this would be to implement move profiles that lock the moves for each need. A less looked at issue is people who have tic disorder. Tics can be both phonic and motor, imagine playing Mass effect 3, again with kinect, using the voice controlled system and you have a phonic tick were you say “boom” The game could interpret it as boom stick (shotgun) and constantly switch you to the shotgun. Or, are playing kill zone with the PS3’s sharp shooter attachment and are unable to precisely hold the controller due to motor tics.

(Dance Central is not wheel chair accessible)

(Often people with motor tics will use surfaces to help stabilize themselves when twitching and doing precise movements. The controller can be held on a table and many premium controllers come with a dead space feature where certain joystick motions are ignored. The move doesn’t offer any of this. )

I have seen some mention of this problem across the web, including by Jim Sterling, and statements by developers they are looking into it. However I haven’t seen many solutions to the problem. It is a difficult problem to tackle.
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About DeadACCOUNTone of us since 10:26 PM on 06.18.2012

Dead Account