Everyone is crapping all over Microsoft’s E3 press conference and though we mentioned some of this in our podcast, I thought it would help if we devoted a post to some of the concerns that gamers have about Microsoft’s foray into motion-controls.
Personally, I am amazed by the technology and the potential of Kinect. The voice recognition is very impressive and I think it can be utilized in better ways than simply telling your Xbox to pause a movie. Imagine navigation the Dashboard with it: “Xbox Marketplace” and bam! You’re browsing games or looking at your friends list. You can walk around the room and command your Xbox to start playing a disk without using a controller. I think that would be more useful than the admittedly cooler looking Minority Report-style interface. Sure that looks bad-ass, but using a controller is just faster and I am all about streamlining things. I’m not going to wave my arms around just because I want to look like something I saw in a movie. If I wanted to look like Tony Stark, I would shave my goatee like his and build and Iron Man Suit.
The next issue is the games: as we all were stunned to see, they were basically Wii-clones. Nintendo, if you will recall, had stated that Sony and Microsoft should be embarrassed by having to copy the Wii, but apparently, Microsoft didn’t get that memo. I can only imagine how hard Nintendo is laughing now, because, with a few exceptions, everyone one of the games shown for Kinect could be on the Wii. Kinectanimals is basically Nintendogs, but on a console rather than a DS. The game does have some different features, like being able to race the tiger and such, but at the end of the day, the core concept is the same.
Microsoft has shown a very creative streak throughout their time in the console race and it was shocking to see such amazing technology and potential going virtually untapped. I was much more impressed by last year’s E3, when it was first announced. That demo where the guy scooped paint and threw it on a canvas was mind-blowing. A year later, there was nothing like that at all at E3 and I really don’t understand what happened. I know it is early and I fully expect something to come out on Kinect that will blow me away, but I fail to see how any core gamer could rationally be excited for this.
Which brings me to the core games for Kinect they did show. Personally, I think Child of Eden was one of the games of the show. The spiritual sequel to Rez looks amazing and while it can be played with a normal controller, I think it was the coolest Kinect-enabled game I saw. As for Forza, it’s all the disadvantages of having a plastic wheel in your hands and none of the benefits. I don’t worry about looking silly, as most of the time I will be playing solo, so that doesn’t faze me. But having nothing in your hand is just odd. What if you oversteer, is there a way to re-center your hands in the proper position? I’m sure there is, but everything I see just leads to more questions.
The biggest question is one that didn’t occur to me for a while, as I was initially impressed by it: how do you use the gas? Or brakes? Or drift? Or change the camera to a rear-view position? Similarly, in a third-person action game, how would you control the camera? I’m positive some developer with a modicum of talent could handle this issue, but no one has addressed this issue just yet. And how would you use a potion or change weapons or reload? Taking away all button inputs just cripples the options you have until you are left with something that is akin to Pong. I really don’t want to believe that we’ve come this far just to go back to the beginning.
The mystery of the price is another cause for concern. Some retailers are already pricing it at $149.99, which might be accurate. One wild rumor quotes a Microsoft insider as saying that Sony is going to be blown away when Microsoft unveils the price, as it will be much lower than any is expecting. Personally, I am in no rush to buy any new motion controller, but I can’t help but wonder why Microsoft spent so much time talking about Kinect and not announcing a price. Either they really do have something special up their sleeve or they are gauging reactions first before deciding on a final price point.
Or to be honest, perhaps this is all part of Microsoft’s strategy. Most of the complains I have leveled against Kinect are from the point of view of a hardcore gamer. Most casual fans and moms and grandmas would not care about these things. Maybe Microsoft is feeling secure in their hardcore demographic and feel that Kinect is the best way to expand their consumer base to the more casual fans. If so, then Kinect will likely be a success, although not on the scale of the Wii, to be sure. The only danger in this strategy is leaving the hardcore by the wayside and their E3 press conference didn’t do much to assuage that concern.
I don’t want it to seem like I am trying to crap all over Kinect, but, as I mentioned earlier, I was more impressed by it last year. It seems the more we learn about it, the more questions and concerns we have. Kinect isn’t even out yet, so anyone that would be crowing about this being a failure is obviously jumping the gun. I’m confident some savvy developers will make some incredible software for this platform, but thus far, we haven’t seen anything that is going to make people rush out and buy it. One thing is certain: I do want to hear more about it.
So what are your thoughts? Did Microsoft “Kinect” with your gaming desires? Or did they simply confirm that that nagging feeling that all of us have in the back of our minds that all motion controls are just silly?