24 May 2007

Wii are the biggest threat to the growth of soccer

I'd like to share a crazy, hair-brained opinion on what I think may be the biggest threat to the continued development of US Soccer: The Wii.

Video games are important to the context of modern soccer, and to sports in America. Many a US based fan played the FIFA or Winning Eleven series and got a taste of the broader world of soccer. Hell, I wouldn't know for the first thing about Huddersfield if it weren't for FIFA '02. Video games are intrinsic to US youth culture, and to many of us adults.

The Wii vs. PS3 battle that played out last year demonstrated that the was a huge desire for the experience of full immersion. When confronted with a choice between a better looking game or one that allowed for a participatory user experience, the market went for the new experience. Games that had felt like third person games suddenly felt more first person. Boxing and tennis do not have a great deal of traction in this country, but they in the forefront of the Wii Sports package with Baseball and Golf. The Madden football series now supports Wii control, and certainly once can imagine that pretty much every game executive wants to see Wii type play in their games.

The problem is that this interface works very well for games that deal with the hands, but not the feet or the head. And that's where soccer faces a problem. It's a game where the hands and arms are verboten, thus removing most of the technology that the Wii exploits.

That's not to say it is impossible. I recall hooking up a Dance-Dance revolution pad to a FIFA '03 game on my PS2, but the experience was more of a gimmick. Soccer is rendered in most games as a third person experience, from the point of view of the TV camera. It's not even an attached point of view like you get when you play from just over the quarterback's shoulder in an NFL game. That can change, but can you see a technology that allows for the feeling that you're actually in a soccer game? One of the advantages of the existing Wii controllers is that they are versatile across a number of activities, from swinging a bat, punching an opponent, and shooting an alien. But you'd need something different for soccer.

Custom interface devices can bridge that gap, as the guitar hero franchise shows. But they're expensive, and place one more obstacle in the way on the immersive video game soccer experience. I'm trying to imagine an interface that would give the feel of actually playing a soccer game, and given the requirements of being able to kick a ball and head something to the back of the net, it's a bit difficult to see a simple solution (even granting player movement to the traditional control stick method.) In fact, if I were FIFA or US Soccer I'd be working on some sort of solution for this right now.

I bring this up because I often see bloggers, soccer writers, and even sociologists write about keeping youth soccer players in the game. And we love our video games, and Goffblog indicates with the Drew Carey Invitational, and as Eskandarian reported in the (on haitus?) Esky's world. Even when we're not out on the field playing the game, we like to virtually experience it. It helps nurture our love for the game, and sometimes allows us to understand the game better. If soccer can't match that interface while other sports can, I wonder if we can really keep everyone interested?

It's a thought, and one I haven't seen elsewhere...

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7 Comments:

At 24 May, 2007 13:13, Blogger I-66 said...

Guilty admission: Prior to every rec league game night I play a lot of FIFA so as to place myself in the proper frame of mind. I have no idea whether it helps or hinders my game, but it's a habit I've gotten into.

I can't imagine a first-person soccer experience. The view from above, or whatever your view of choice, is necessary to help you see the field. My experience from playing in-the-helmet versions of football video games, from the 2K series to Madden on Nintendo 64 is that your ability to see what you need to is hampered significantly by the first-person perspective.

 
At 24 May, 2007 14:24, Anonymous Dave Lifton said...

Yeah! And they never get the player ratings right, either! What's that all about?

 
At 24 May, 2007 14:34, Anonymous Joanna said...

Esky's World is no longer linked from the Toronto FC page but it's still up, for now: http://web.mlsnet.com/t280/fans/blogs/eskandarian/

Hasn't been updated since he was traded, though.

 
At 24 May, 2007 17:52, Anonymous Goose said...

I've heard they're gonna come out with some sort of Wii controller you strap to your foot for games like FIFA and Super Mario Strikers (best soccer video game ever). Completely hearsay though.

 
At 25 May, 2007 15:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a Wii soccer title could also have a very positive effect. We just need to have some faith in Seabass Takatsuka. He's the guy who has done so well with the controls and gameplay on Winning Eleven/Pro Evolution Soccer. If there's anyone who can take full advantage of the Wii capabilities, he's the guy. Apparently he is developing a version of Winning 11 for the Wii. I've heard something about an idea to strap the wii-mote into a shinguard-type thing to allow control. But even if you can only play the goal tender, think how cool that could be. I'm imagining a mini-game where you use both halves of the controller (similar to the boxing gameplay on Wii sports) to play the keeper in a World Cup final penalty shootout. Oooo, i like that. I'm calling Nintendo right now.

 
At 29 May, 2007 06:24, Anonymous Soccer Dad said...

D,

Interesting post. However, it looks like FIFA 08 will be released for the Wii (I expect using either the Nunchuck or the add on classic controller) Though it could be a lot of fun playing keeper with a Wii Remote!

 
At 23 January, 2009 10:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me where I can purchase winning 11 for the Wii? Please e-mail me at
Daniellea314@hotmail.com
THANKS!!!!!!!

 

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