I’ve seen a lot of criticism of Xbox 360’s Kinect device & it’s launch titles, saying that ‘it’s all been done before’, ‘Microsoft is just copying Nintendo’ and ‘Kinect doesn’t represent any new innovation in gaming’.
Frankly most the articles I’ve read bug me. The majority of the opinions I’ve seen are really shallow, fly-by-night judgments made by people that have very little understanding of the device, what it does relative to the competition, and the potential it has. I might argue that we failed to clearly communicate the device’s potential but can’t we assume that folks MIGHT do some thinking on their own besides just reading the ‘press guide’?
Here’s a few points that I think many journalists seem to be missing:
- KINECT LAUNCH TITLES ARE “MANDATORY”
It’s important that people realize that Kinect’s 15 launch titles are ESSENTIAL to establishing a foothold in the ‘motion gaming’ space… but it’s just the start.
If Microsoft failed to launch the equivalent of Wii Sports, Wii Fit, Mario Kart, etc., we’d be criticized for “still not catching up with what the basics of what the Wii has”. Instead, Microsoft produced a few fundamental titles that essentially provide the same casual gamer ‘motion controlled’ experience as the Wii… and now we’ve been subsequently criticized for “not innovating enough” beyond the current state-of-the-art?
Let’s get this straight: Microsoft is releasing all the ‘full motion gaming essentials’ with these 15-games at launch as a first step… not necessarily to produce any "transcendent" titles. (Although as you’ll see in bullet #2, I believe that certain Kinect launch titles do in fact transcend the current Wii experience) We have many more years of gaming to accomplish that, since we own the patents on Kinect’s technology.
- CERTAIN KINECT TITLES DO TRANSCEND WII’S GAMES
Having been at E3 & played for an hour or so at the Microsoft booth, I would make the case that AT LAUNCH, "Dance Central", "Kinect Adventures", "Your Shape", & "Kinect Sports" are in fact major evolutionary steps beyond what Wii has presented to date.
- "Dance Central" accurately recognizes head, arm, leg, body, hand, and foot movement in 3D & in real time, while requiring the player to hold nothing in their hands. In comparison, the movement tracking that happens makes the Wii’s "Just Dance 2" waggle-dependent game play look kind of last gen. I waggled my way through an entire JD2 game without breaking a sweat; something that’s impossible to do on Dance Central.
- "Kinect Adventures" again leverages body, arm & leg movements to capture coins. It’s like playing a frenetic upright game of Twister, holding your arms, legs, and body in positions that match the coin patterns coming at you. This games reminded me of a game of basketball: I was so focused on the game play, I didn’t realize until the end of the game how exhausted I had gotten after repeatedly playing.
- "Your Shape" is an easy title to applaud. Every student of yoga recognizes the importance of establishing the right pose & maintaining it for the correct amount of time and Your Shape is the first title to accurately monitor this, making other Wii titles very deficient in comparison. And having played the game, I can tell you that any lag one might predict would be in a sensor based game is unnoticeable in play however it was commented by a worker in the ‘capsule’ I was in that the games all are beta test quality with a ton of performance optimization left to on them.
- "Kinect Sports" is just flat out aerobic. Foot work, arm work… and most of all, jumping, are all items that drive competition. This game will be exhausting to kids who will undoubtedly like it because, among other things, it appears to automatically handicap stronger players to "even the score" allowing the 16 year old to play with the 12 year old.
This is just the beginning. Gaming with Kinect is simply starting off by tapping the casual gamer however there are many directions in which Kinect based gaming can go to enhance the gaming experience. Some people can’t understand that Kinect doesn’t have to be at the center of all gaming; Kinect can augment other game types to provide even more powerful & realistic controls during game play.
- Have you considered FPS games with head-tracking? Lean to the left to peek around a wall and fire? Lean back to hide/cover? Get ready for this scenario because the Kinect product managers on the E3 floor verified that this exact scenario is in the works.
- Have you considered games that capture body motion while you hold the existing Xbox controller? Capture voice commands during the game to initiate changes in tactics or strategy? Tom Clancy’s EndWar was one of the first titles on Xbox 360 to do something like this but they had to engineer voice instruction into their game. Now imagine EVERY title have voice command capabilities with little to no effort on the part of the game developer.
- Have you considering titles using single-handed wireless controllers? Like say… a light saber-esque controller with a thumbstick for player movement and hand/arm gesture for other abilities… like ‘Force’ push.
Kinect has a VERY bright future. It’s just too bad few journalists have given very much thought about the true potential of this gaming technology. I hope they come around.
(If anything… I think the problem Microsoft will have is that people with carpeting with start to wear out the area in front of their TVs because of the constant foot traffic in the area. I predict a heavy aftermarket industry for carpet protectors to be paired with Kinect sales.)