NEW YORK (CNN/Money) – Ending months of speculation, Nintendo has begun to unveil the 'revolutionary' aspects of its next generation video-game system -
Rather than playing the next "Mario" or "Zelda" game with a two-handed controller, you will use a device that more closely resembles a television remote control. The wireless unit, using internal sensors, will translate your wrist and hand movements into onscreen actions.
"This is an extremely exciting innovation -- one that will thrill current players and entice new ones," said Nintendo president Satoru Iwata in a statement.
"For the fist time, a controller will allow you movement in every direction," Reggie Fils-Aime, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Nintendo of America, explained to me. "Obviously left and right, but you can also move in and out, pitch and yaw."
Because it's so different than what the gaming world has seen for the past 20 years, it's hard to explain precisely how the Revolution's controller works. It fits in your hand much like any remote control, with one button easily accessible with your thumb. A second button, which is more like a trigger, is underneath the remote and can be used with your index finger.
While it will chiefly rely on those internal sensors to reflect movement on screen, the controller does have a D-pad, which can be easily reached with your thumb. (A D-pad, which is a standard feature on today's controller, is a movement director that resembles a plus sign.) Developers, ultimately, will decide how often that feature will be used in titles.
"What I believe many developers will choose to do is take full advantage of the telescopic and movement aspects of this controller and make it so games are not very button dependent," predicted Fils-Aime.
Nintendo was not expected to show any next generation game demos at Iwata's keynote speech Friday morning at the Tokyo Game Show, but Fils-Aime described a couple of scenarios being shown behind closed doors.
Imagine a game that simulates the fly-fishing experience. Using one of today's standard controllers, you'd likely press a button once to begin casting, then press it again to retrieve your line. Using the Revolution's controller, you'll actually mimic casting a fly rod.
Another example: You're playing a first person shooter (perhaps the latest "Metroid" game). The controller would act as a virtual pistol in your hand, letting you point at and shoot objects on screen, using that aforementioned trigger button near your index finger.
"It is very responsive to the way your hand or wrist moves," said Fils-Aime. "Frankly, that's why developers have responded so enthusiastically to this. The hand motion is very straightforward but the possibilities of what you can do are quite mind-blowing."
The controller also supports a variety of expansions and auxiliary devices. Nintendo released a photo showing an auxiliary thumbstick (a standard on current controllers), which the company said would add enhanced control to appease hard-core gamers. (Gamers, summon that same "Metroid" session in your head. The thumbstick would be used to control character movement, while the Revolution controller would be used for targeting and firing your weapon.)
While the controller appears to use gyroscopes of some sort to gauge your hand and wrist movement, Nintendo said it would not discuss the details of how it works in an effort to prevent competitors from copying the design.
"Game control is essential – it's the area where perhaps the most game-play improvement can be made," said John Schappert, Sr. Vice President and General Manager of Electronic Arts (Research) Canada in a written statement. "While our portfolio represents a full array of titles across all genres, I think our sports titles might be the first to immediately take advantage of what this novel 'freehand' type of control has to offer."
Nintendo first discussed the Revolution in May at the E3 trade show. The system, due out in 2006, will only be as thick as three stacked CD cases. It will be backward compatible with GameCube games and owners will be able to download (and play) virtually every game the company has created for the NES, SNES and Nintendo 64.
The system will be wi-fi enabled, said the company, allowing owners to play others for free. No titles have been announced for the Revolution yet, but Iwata did say at E3 that work is underway on both "Zelda" and "Mario" games as well as a version of Square Enix's "Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles."
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Morris is Director of Content Development for CNN/Money. Click here to send him an email.