Top 5 Failed Console ‘Innovations’ This-Gen

Top 5 Failed Console ‘Innovations’ This-Gen

by AXIS of Reality

©2010 Alex Baldwin – Features Editor

So we’ve finally been given a good look at the final ‘PlayStation Move‘ controllers, and Project Natal is expected to dominate a significant portion of E3, but what about all those other so-called ‘innovations’ that have launched and failed this generation?

You know, the things Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony’s PR were desperately trying to convince us would be an integral part of our gaming experience only for them to either fade away or remain an uncomfortable or unneeded addition to our lounge room.

That’s why it’s time to honour the Top 5 Failed Console Innovations. At least for a few minutes before stuffing them back in the closet to serve the more useful purpose of collecting dust.

5) Xbox Live Vision Camera

Originally planned for the first Xbox, the Xbox Live Vision Camera was touted as an answer to the PS2’s EyeToy which was reaching the peak of its popularity, but with the additional features of video conferencing over Xbox Live.

It seemed like a good idea when it finally launched on the 360 – play Live Arcade games and see your opponents, video chat for free with friends and play some camera-enabled games like Rayman Raving Rabbids. Unfortunately the people-aspect is perhaps what killed it.

Those who took the plunge and tried some video Uno or other games quickly learned that they’d rather not be aware of the startlingly high percentage of players who enjoy playing games in their underwear…or less.

But hey, there’s always motion-controlled games right? Sadly the poor sales of the camera combined with very few camera-based games ensured most who spent the money on the camera eventually just relegated it to use as a PC webcam as it luckily used USB connection and worked fine with Skype and MSN.

It’s now obvious why Microsoft seemed to abandon the Xbox 360 Vision Camera very quickly with Project Natal’s announcement, but it’s still a reminder of how quickly a peripheral can die without proper support.

4) Wiimote

This is a debatable topic, but I’m going to look at it from where we are now. Leading up to the Nintendo Revolution (later renamed to Wii) launch gamers and non-gamers alike were stunned by the perceived flawless motion tracking of the Wiimote. Watching Nintendo reps leaping around onstage playing furious tennis matches, seeing Red Steel’s sword swinging, it all looked amazing.

Unfortunately things became a lot clearer when we finally got it in our grubby paws – the Wiimote was about as accurate and precise as a drunk Stormtrooper, and all the amazing action’s we’d seen on screen were canned animations. Red Steel’s sword didn’t track your motions, all it could tell was whether you did a vertical or horizontal swipe.

The Miis in Wii Tennis didn’t follow your swings with simple wrist flicks all that was enough to win a match. The Wiimote couldn’t even tell where you were holding it unless you pointed it at the screen and even then it was an approximation of where you were pointing, as it had no idea how large your screen was.

While Nintendo has since then brought out the MotionPlus to correct some of these problems, we’re yet to see whether it will be adopted by many developers and due to the lackluster (read: pretty much non-existent) support for online, games that were released prior to the MotionPlus can’t be patched to support it like 360, PS3 and PC games can.

3) PS3 Sixaxis Controller

There are two undeniable reasons here, plus one that is debatable.

Firstly, the lack of rumble was just plain silly. While Sony came up with many laughable reasons for its omission (ie; ‘it would mess up the Sixaxis acceleromater’ and ‘gamers don’t want rumble anymore, it’s last-gen’), the truth of the matter was widely known that Sony’s legal battle with Immersion had been raging on for several years, (which are patent-holders of the feature) and simply did not want to pay the fees Immersion Corp were asking. Microsoft had settled quickly in order to continue using the “rumble feature’ (hence rumble in 360 controllers from the start) while Sony preferred a longer, drawn out legal battle which they believed they would win.

It was soon after release of the PS3 that Sony gave up the legal battle and settled out-of-court for $US150.3 million, which then prompted a sudden backflip and Sony decided everyone did indeed want and ‘need’ rumble (‘in order to experience the true feeling of games’) and released the PS3 Dualshock 3, which is what all PS3 owners should have had from the beginning.

The second reason is the Sixaxis Motion Control itself. Announced several months after Nintendo’s unveiling of the Wii and its Motion-Controllers, the Sixaxis Motion Control came across as a poor-man’s Wiimote and the game support, even from Sony themselves, did nothing to change this.

Most were simply hacked-on motion minigames or features that just ended up quite awkward and made it an unwanted controller feature that customers must still pay for, as the PS3 DualShock 3 is still the most expensive regular game controller on the market.

The third is something of a pet peeve of mine: the ergonomics, or lack of. The DualShock 3 shape has not changed since it got its dual thumbsticks, and in my mind it really should. Designed to look nice and be practical there appears to have been no thought to making it comfortable over long gaming sessions.

The handle ‘prongs’ aren’t moulded, the front surface it just flat and geometric, and in the end provides no real support or stability in my hands (ergonomically unsound design not allowing for true right-left thumb juxtaposition – as R/L thumbs rest one above the other when hands held close together in ‘relaxed position, not parallel or ‘adjacent’ to each other – as mentioned by an expert high-use ‘ergonomist’ and health & safety inspector).

Unfortunately the worst are the triggers, which for some unknown reason are convex instead of concave which results in a tighter grip needed to keep them down to prevent your fingers slipping off, and a strange spongy feel that makes them harder to depress the further in the are instead of the uniform pressure of the 360 triggers. Of course, it’s all dependant on the user but there’s no denying there’s room for improvement.

2) Xbox 360 Add-ons

It made sense from a marketing perspective: “only buy what you need!” This backfired in a way that has annoyed both gamers and developers alike.

One of Microsoft’s big weapons against Sony has always been price, but the drawback is it’s at the expense of features.

With the Core / Arcade Xbox 360 pack missing a hard drive, developers could not make use of hard-drive-streaming to speed up load times or install certain features and assets where and if needed.

Similarly the seperate WiFi Adaptor cost almost as much as a Nintendo DS, which manages to have the WiFi and stick a handheld console in there for the a similar price.

While noble in not charging those not needing WiFi for an unneccessary feature in their console, the exorbitant price of the add-on was massively overblown.

The HD-DVD drive is also up for debate, as it’s interesting to wonder how the so-called ‘HD Format Wars’ would have played out if the Xbox 360 had included it built-in, being the best-selling console after the Wii.

However, the addon was priced very well in comparison to standalone HD-DVD players and had some great bonus deals so that part can’t be faulted.

And as mentioned above, the rather sad Xbox-Live Camera which many gamers simply do not use is a handy PC webcam but hardly a ‘feature’ for the Xbox 360.

1) PlayStation Home

I was really looking forward to this. From Sony’s hype machine I was imagining a Second Life-esque world where we could have our own apartment, walk to a friend’s place, head down to the plaza and enter a building to jump into a particular game’s lobby and hang out and chat.

The reality was a lot less appealing.

For starters, in the end Sony’s Playstation Home was only a few (very very few considering the development time) tiny ‘areas’ seperated by loading screens so no large world or wandering around, and no walking to a friend’s apartment.

Secondly, the limited customisation resulted in everyone looking like brain-dead fashion models that made me shudder as it seemed a bit too much of a depiction of what perhaps Hitler’s ideal world would be.

The areas themselves also lacked any form of personality with sterile, trying-way-too-hard-to-be-hip-and-modern architecture combined with constant ads (both posters and videos) for the latest Sony-related products, games or films. Makes me wonder if the entire project was a sneaky way to shove more advertising down our throats…

Another truly annoying aspect was the limitation for text-based chat only, so you could take 5 minutes typing a sentence or you could plug in a keyboard and keep switching between keyboard and controller to do anything.

I have gotten so used to just speaking naturally with everyone on Xbox Live, that it was quite emotionless and boring tapping out sentences that would usually be answered by various 3 or 4-lettered acronyms.

Finally we’re back to the people-problem again. A stroll through Sony’s Playstation Home reveals little more than people either doing dance emotes in front of screens showing game trailers (really? You have nothing better to do than watch your dancer emote repeated over and over?) or observe every female avatar get virtually molested.

Sony’s Playstation Home could have been so much more. A virtual world instead of a collection of individual tiny 3D chat rooms (that makes chatting way harder than it needs to be) but in the end, it is a product that promised to be the reason to own a PS3, and instead comes across as quite simply a waste of time and a reminder of the number of way too many lonely men out there.

©2010 Alex Balwin – Features Editor

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B. Games and Interactive Entertainment Honours in Game Design PhD Candidate in Game Design and Player Experience

22 thoughts on “Top 5 Failed Console ‘Innovations’ This-Gen”

  1. Has this guy been to Home lately?! It’s completely different from before, much more of an enjoyable experience now.

    There’s tons of stuff to do.


  2. Forgot the Freedom Motion Controller for the 360. Only 1 game supported it and is already canceled

    HD-DVD add on foe 360 was a separate fail from the other add ons

    The Wii is in the lead of the console wars, so wiimote seems like a WIN.


    1. There was no Official motion controller for the 360, The Freedom Motion Controller was in fact a device designed and built by Gametrak, and has yet to even hit retail shelves, as it was first mentioned at the GDC in March 09, and was scheduled for a late 2009 release, which has now been ‘cancelled‘.

      We are talking about 1st-party items, not 3rd-party devices, otherwise the list could be endless.


  3. The add-ons for the 360 is necessary for those who can’t reach their modem with an Ethernet cord. So they buy the wireless router add-on. Granted it costs a buttload of money but to call it a failed innovation isn’t correct.


    1. I’m refering more to the addon system Microsoft has chosen rather than the addons themselves.

      It’s well known that the 360 and PS3 sell at a loss so both MS and Sony lose money from every console sold, which they then make up in game sales (hence why it can take several years for a console to just ‘break even’ before making a profit).

      Microsoft wanted to speed this up a bit by charging less for the console but more for the accessories so they can make a profit that way. That meant artificially expanded prices for things like the wifi adaptor.

      The acessories such as that all work great, I just think Microsoft’s system of charging far more than necessary for them to offset the console price was a bit of a backfire that would often shock consumers when buying a 360 once they factored in the price of all the extras they required (depending on what the buyer was wanting).

      The addons themselves = good quality. The price = way overblown.


  4. forgot one thing for the ps3 controller.
    its shape.

    I’ve never had a problem with the DS controllers shape up until i bought my 360, now every time i switch from 360 to ps3 my hands go ballistic and cramp on me.

    Switching from 360 controller to ps3 controller is like switching from bed o nails to a memory foam mattress.

    Sony, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! change the shape…….

    Oh, not to mention the price no matter what its 100 bucks but the 360s controller well today i bought one for 70 bucks from JBHIFI.

    Cant wait to break it out with metro 2033!!!!!!!!!!


    1. Actually, the 360 controller is very well ergonomically designed, as it’s finger and thumb layout ‘match’ the ‘rested’ hands when softly placed finger to finger. They used soft moulding plastics to get the shape of the hands, which is why the ‘handles have the shape they do, as they follow the contours of the palms, and the thumbs ‘rest’ where they would normally when ‘at rest’.


      1. exactly thats what i was saying.
        if you hold the 360s controller it curves the way your hand curves your every part of your hand is resting on the controller.
        with the DS3 only the middle part is and you have to twist your hand to hold it properly.
        i only WISH sony used the same design.

        only thing i dont like about it is the D pad which allot of people hate, and the batteries.
        im paying 400 bucks for a system and i have to pay another 40 for a rechargeable pack?


        1. You do not need a recharge pack for the 360!

          Simply use rechargable batteries, ideally the top level 2500mAh type, and that’s all that’s needed. Most ppl have a set of rechargeble batteries in a household, the better ones are well suited for game controllers.

          Mine last me approx 2 weeks of use, which is much more than the recharged unit for the 360.

          Why do gamers HAVE to buy a product for a uint, you only have to look around and see what will suit or is readily available.

          There is a clever chap by the name of Benjamin Heckendorn who did the right thing and added the PS3 inards to an Xbox 360 controller, great stuff, just check the link out, scroll to the lower part of the page for details and a few pics.


      1. so?? . .I use rechargeable 2500mAh batteries, an dthey last me about 2 weeks before popping two more in that takes all of 2 mins if that. Plus save electricity not having the controller plugged in for recharge, which usually does not last anywhere near 2 weeks.

        The Six-Axis controller is an ergonomist’s nightmare, and is simply a cheap way of building a controller without even considering user comfort and long term usability.

        That should be a manufacturers main concern, especially when it comes to gaming devices that will ultimately be in a players hands for hours at a time.

        I’ve even had had ppl with in the industry of ergonomics praise the 360’s controller, and they knew nothing of gaming per-se, just functionality, so there was no bias there at all, just what works for the end user. One actually designed items for Qantus Aust and does occupational health and safety reports for major firms, so I think she knows what she’s talking about. And she has never played a game, and the two were given to her to simply test long-term usability and hand functionality. So that showed no bias whatsoever.


  5. [Ed: hint to posters, if you want people to read your comments, make sure you break the post up so they can read it please]

    I think you threw the Wii remote in there just for feedback. Come on the Wii remote did revolutionize the gaming remote and how people play games at home. Did you ever think about an interactive remote before the Wii remote came out.

    Now Sony has the Move and Xbox has Natal, which are both answers to the Wii Remote. The Wii remote might not end up being the best of the three at the end of the day but look at it’s impact on the gaming industry.

    It started the movement of an interactive remote. It is in no way a failure just because it’s not perfect. No concsole or any remote has ever been perfect to date. That’s like saying that the 360 started off a failure because it can’t do 1080P because there’s no HDMI slot or no BluRay.

    Why not call the PS3 a failure because of the lack of cross game chat or the chance to play your own music across any game. The Wii remote was inovative and most of all it makes games fun.

    I got family members that will not touch my PS3 or 360 but they always play my daughters Wii. That’s because the remote makes gaming fun, simple and interactive for anyone. How can you question that?


    1. The Wii is a response to the Maraca controllers & Sensor Sar for Samba de Amigo for the Dreamcast which was released back in 2000 & Fishing Rod Controller in 1999


  6. Good list. I agree with it all mostly. The Wii remote one is highly controversial. Personally I think it was a let down in the sense that it doesn’t do quite what it’s suppose to but it is the start of revolution so I would hardly call it a failure. As for Home, of course it makes money. All it is, is micro transactions and advertisements, how can it not make money? and I would hope more than “85% of daily users” would use it daily, but I guess that’s one more fail to chock up for Home. Not even all of the daily users use it daily.


  7. I wouldn’t say Home is that much of a failure. It makes Sony millions (they got over a million on its first month available), and if stats are to be believed, over 12 million people have joined and 85% of daily users are ones that come back often. But yeah, it sucks. Maybe #2 would be a bit more fitting. I think Miis and Avatars are gay as hell so I think those should be on the list, but that’s me.


  8. Good article. The Wiimote is definitely debatable. I think it was a disappointment, not a failure. I remember it not being as accurate as was advertised, but it didn’t bother me. Just as with anything (Move, Natal, Eyetoy, etc) it can fail without proper support. I do think that the GCN should be on the list, though. With a fair selection of good games and many, many promises, it could be considered a failure.


  9. The Xbox 360 add-ons would not have been so bad if they didnt’ charge a bloody bomb for it. Yes, the camera was rubbish – but the internet adapter would have been fine if it was under $50 and not bordering on $200AUD. Seriously, I just ran with a D-Link one and saved myself some cash.

    Now, about the Wii … you dare insult the Wii? Its sold more than the Xbox 360 and the PS3. RANT! Ha ha ha. I agree 100% with that entire article – especially the Wii-remote!


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