Things that try and keep an idea fresh by introducing a novelty can very often be thought of as gimmicks. For example, the thing that Nintendo are marketing to children and grannies a like is the motion control of the Wii. Instead of using a pad or joystick to select a menu option, you can now point at it, and wave the cursor around like its a mouse on fire. It introduced an exciting new method of control for those gamers who's thumbs have been worn down to nubs from years of pummeling buttons. It is a great idea, but one that I feel has been hit by the gimmick stick hard.
We all love Wii sports. Its fun to play and a new idea. Playing tennis by mimicking the actions of a racket using the Wiimote is what tennis games have always dreamed to be. It was whilst playing this game however that some dimwit thought;
"Wouldn't it be great if I wasted 50 pence worth of plastic and create some hideous malformed racket shape to attach to the top of my controller. Only losers need to use the sensor."
If you need help visualising that what you are holding is the reality side of a virtual tennis racket then it is amazing that you managed to live this long without choking on oxygen. The device is an ugly lump of plastic that serves no purpose other than to make you look like a prat. There is absolutly no practical use for it other than to maybe hit your opponent when he is beating you. The Wii Wheel helps you steer more easily, the Wii Zapper puts the remote in a cradle to make it easier to shoot, this just blocks the sensor and makes you look like a pillock.
The other useless peripherals in this range include a mini gold club and a light sabre attachment. The worst thing about these that has been stressed a lot already, is that the darn things have an awful tendency to block the sensor on the Wiimote. This means that to select options from a menu, you need to detach the rubbish little bit of plastic, and then re-attach it before you get into the game. The Wii Wheel over came this by letting the sensor see out of the frame, something that is a very useful and not too complicated thing to implement!
It is just a bit sad that some companies decide that the IQ of a few gamers is less than a stagnant pool of water, and so these nightmare peripherals get released in order to prey off of the terminally stupid. The fact that some of the offending items provide no practical use and indeed stop one of the intended features from working is just plain daft. It was already uncool that you were pretending that the thing in your hand was a sword, let alone making it look like one. I can only really see such things appealing to children, and sweaty middle edged men who dress up as elves when playing the Legend of Zelda.
Nintendo are diving into the waters of gimmicks again now with Wii Fit. The balance board that is provided with the game looks very novel, but will not possibly be of much use in any other game apart from perhaps another Wii Fit title.
The main culprit of gaming gimmickry as far as I am concerned though is the soon to be released Rock Band by Harmonix. We are all familiar with wielding the fisher price guitars supplied with Guitar Hero, but Rock Band takes it a step further introducing a microphone and midget's drum kit. This may sound cool, but it there are about 99 good reasons not to buy it. That's right, it costs the best part of £100, for a single game! That money could easily go towards two or three other games, or a decent hardware upgrade for a PC. That is a lot to ask for in exchange for virtual rock god/tennis racket strummer. However, if Guitar Hero is any example to go by, devoted fans will not be deterred by the sky high price tag.
Some gimmicks can be good fun, but I really do disagree with having them just for the sake of it. The Guitar Hero games work because you have a toy guitar to play along with, giving your right hand a change of exercise routine for once. A table tennis paddle that you can put on the end of a Wii remote however makes you look silly and increases the life expectancy of your virginity as well.