Over thousands of hours professional players finely tune their skill in hand dexterity and hand-eye coordination with the notion that mere milliseconds mean the difference between success and failure. For most eSports players, this fine tuning takes place on a keyboard & mouse, but that isn't always the case.
In the case of smaller, console-derived competitive communities, keyboard & mouse are no longer the golden standard. But instead of taking the spotlight in hopes of becoming the norm, motion controls have found a place supporting these competitive groups by complementing traditional controls as well as attracting more casual players to their communities.
It’s almost unanimously agreed upon within the Splatoon community that motion controls are the definitive way to play in the big leagues. “With a standard console controller, motion controls are the closest we'll ever get to the equivalent of mouse and keyboard precision,” said competitive player Thatsrb2DUDE when speaking with GameRevolution. “[With] dual sticks you would probably have to set up 20 different inputs to achieve the same aim movement.” The skill cap difference is too significant to ignore for most players.
In the case of Splatoon, analog sticks are still relied upon for movement, so skill with traditional input methods remain useful. It's the right analog stick that doesn't often see use in competitive circles.
“Even at maximum sensitivity, a standard player can only push the right stick so far in either direction,” said competitive Splatoon player OctoPops. “The camera will only move as fast as the setting of that sensitivity.” In contrast, mouse aiming provides instantaneous access to any location in a 360 degree periphery, leading to incredible reflex highlights. Motion controls find a happy medium here.
While there is a learning curve when adapting to Splatoon’s motion control scheme, most players end up choosing them over dual joysticks. In the highest level tournaments, motion aiming is considered default.
Nintendo’s upcoming fighter, ARMS, is another motion-centric title with incredible competitive scene potential.
“There already is a competitive community for ARMS forming, this has been the case since the game’s initial reveal,” said competitive Pokken Tournament player BlackCatFight. “So, even with what little information we have on the game, there’s a lot of players looking pick it up competitively.”
But the way motion controls would be used for a fighting game like ARMS is dramatically different from a third person shooter like Splatoon. “In most fighting games you don’t have motion control options, so this could be one of the first cases,” said BlackCatFight.
Competitive players in other fighting scenes have a hard time imagining using motion controls practically. “It seems like it would be pleasant to have if you are a casual gamer,” said competitive Pokken Tournament player KandiSAI. “However, in a competitive scene players like to play without constantly standing up and moving their arms.”
Like a lot of fighting games, action in Pokken Tournament and ARMS is fast-paced and reasonably complicated, so incorporating motion controls in a way that wouldn’t slow the player down is unlikely. Quick reactions and move timing for counters are vitally important, and physical inputs might be counter-intuitive in such an environment.
While motion controls may not find a solid place in a competitive match of ARMS, its accessibility may help build a larger foundation for the community. “If anything, having the option to use motion controls might be what gets them into ARMS, so in that aspect it’s a plus for the community,” said BlackCatFight.
A small install base was one of the largest hurdles that the competitive Splatoon community faced, but with a new console and a bigger market to sell to, Splatoon 2 and ARMS could see far more success than any game sold on the Wii U, especially when it comes to eSports potential.
Although motion controls may not play a part in the vast majority of competitive scenes, they have found a place supporting and expanding gaming communities that feature them. Games like Splatoon and ARMS might be pushing for the inclusion of motion controls, but we’re a long ways off from seeing anyone swing their controller around at EVO.