He or she who wields the MotionPlus in EA's upcoming Wii sports games will be able to play differently, but not always better.
At a recent showcase for EA's upcoming sports games in New York City, I got a chance to play EA's Tiger Woods PGA 10 for the Wii with Nintendo's MotionPlus add-on and watch a developer use the device to swing through the company's Grand Slam Tennis.
And I got to grill the creators on how MotionPlus works in these games. It's optional in both.
And, get this, the developers say it won't give you a competitive gameplay advantage.
"We didn't want to make it more beneficial for players who have MotionPlus," Grand Slam Tennis producer Thomas Singleton explained to me as we talked about multiplayer modes. "It's just different."
MotionPlus certainly allows games supporting it to be played differently. Take Tiger: The MotionPlus attachment allows games to identify the relative position of the Wii Remote even when it is still. So a golf game like Tiger Woods can determine whether a player is really swinging their arm back to drive a golf ball or just flicking their wrist – and render those two very different actions as the two different kinds of shots that they would be in real life.
That kind of difference would seem to imbalance the playing field of MotionPlus gamers against non-MotionPlus gamers, but EA says that is not the case. That would be good, if correct, for players who can't afford to arm every one of their Wii Remotes with a MotionPlus. A MotionPlus player could be an even match against their non-MotionPlus friends.
The more basic MotionPlus-less controls of Grand Slam Tennis are still more complex than the tennis in Wii Sports. The MotionPlus-enabled version will let players get closer to feeling that their body and arm movements are being matched on-screen.
That better feel comes through different mechanics. With the add-on, a gamer's tennis player will be able to wind their body up for a swing as the MotionPlus-enabled Wii Remote is moved back for a swing.
Without MotionPlus, the tennis player's body stays square until a swing is made. With the MotionPlus, players can aim their shots to any part of the tennis court. Without it, they will apply an angle to their shot by timing their swing to the movement of an arrow back and forth across the net. (Singleton demonstrates some of this at the game's official site)
Players can attach or remove the MotionPlus in the middle of a tennis match and the controls will automatically switch.
If Singleton is right, then, by design, neither playing method will allow a gamer to play better. They will just be able to play differently. Head-to-head games of a MotionPlus player against a non-MotionPlus player are not discouraged.
They should be balanced just fine, the producer said.
EA's first two MotionPlus games, Tiger and Tennis, will be released in June.