Here's What I Think (Vibrating Controllers)
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All this talk about Sony and Immersion battling in court over rumble technology has got me thinking. Here’s what I think: I don't think anybody really cares about rumbling controllers. Quick, think back to the last ten games you've played; I bet you can't remember how many of them made use of the DualShock's rumble feature. How little do I care if my controller can shake, rattle, or roll? I honestly can't tell you if the Xbox 360 controller has a rumble feature, and I play my 360 all the time.
I remember the first time I felt a controller shake. I was at Wal-Mart playing StarFox 64 and I dipped my ship's wings into the water and the controller shook. I'll admit it was cool as hell, but nowadays, a vibrating controller does nothing for me. Sure, there are occasions where having your controller shake makes things a little more intense or interesting, but these scenarios are few and far between. The controller simulating a heartbeat, rumbling when something explodes, vibrating when you fire a gun, and shaking when you get punched - has all been done before, and has almost no effect on gameplay. When was the last time you read a review and they brought up the controller shaking? You may have read a preview somewhere that touted the feature, but trust me, previews are often written with nothing but a press release to go by for information, so it was likely because there was nothing else to talk about.
"If you can see a single blade of
grass in Madden and hear the hot dog vendor in the stands, but you don't feel
the tackle? That's not going to sit well with gamers."
- Immersion President Vic Viegas in a recent 1up Interview
Since this guy is the head of the company famous for providing rumble technology, you have to take that quote with a grain of salt, but even with a grain of salt, it's ridiculous. Sports games in particular have no need for a vibrating controller. Ohhh, my controller will shake when I drop back to pass - that makes it sooooo difficult to find an open receiver. It's not like the controllers are shaking hard enough to affect your ability to complete a pass or make a free throw. Hey, if the controller was shaking so hard that I had to struggle just to hold onto it, things would be different, but they aren't.
Even games that you think would benefit from having a rumble feature often aren't substantially better for having it. Take Metroid Prime Pinball for example, it has a whole cartridge add-on just so the DS will rumble a little bit when your ball/Samus hits a bumper. Give me a break. The shaking is so weak and pitiful I don't know what it feels like, but it darn sure doesn't feel like I'm playing a real pinball game.
I'm not saying that if the technology is there that developers shouldn't use it, but I am saying console manufacturers shouldn't spend an extra penny adding said technology to their controllers. At $599 the PlayStation 3 is expensive enough and I don't want some feature with questionable worth making it even more costly. If you don't think this could raise the already high cost of the PlayStation 3, ask yourself how Sony's going to recoup their 91 million dollar settlement to Immersion, and the subsequent cost of licensing the technology for the PS3.
Just say no to vibrating controllers.
6/20/2006 Aaron Thomas