History repeats itself. It's an often used cliché, but for once it might be true. I'd like to draw a parallel for arguments sake and we'll compare:
Nintendo is coming from a long and esteemed career of producing machines that have been the home to Iconic games which others are measured against.
It has witnessed games develop from blocky, bleepy distractions where,
like a book is to a movie, imagination was a strong component in enjoying
games to where we are today with lavishly produced CGI cut scenes rivaling,
and in some cases exceeding what Hollywood produces. Add in Orchestral
soundtracks with major professional Hollywood talent voiced dialogue.
But they are breaking the mold, they have realised or understood or decided (take your pick) that games aren't just about pretty graphics and gorgeous soundtracks.
And by releasing the Wii, (It's codename was Revolution),They have made
the decision to offer developers the ability to provide new methods of
interacting with games. This augments rather than replaces what currently
exists and developers can make use of it or not.
I would imagine that Nintendo have been spurred on by the success of their touch sensitive DS screens offering new ways of playing, and they will have paid an awful lot of attention to the success of the Sony Eyetoy and Sony's Singstar which have introduced (albeit in a limited form) a new audience to video games that normally would have shied away.
The Wii brings very new forms of interactivity to a mainstream video game machine by means of gyroscopic velocity sensitive motion detecting inputs. Interestingly what it doesn't bring is a marked improvement in the quality of sound or graphics. The machine is intentionally being reigned in to keep it realistic. What will all this mean for the developers and gamers? Will the developers finally have freedom to develop what they want? Probably not - there is no shortage of new "revolutionary" ideas that could be put into games on current generation machines which don't have clever input methods. Innovation comes in many forms. However, innovation is rarely a commercially viable prospect in the eyes of big business and less discerning mainstream markets. Nintendo is only one of four major players in the battle for the gamer's money: Sony, Microsoft and the PC publishers all want the gamer's money too, will they be going out on a limb?
Of course, now after this was initially written, Sony have released it's Move add-on, Microsoft have Kinect and Nintendo have produced the further evolution of the Wii - the Wii U. These offerings have all proven that there was a market in pushing the user interactivity experience and that if one company led with some success, then others would follow to try to capitalise and try to win the spoils. And it also proves that limiting the Audio / visual aspects of the machine won't win friends and is a very important aspect to gamers.
The more companies in the market, the more chance someone will take a risk - and therefore the more chance that if the gamble paid off others will be quick to jump on the Band Wagon.
Nintendo initially offered something revolutionary, but they also held back on technical specs. Can we learn anything from the Konix or draw any parallels? I think we can:
Let's suppose that it's 1989 and the Konix was readily available for you and I to purchase. The machine costs somewhere between £200 and £245. It offers, for the money, amazing quality sound and graphics. It has at it's heart the revolutionary control system that is a jack of all trades. Not only can you play flying, driving and bike riding games but you can plug a regular (Konix preferably) joystick in and play great arcade games. The machine offers ambitious aspirational peripherals like the Power chair (which costs the same as the machine), light gun with recoil, Ski simulator !?!!? etc. etc.
Konix: Wyn, Chris, Robert
I think the first lesson we can learn is that of the games that might have
seen the light of day at launch, only 2 or 3 actually made use of the
revolutionary controls of the Konix. The rest were standard arcade style
games like shoot'em ups or platformer's.
It is very unlikely that many people would have bought a Power Chair except a few early adopters and the typical filthy rich. It would be redundant on any game other than a simulation therefore as much as it pains me to say, it's probably a huge white elephant.
I would imagine that the revolutionary aspects of the machine would attract you to it initially, but it would be the strength and quality of the games that would be the best feature of the machine. Now this is probably the crying shame of it all. Of course it's well documented that the developers were crying out for more memory. That still happens today, developers are never happy with their lot, but they usually make the games work and jump through the necessary hoops to make great games within the limited resources. It's still happening - the PlayStation 2 famously has less texture memory than its rivals and it still manages to produce great looking games (through developer's blood, sweat and tears!). The PS3 and Xbox 360 are more closely matched however. Developers wouldn't program if they didn't like challenges and showing off their skills, so I think we can ignore that.
It's not hard to see the potential of the Konix machine. From the rich,
colourful screen-shots showing loads of big sprites being thrown very quickly
around the screen, actual usable quick 3D capabilities, great sound
The machine had a strong collection of Triple A publishers and developers on board to create games for it.
It begs the question really, was the union between Flare and Konix a marriage made in heaven or a candidate for a quickie divorce if ever there was one?
It's clear that the Slipstream was a brilliant and clever design for a game controller, the light gun and Power Chair were very well realised ways of bringing arcade thrills and fun to the masses.
It's also clear that the Flare One was a fantastic computer system with the power and flexibility to allow developers to create games the equal or maybe even surpassing those games available in the arcades.
My point is, should the two have been put together? Would both have fared much better separately? I personally think they would. If Nintendo are only just doing this now (yes they've experimented before, and bought oddities like the Virtual Boy and the Power Glove to market) for the launch of a mainstream console, then they must have learnt something on the way.
If the Multi-system was another boring, vanilla, wedge shaped home computer with a keyboard and floppy drive then it's wouldn't have provided the opportunity to generate comments such as this one from a forum post:
[the Multi-system] Never released, It's British! Probably because they couldn't find a way to make it leak oil :-)
I think the Konix Multi-system was, in effect, too good. It was too far ahead of it's time.