Although my guess was for a camera, Nintendo has revealed that the New Peripheral for use in Mario Party 6 is in fact a microphone. In typical close-lipped Nintendo fashion, a couple months ago they announced that the new Mario Party "would be playable without a controller." And then waited until now to tell us exactly how this would occur. Although realistically, if you're not using a controller, you're left with pretty much only two senses to exploit. Until Nintendo releases Mario BrainTap.
(This isn't the first mic, Nintendo packed one with the sad Hey You Pikachu back on the N64. And Nintendo has already done cameras with the Game Boy Camera, which was supposed to work with Perfect Dark at one point.)
I am a huge Mario Party fan, so I'm curious how this will play out. Will this mic have a pass-through port on it... because I don't much like the idea of the mic stealing one entire controller port and thus limiting MP6 to 3-player games. And exactly how much gameplay is it going to provide? Will multiple players be able to use it simultaneously during one game? It would be awesome if MP6 could differentiate between four individual player voices, but I suspect that technology hasn't been invented yet. I foresee a lot of clapping and screaming. I doubt we'll have very many "real" words in our vocabulary; the PS2's Lifeline game proved how flaky that crap is.
Nintendo should be warned: voice is one of those things that many players feel is beyond the call of acceptable social duty. You need a group of pretty confident gamers to bust out Karaoke Revolution, and inevitably even some of them will get all squirmy about it. It's just one of those things - like DDR or EyeToy - that some people just simply aren't going to do. My sister wouldn't even play the "Listen to the Doctor" segments of WarioWare Mega Party Games, where you might be randomly required to yell your mother's name, or keep one eye closed, or squat on the floor while playing the minigame. (My favorite doctor instruction: Play without touching the controller.)
While we're on the topic, I have to recommend the PS2 version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Not for the game itself - I've barely played it - but for the bonus EyeToy games. I think this little collection blows the doors off the EyeToy: Play disk that comes packed with the EyeToy itself. For one thing, these minigames come along with a sensical, competitive tournament feature... something the Play disk stupidly stupidly stupidly lacks. When you get a bunch of people to Play, you just Play forever until you see people start drifting out into the kitchen for soy nuts and not coming back. The Potter games offer up a mini-Triwizard Tournament, irrepressibly cute for fans and accessibly entertaining for Those Who Must Have Been Under A Rock For The Last Five Years.
You get sorted. Honest fuck, the game sorts your ass into one of the four Hogwarts houses... by putting the frigging Sorting Hat on your actual head. I love that. It's random, sure, but I love seeing the Sorting Hat chewing its thought cud on my head and delivering me unabashedly into Slytherin. Once all players are in, you churn through a bunch of the usual EyeToy-style games... lots of clapping and waving arms. And at the end, the House with the most points wins (they even show off the House points bean counter thing!) See, the game ends and someone wins. EyeToy: Play developers take note. For further anti-Play sentiment, the Harry Potter games look much better, they don't waste everyone's time slowly reading off the rules, and they utilize the EyeToy's built-in mic so you can scream at wandering ghosts.
Although my quibble with EyeToy remains: I want games where I don't have to stare at myself to play them. If this requires day-glo armbands, I'm okay with that.
I'd also be impressed if the new Metal Gear would use the EyeToy cam to allow Snake to watch you playing the game on a monitor screen somewhere. It sounds like the kind of mind-bending fourth-wall arthouse neo-gaming trick that Kojima would enjoy. (I'm playing Twin Snakes for the first time and just got to the bit where Col. Campbell explains that Meryl's codec number is "on the back of the package" and I'm still super-pissed about what package he's referring to. Damn tricky Kojima-san!)
And back to Nintendo, this microphone (I can't believe they don't have some kind of hip brand name for it yet) won't be the only bizarre peripheral on the racks this fall; coming up soon is Donkey Konga and the wonderful Konga Drum Controller. It's a good thing my entertainment center has plenty of space available.