When I first heard about the Nintendo DS, I thought it was a gimmick. And I still think it’s a gimmick, though one that’s doing surprisingly well: the system is consistently outselling the PSP in Japan, for example. (No idea how they’re doing in the US.) Part of that is due to cultural differences: some of the top sellers in Japan are quiz / teaching games, which presumably work well with the UI. But that’s not the only reason; when I first saw videos for Nintendogs, I finally started to get it. I’m really impressed by the amazingly tactile feel the game has, the way you use the touch screen to pet your dog, play tug with your dog, throw things for your dog to get, etc. And it’s extremely well done; it seems about as realistic a pet sim as I can imagine right now. (They use the microphone to good effect, too.)

Still, I won’t get Nintendogs, if for no other reason than that I’d feel disloyal to Yosha and Zippy were I to do so. But maybe I’m not the target audience for the DS, anyways; as suggested in Foxtrot last week, it’s expanding its audience beyond traditional video game players, and if it can do that, more power to it. And if the result is lots of experimentation in new genres, I’m all for that, too. And probably Animal Crossing DS will be fabulous, especially if you have DS-owning friends. Maybe that will be the game that convinces me to buy one?

Of course, the reason why I’m posting on this right now is the Revolution controller announcement. I have to say, I was not at all optimistic about that; I like standard video game controllers, and while Nintendo can experiment with a gimmick in the portable space, I don’t see how they can do that in the non-portable space and still remain a serious competitor there. But after seeing the teaser video, I’m completely sold. I love the idea of playing a sword-fighting game by swinging the controller around. Normal genres should be able to adapt profitably to the new controller – playing Metroid on a touch screen sounds like it would incapacitate my hands in about 15 minutes, but playing it with a joystick in my left hand to move and a pointer in my right hand to aim and shoot sounds like a great idea. (Plus, they’ll release a standard controller shell, for unimaginative publishers.) And if it manages to expand the gaming audience by allowing weird new genres (I love the bit in the video with two people conducting an orchestra), great!

Nintendo still has their work cut out for them: other publishers won’t necessarily want to take the time to think how to best use the Revolution’s controller, so they’ll have to carry the console on their own shoulders to an unhealthy extent. But their shoulders are more than capable of such a feat; it’s great to see them taking a chance like this.

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