DF Retro on Nintendo’s motion-controlled Sports series – from 2006 to today

Nintendo upended the video game industry in 2006 with the release of the Wii, a console that didn’t even try to compete with the high-end power of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, instead concentrating on an immediately compelling concept: motion control. Sealing the deal was the inclusion of an irresistible pack-in game – Wii Sports -key in making the Wii a global phenomenon. Can Nintendo capture that magic again? Perhaps not, but the recent arrival of Nintendo Switch Sports is a fascinating release, a clear evolution in many ways, but not quite the finished article we might have hoped for.

When Nintendo launched the Switch in 2017, it was clear that it represented a different direction from the family focused Wii era. Due perhaps in part to the rise in mobile gaming, Nintendo clearly felt the need to shift back into the more traditional gaming space with Switch and, over the last five years, I’d say it has delivered on these promises. Look closely, though, and you’ll still spot echoes of the Wii era – and that becomes more evident with the release of Nintendo Switch Sports. To understand what this game is all about, though, we need to look back to the year 2006 with the launch of Nintendo Wii.

This original Wii Sports was driven entirely by the capabilities of the Wiimote – the included controller with Wii. It was a new and innovative design which could support traditional gaming experiences while also offering something new with motion control. It uses a combination of a three-dimensional accelerometer, capable of detecting motion on three axes, and an optical sensor that works in conjunction with the sensor bar. For Wii Sports, the software has limited information on the position of your hand within a 3D space and mostly relies on the accelerometer to determine direction and speed of a motion.

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