Another Electronic Entertainment Expo, the annual trade show for the video game industry, has come and gone. Unlike last year — when the focus was on the launch of two video game consoles — this year was more about individual games, not so much the hardware. As a result there were plenty of titles to see… if you like playing more of the same.
Across all platforms — including the Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, the PC and handheld systems — there seemed to be no shortage of science-fiction first-person shooters where you have to stop some insidious alien threat, semi-open-ended crime dramas (all which now seem a lot like Grand Theft Auto), and of course the same old sports simulations. Everything old is new again, except in video games where it's just getting old. I have some ideas on how the industry could truly innovate — follow the link to explore with me.
Fortunately the Wii isn't a novelty, and Nintendo is leading the way with some actual innovation. The upcoming Wii Fit, which will ship later this year and comes with a special controller, called the Balance Board, actually is a game that won't just get you off the couch — it'll actually get your heart pumping. It features a number of activities and mini-games that blur fitness with fun, something that seriously needs to be addressed given our rather plump society these days. The problem remains that games like Wii Fit are still games (with fitness features) rather than real workout programs that make fitness fun.
This begs the question: Why couldn't Nintendo include a heart rate monitor or a calorie counter into the mix? With one of those, we could actually know whether dodging soccer balls (one of the mini-games in Wii Fit), is doing us any real good. Game developers could create motion-based games that are challenging, yet still let you burn a few calories. Imagine telling your kids (or possibly parents) they have another half hour in front of the Wii before dinner!
Today's game consoles should — and actually do — have enough power to become real music-teaching tools. There are already plenty of teach-yourself software programs for the PC, but anyone who's spent anytime with them can tell you they're really dull and often out of touch with both kids and adults alike. Turning learning into a competition can go a long way toward building interest.
Of course this could require more specialized controllers, and these programs might cost a bit more as a result. But the Wii is already demonstrating that controllers don't have to fit so comfortably in the palm of your hands or just require the mashing of four buttons. Already, companies like M-Audio have created studio-quality keyboard and software for around $100, so it wouldn't be too hard for game developers to get the price point to a reasonable level while including a real keyboard.