You say you got a real solution

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

What some readers may not know about me is that I’m an avid gamer—albeit a less active one since my son was born, but so it goes. While I’ve always enjoyed "PC" games (and I’m including Mac games in that description) console games have always had a special place in my heart. And like many Mac users, I’m also a big Nintendo fan.

Revolution controller with analog stick

So it was with great trepidation that I repeatedly reloaded web pages last night to get the latest news form the Tokyo Game Show, where Nintendo was expected to finally reveal the controller design for their upcoming gaming console, code-named "Revolution." As any console gamer worth his thumbs already knows by now, the controller was indeed revealed, and it is, as one astute Ars reader put it, batshit fucking insane.

I don’t have much to say about the controller itself that hasn’t already been said, but here’s my summary as of T+10 hours or so.

So that’s that. But what I really want to talk about is not the controller itself, but the gaming press that’s been covering it. Apparently most of the "big" gaming sites got a chance to use the new controller a day before the official announcement in Japan. They were allowed to put the controller through its paces in eight different game environments. One was a modified version of "Metroid Prime 2: Echoes," but the others were just simple technology demonstrations rather than actual games.

There are two interesting things about this media preview. First, as an Apple fan, I find it almost unfathomable that this information didn’t leak once the media got a look at the new controller. Or maybe it did leak and I just missed it. (If so, it wasn’t for lack of trying.) As far as I know, the first description was put up on the web a few seconds after the official announcement in the middle of Nintendo CEO Iwata’s keynote speech. That’s a discipline unknown in the Apple world.

Sure, Apple allows Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times to see its new products ahead of time, but web sites are another story entirely. And I’m not talking about rumor sites, I’m talking about "mainstream" sites like MacCentral (recently acquired by MacWorld). Apparently gaming web sites are able to keep their mouths shut for at least a day—probably because they’re more accustomed to receiving and honoring embargoed information. This happens in the "PC enthusiast" world too, but never where Apple is involved. Trust is a two-way relationship, and it’s lacking on both sides in the Mac web world.

Now that I’ve praised the gaming press for being professional about the release of information, let me go in the opposite direction and damn them for failing to be thorough in their reporting. I read all of the accounts of the controller demo that I could find on the web last night, and they were all extremely sloppy in their descriptions of how the controller actually worked. The gist of most reports was, "You move the controller around, up, down, left, and right, and stuff happens on the screen."

Gee, thanks. But how do you move it? Be precise! You all had a day to think about this, and at least fifteen minutes to actually play with the thing. Was there not a single engineer-type among you who was inclined to immediately try and figure out exactly how the thing works? Does it use a set of accelerometers? Is there a gyroscope in there? Why is there (apparently) an IR port on the front? What kinds of motion does it sense? Is it aware of its position in space? If so, is it absolute, or relative to something? If relative, then to what?

And on and on. There are plenty of fast, easy experiments that could have been done to answer at least some of these questions. For example, try facing away from the TV and see if anything still works. Try covering the front of the controller. Try turning the controller upside-down. Or, hell, how about asking the Nintendo representatives all these questions? (They could start with, "Why do I have to stand on this red 'X' on the floor in order to play this demo?") I think there’s a word for this kind of inquisitive and determined information gathering: reporting.

I’m sure more details will emerge as time goes on, but with few exceptions, the gaming press really blew it with the initial reports. Hell, even now few articles even bother to mention that there are two sensors that need to be placed on the TV in order for this controller to work. (What kind of sensors? How do they work? Where and how to they attach? Who knows? Who would think to ask such questions? Ug.)

I don’t expect every gaming site to go into Ars-level technical detail, but I do expect to see a decent effort to explain precisely what kinds of movements are required in order to actually use the controller. Yes, words like "axis" and "perpendicular" may need to be used, but this is information even non-technical gamers will want to know. And if one site wants to, say, actually ask the Nintendo representatives how the controller works internally, that’d be nice too.

This article originally appeared at Ars Technica. It is reproduced here with permission.