Gimmicks. Originally meaning an attractive and clever idea, this word has been used of late in the gaming sphere in a negative fashion in order to construe features that are either overplayed or underutilized. Today I will be using the word in both fashions, to describe my personal three ideas of game consoles that could have been cool, but never became what they could have been.

“Imagine a unified system of unlocking new Easter eggs and features. A unified currency, earned for free. And even an incentive to do some exercise!”

  1. The Wii U gamepad

The Wii U gamepad has faced much criticism despite several major games like Splatoon and Super Mario Maker providing great examples of the unique usage of the device. However, the gamepad is mainly relegated by developers into the role of an item screen or a navigation map, which only serves to exacerbate the main reason between the success of the 3DS touch screen and the failure of the game pad – the distance in field of vision.

  1. Play Coins from the Nintendo 3DS family

Imagine a unified system of unlocking new Easter eggs and features. A unified currency, earned for free. And even an incentive to do some exercise! The Play Coin feature that is inherent to any 3DS system promised to be all that, with 10 Play Coins accumulated throughout one day and storing up to 300. Play Coins would even collect faster with more footsteps taken when the 3DS was with you. However this feature became an underutilized gimmick, with sparse software making use of them; the latest being perhaps Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. My most frequent use – the built-in Streetpass Mii Plaza.

“The front touch screen saw some usage as an alternative control scheme in certain games, which only served as proof to gamers of the imprecise touch controls and how much screen real estate fingers could take up (and smudge)”

  1. Vita’s touch screen

During launch period there were several games, such as the delightful Touch My Katamari and Tearaway, and to a lesser extent Little Big Planet PS Vita which showed off innovative usage of how Vita’s front and back touch screen gimmick could affect gameplay and the game world. Content like this dried up in the following multitude of multi-platform releases. While the back touch screen was completely forgotten by developers, the front touch screen saw some usage as an alternative control scheme in certain games, which only served as proof to gamers of the imprecise touch controls and how much screen real estate fingers could take up (and smudge).

Alistair Wong

Image: Splatoon, Nintendo.

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