It seems to be that peripherals are having a hard time. Sure, some have managed to sell well, but that isn’t always an indicator of strength. Name a genuinely good Kinect game. Go on. I’ll wait…
Despite this recent malaise that peripherals seem to be facing, I have fond memories of using extra pieces of plastic tat to go along with my main piece of plastic tat. This is why I’ve decided to have a look at the wonderful world of peripherals, and the trouble they seem to be having in this day and age.
Peripherals used to be all about gimmicky fun. Light guns and robots. Dance mats and bongos. Peripherals were mainly there to provide you with a new way to play from game to game. The peripherals were often cheap, meaning there was not much of an investment being made, either through time or money. People were distracted and happy. They had an ‘arcade experience’ in their home and at the time, this was the holy grail for developers.
As we all know though, the ‘arcade experience’ isn’t really what people are after anymore. The words ‘cinematic’ and ‘immersive’ are now the new ‘arcade perfect’. So with it, the nature of peripherals seems to have changed. Peripherals seem to be made with the sole aim of papering over technical shortcomings or erasing design errors. Squeezing every last drop of life out of a console before the inevitable and expensive ‘next generation’ has to arrive.
You’ve got extra RAM. Improvements to controllers so that the newest games can be played. Too late attempts at ‘me too’ waggle sticks. Extra buttons for handheld consoles. Extra CD drives to show ‘support’ for a new storage medium. None of these are fun and all of them are poorly supported not to mention expensive.
With these expensive peripherals comes the problem for both consumer and developer. Should I invest? Will the games exist that take advantage of this new hardware? Will there be enough customers to support this game? More often that not, the answer is a big fat no. Here’s why;
You’ve got the consumer pie. Mmm. Tasty. Developers want the biggest slice they can get out of this pie as making games is expensive and making money means you don’t get shut down.
When you start talking about supporting these peripherals, you’re talking about a smaller piece of the pie. Not only are you aiming at people on one particular console, you’re then further dividing that group into those ‘with’ the peripheral and those ‘without’. This means that your target audience is so much smaller than You stand a better chance of selling games to a decent number of people if you focus on what ACTUALLY COMES WITH THE CONSOLE. So it’s no wonder the support isn’t there and these peripherals turn into failures.
The only recent example of peripherals seeming to do it right recently was the whole ‘guitar’ game craze. Of course, this was very quickly run into the ground with no thought of consumer exhaustion. Cheers Activision. I look forward to your next Tony Hawk game. Oh, it’s a remake of when Tony Hawk games were good? Smart move. Is it going to be Ride compatible? It’s just that my board’s been gathering dust lately…