Kinect Not Courting Core Gamers Yet

by on Jun.18, 2010, under games

After quite the lull, Microsoft has resumed their Natal Kinect proselytization. They seem laser focused on marketing it to the casual and non-gamer markets. Adding ESPN content isn’t but certainly not directly related to gaming, but some overlap exists. The launch lineup contains nothing for the “core” audience, otherwise known as “us.”

Supressing the initial urge to scoff creatively, there really is no surprise here. Regardless of how MS may strain to differentiate its product from the Wiimote, the fact remains that a major source of user input is given by moving. Therefore, control schemes that work for “motion gaming” should translate. So we get a bandwagon full of fitness games, “$console_name sports” games, (shudder) party games, with a few kart racers thrown in. What may be more interesting to some are the dance titles that determine how well you execute your gyrations. But that’s not what gamers are looking for. The voice- and motion-activated interfaces are undeniably futuristic and enhance the doodad’s sex appeal, but won’t sell many units. They need to be a pleasant side effect of a must have game peripheral.

Perhaps this is another instance of not being in the target audience. Maybe Microsoft doesn’t want gamer support for Kinect. They certainly aren’t catering to us. Seeing that almost everyone is pegging the stand-alone price at $150, they may well need us on this one. That’s $150 if you’ve already got a 360 on the premises. The potential casual gamer that has yet to purchase a Wii or might be lured by a machine with prettier games, more internets, and fancier controllerless gadgestration is looking at a likely $400 price tag (there seems to be no new Arcade model (good riddance), so it may become unavailable eventually). If MS wants Kinect to achieve ubiquity, and they are so, so jealous of the Wii’s, they’ll need a decent adoption rate by their install base.

The crowd at Sony’s press briefing cheered when at the price announcement for the Move controller. It will only set you back $50. The cheering stopped abrubtly a moment later with the follow up that the PlayStation Eye (required for Move) at another $50. Throw in a navigation controller for $30 and you’re most of the way to Microsoft’s “exorbitant” price. Take the time to notice that a lot of demos use two Moves and think about multiplayer games and $150 starts to smell a lot better.

Notably absent from this year’s E3 was the most compelling Natal demo from last year, Milo. I’ve been having fever dreams in which I interact with NPCs this way, where a shooter villain reacts to my facial expressions or verbal outbursts. The most powerful application of this technology could be its use in conjunction with existing controls. Of course the launch titles aren’t exploring this, but developers will. Unless there is some technical imposition which makes the two control schemes mutually exclusive. The most compelling utilizations of this tech may be invisible ones, but the opening act needs to be flashy.

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