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Kinect – What Microsoft’s Doing Right

It’s easy to bag on Microsoft for Kinect – formerly “Project Natal.” It’s a popular whipping boy, and with plenty of good reason. It’s about as far from traditional gaming as you can get, it’s Microsoft’s attempt to jump on the Wii bandwagon, it’s not for hardcore games and, of course, you’ll look really stupid playing it.

But we know all that. Rather than beating a horse that’s been presumed dead even before leaving the stable, let’s take a look at what Microsoft’s doing right with its motion control system.

The fact that the Kinect is a single device makes it pretty appealing for two reasons. First, it’s simple to buy. With a Wii, you have to worry about having the right amount of controllers and nunchucks, and whether they have Motion Plus or not. Sony’s Move is just as bad, but with the addition of a camera to the mix. With Kinect, you need two things: an Xbox 360 and a Kinect.

The other great thing about the Kinect’s one-stop-shopping nature is that it’s potentially less expensive than the Move. It could even be cheaper than the Wii. If the Kinect does launch at the rumored $150 price point, you’ll only need a $150 Arcade unit and the $150 Kinect to play. That brings the total to $300. If you’re looking for a four-player experience on the Wii, that’s $40 for each controller and $20 for each nunchuck, plus the cost of the Wii, which comes to $440. The PS3 Move costs even more.

The downside for Microsoft is that the $150 price of entry will look a lot more expensive. And for folks getting the device for single- or two-player experiences, it will be.

Microsoft’s Kinect looks nice and easy to use. You don’t need to know how controllers work, and you don’t need to have a rich gaming history. It’s even simpler than the Wii. Just move your body.

It’s got some pseudo-practical features which seem like more of a hassle that they’re worth. Why would I want to scroll through my Netflix queue by moving my arm in the air when I could just hit RB? But the facial recognition sign-in is just plain cool. I live with a roommate, which means that I’ve got to make sure I’m signed in when I’m playing. It would be nice just to sit down on the couch and have the Kinect take care of that for me automatically. [Ed: I thought the point of motion control games was to not sit down on the couch?]

The auto sign-in that was demoed at the press conference was interesting too. How great would it be to go to a friend’s house and play a game without having to bother with that whole hassle of stopping the game to sign in to the system? Sure, there are plenty of potential problems, like signing in when you didn’t mean to, but it’s a neat feature nonetheless.

Believe it or not, I think we’ve seen the killer app for Kinect. It’s the Harmonix-made ‘Dance Central.’ No, seriously.Dance Central 150x150 Kinect   What Microsofts Doing Right

Kinect isn’t made for the core gamer. If you’re concerned exclusively with shooters, you shouldn’t even be looking at this thing. There’s no practical application for you, outside of some head-tracking. It’s made for the people that dig the Wii, the people who play ‘Rock Band’ more than anything else, and the people that flocked to ‘Dance Dance Revolution.’ While ‘DDR’ was cool, ‘Dance Central’ changes the game entirely.

It’s not just a rhythm matching game where you use your feet. It straight-up teaches you how to dance. You learn actual dance moves, and the game can tell if you’re doing them right or wrong. You can even break it down to the simplest level of learning each move.

Will all of that be enough to make the Kinect a success? It’s really hard to say. But those are the points that Microsoft needs to focus on if they really want to make this thing work.

6 comments

  1. would b great if it wasnt 4 v ridiculous price, also wasnt this what they were going 2 do with 4 cam when it came out,which is been neglected. playstation move is only £39.99 or £49.99 with came and disk.

  2. Ah, but you’re not counting the extra controller or two you’ll need for the Move. You won’t be able to get the full experience with just the starter pack. Plus, you know, you need controllers for your friends :)

  3. JoeRo

    I just don’t dig the whole motion control fad. I’ve played the Wii extensively and it just doesn’t do it for me. My buddies and I quickly swapped out the half-assed motion controllers for 4 dedicated game birds when we first started playing SSB:brawl, and years later we’re still using them. I get the whole idea behind it, but I it’s just not fun for me.

    With the Kinect I see the potential for really cool fitness and dance based games, really anything that relies on mo-cap should be fun, but it’s such a small slice of an enormous pie. Beyond that though, I just have to have controller in my hand. When I interact with stuff in the real world I’m not waving my hands about or dancing around, I’m interacting … with STUFF. Actual tangible stuff. Driving a car without touching a gamepad or steering wheel doesn’t feel more realistic to me, it feels, I don’t know, kind of slipshod. What happens if I sneeze in forza motor sport? Do I suddenly veer off the track or into another car? How does one move forward or backward in games, running in place? The whole thing just reeks of gimmick to me, in much the same way that 3d does for movie viewing (for me at least). I need that physical connection to the game, even if its in the form of a little plastic controller.

    I don’t hate the Wii, nor do I condemn the people who love it. It’s just not for me. I think MS was on the right track catering to the self-described “hard core” gamers. The kinect might give MS some of that elusive family market appeal, but it seems like a hard sell to me. I don’t know. Cool tech, but the implementation seems sort of meh.

  4. Jane Morgan

    Dance games. Fitness games. Party games. Kids games. If Kinect works well, it will help those genres. And it could maybe create new genres.

    Heavy Rain for example, controlled with Kinect. There could be game/movie hybrids that are entirely gesture based. For casual audiences.

    20 million people watched Iron Man 2. 99% of games are played by less than 2 million people.

    If we can make games accessible to a larger audience, then games can have bigger budgets, highter quality art, better stories, polish.

    Would movies be as interesting to watch if they were all made for less than a 30 million budget?

    Kinect 1.0 is weak.
    Kinect 3.0 might be the future.

  5. Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa…. What was that? I just had to clean out three incredibly rude and juvenile comments, all made by the same person pretending to be three different people. I will not tolerate that behavior here. These comments are monitored and will be moderated.

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