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TGS: Nintendo reveals one-handed controller for Revolution

Speaking on the first day of the Tokyo Game Show, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has unveiled the innovative new controller design for the Revolution console - a one-handed device which detects its own location relative to the screen.

Speaking on the first day of the Tokyo Game Show, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has unveiled the innovative new controller design for the Revolution console - a one-handed device which detects its own location relative to the screen.

The controller is similar in size and design to a television remote control, and sports a trigger button and D-Pad along with a number of action buttons - but the key feature is a sensor which Iwata described as the "Direct Pointing Device".

This sensor allows the Revolution to detect exactly where on the screen the device is being pointed, and also detects the controller's distance from and angle relative to the screen.

An expansion port on the bottom of the controller allows the connection of additional devices, with an analogue stick designed to be held in the other hand being shipped as standard. Iwata described this configuration as "nunchuck style".

Another device which will connect to the expansion port is a more traditionally designed controller, which will allow players to control the Nintendo back catalogue titles which the Revolution can play.

Among the uses for the new controller which were demonstrated by Iwata were a fishing game, a sword fighting title, a multiplayer tennis game and party style games where players could do things ranging from swatting flies to cooking and even performing delicate dental surgery.

Interestingly, Iwata also described the controller as providing a "new standard of gameplay for FPS games", pointing out that it allows a fresh degree of control over shooting and movement in such titles, while another demonstration suggested a survival horror game where the player could "intuitively explore in the dark with a flashlight".

However, no actual software for the device was demonstrated - with the entire presentation showing only videos of players using the controller in a variety of game styles.

"Throughout the history of game development, the game control mechanism has become more and more sophisticated," Iwata explained. "Perhaps those who have quit gaming or who have never played games look at the game controller and think it's too difficult to play, even before they dare to touch it."

"In order to expand the gaming population, it is taken for granted that we need to offer games to satisfy veteran gamers. At the same time, I believe that we need to make a new proposal, so that those who do not play games can say, 'I can do it' and, 'I want to touch it.'"

After presenting the controller to the audience, Iwata went on to explain the company's rationalisation behind making such a radical change to the control scheme which it had originally introduced with the Famicom / NES around 22 years ago.

"Firstly, we face the reality that within one family there are people willing to pick up a game controller, and those who would never touch one," he said. "Anyone will pick up a TV remote control, but not necessarily a game controller. Why is this?"

"We thought it was the requirement of moving right and left fingers separately and nimbly that was creating a psychological barrier," Iwata continued. "To expand the gaming population, it was needed for us to design a pad so that any family member would see it on the living room table, think that this was something relevant to them and pick it up."

"For the controller to be placed on the table at all, we had to make it compact - I believe that this will be possible for this controller. Also, just like a TV remote control, it can be manipulated with one hand."

Iwata continued to discuss the challenges of bringing new gamers into the gaming population throughout his speech, having started out by talking through the recent success of the "TOUCH! Generation" games (including Nintendogs and Brain Training) on Nintendo DS in attracting females and older people into games in Japan.

"The hurdle for non-gamers today must be significantly lowered," he said. "Just as the touch pad did for Nintendo DS, the Revolution controller will enable all users to intuitively play from the same starting line. For all family members, it will be something relevant to them which they are willing to use."

Iwata also presented a select number of Japanese developers to discuss their feelings related to the controller - most notably Konami's Hideo Kojima, creator of the Metal Gear series, who told the audience that his initial reaction to the controller was simply to exclaim, "You've done it!"

"Even though it was a surprise to me at first, I quickly understood how it should be used," he commented. "This is exactly what I was looking for."

Speaking more generally about Revolution, Iwata also touched on Nintendo's pledge to create a platform which will be accessible for smaller developers and those without large budgets.

"On the next generation hardware platforms, the size of the development team is projected to be even bigger, and smaller development studios feel that they can't create games for new platforms," he commented. "With this new interface, teams with limited budgets and people can create innovative software with just their good ideas."

Using the team which created Brain Training on the DS as an example - the title was developed in around four months with a peak team size of just ten people - Iwata argued that Nintendo's new platforms will be an ideal place for small developers to shine.

"Nintendo wants to provide a stage on which to showcase your ideas," he said. "Nintendo is willing to help bring these ideas to life. If seeing the controller today sparks great ideas, Nintendo is waiting for your proposals."

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Rob Fahey avatar
Rob Fahey: Rob Fahey is a former editor of who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.