E3 2012: Ahead of Wii U’s big day, is motion gaming losing its mojo?

When the Wii burst on to the gaming scene, followed closely by the PlayStation Move and then the Kinect, it seemed like gaming was being taken into a brave new world.

But, according to a recent survey by the gaming Web site IGN, it seems that motion controlled games aren’t of that much interest to the more serious gamer. When asked to identify the most important trait for a next-generation console, respondents said that they were just not that interested in having an innovative controller.

Peer Schneider, who is the Senior Vice President of Content and Publisher at IGN, said that gamers have hit some motion-controller fatigue.

“There’s been no evolution of those games,” he said. The first titles were dance games or exercise games, he said and have largely “firmly stayed in that realm.” While motion-control games are good for families, hard-core gamers haven’t seen titles that convince them motion-gaming has good accuracy or control.

“It’s not that they hate [these controllers],” he said of more serious gamers. “But software hasn’t sold them on being anything more than a one-generation fad.”

The survey also found that while 62 percent of respondents own a Wii, which has the heaviest focus on motion-controlled games, only 25 percent play it regularly.

That’s bad news for Nintendo, which is revealing more information about its next-generation console, the Wii U at the upcoming Electronics Entertainment Expo. Fifty-four percent of gamers said that they have no excitement or are indifferent to motion sensor gaming.

Yet while Nintendo is the only major console maker to have actually announced a new device, gamers are more excited about what Sony and Microsoft may have to offer.

Of the 62,000 IGN visitors polled by the site, 63 percent said they are considering buying a new PlayStation console from Sony; 61 percent said they would buy Microsoft’s next Xbox.

The Wii U came in with 40 percent of the vote, just ahead of a hypothetical box from the game company Valve. Gamers also said they’d be interested in a console of some kind from Apple.

Headed into E3, gamers said they were most excited about what Microsoft had to offer for the Xbox, followed by Sony and Nintendo, though they expect Xbox and Wii promoters to have the strongest presence at the show.

Having a strong message at E3 will be crucial for Nintendo, Schneider said, while the company still has time to convince people that the Wii U is as revolutionary as it was promised to be.

“As more is announced, audience thinking may shift — a good portion of the audience is confused and is not thinking about the Wii U,” he said.

Pricing will also be key for Nintendo, as those polled said that they were less willing to pay top dollar for a Nintendo console, even with much anticipated features such as improved graphics.

Improved graphics were the most important feature for gamers across the board, followed by the ability to connect to other media.

Around 22 percent of those surveyed said they use their gaming consoles to watch DVDs, while 15 percent use them to watch subscription video content and 15 percent use the devices to catch online video from places such as YouTube or Vevo.

Looking ahead, Schneider said that he expects to see some changes to the way media is consumed two console generations from now.

“There’s no doubt that the next next-generation will be all digital,” he said. The upcoming line of consoles, he expects, will be the last to rely on discs and said it seems inevitable that games will go the way of music, books and movies.

That sets up a good market for Valve, he noted, which could leverage its expertise with PC gamers and its Steam digital distribution platform to wedge itself into the brand loyalty wars.

“People are interested in seeing what Valve is willing to set on the table,” Schneider said. “Maybe console players are casting a jealous eye at PC gamers. We’ve seen a resurgence there with Diablo, Starcraft II — maybe respondents are thinking Valve can bust that open.”

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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