HOW DOES THE KINECT STACK UP AGAINST THE REST OF THE MOVEMENT-BASED PERIPHERALS?
So both the Cirque du Soleil performance and Xbox Media Briefing are done and dusted, and Microsoft has fully-detailed and demonstrated their Kinect peripheral. But what does that mean for both Xbox 360 owners and gaming in general?
‘Casual’ gaming has such a significant marketshare at the moment that Microsoft would’ve been extremely foolish to not try to tap into this potential user base. I enjoy an immersive, long session of the latest action/adventure game or a shoot-‘em-up as much as the next gamer, but the most fun I’ve had with local multiplayer has always come with casual-style gaming with mates. Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Lips and the like are great ways to cap off a night in with friends, and to add to that sense of silly, friendly (and sometimes a little inebriated) fun with a session of Kinect will be a great success.
For a better analysis, I think it’s important to look at all three consoles’ movement-based control systems. Most people may have written off the Wii as a ‘kiddie’ console for the combination of this ‘gimmicky’ feature and a lack of a jump to higher-resolution graphics with the console generational change. But Nintendo has always been about focusing on the experience rather than the hardware, and their first-party titles have (by and large) used the features of the console rather well. But that motion capture method has become rather dated, and a plethora of shovelware games have diluted the appeal of using remotes somewhat.
Another recent announcement at E3 was Sony’s PlayStation Move system. Sure, it has a pretty balloon at the top of the remote to help with detection, and it uses the PlayStation Eye camera to detect the remotes for the console (also probably allowing for photo/camera possibilities during gameplay), but it’s essentially another version of the Wii’s system – albeit 3 years further down the track. To my mind, it’s a middle-ground – trending towards the Wii’s end of the spectrum – and a ‘safe’ way of enticing the ‘casual’ demographic of gamers. A little improvement over a competitor with little risk to the initiative… but as a result, a lot less to gain from the minor improvements as well.
Now, to Microsoft’s Kinect… To start with, the jury’s still out in my mind for the name. It’s a fitting collaboration of “kinetic” and “connect” (which says what it does quite directly), but the name itself seems a little… strange. But I suppose the Wii seemed weird to begin with and now it’s a fact of life for gamers (as Microsoft are probably hoping for the Kinect).
I have to admit that the Xbox Kinect is ambitious. Not simply relying on remotes but mapping skeletal structures – they really are taking the hi-tech road to appealing to the casual gaming market share. Demonstrations seem entertaining and jam-packed with features, the hardware itself doubles up as a video camera for the communications network Xbox Live promotes so heavily (plus in-game action snapshots to come back to haunt yourself at the conclusion of the game!!), and there’s a ton of other exciting features too. Voice-recognition is a great touch, and the extent of integration with Xbox Live’s other non-gaming features is very impressive.
Having played the occasional game on a Wii, I do enjoy some of the ‘casual’ titles that can make use of these systems. Ultimately, though, I think the games themselves will dictate how well these new peripherals succeed, and that won’t be reliant on extending the control method into established series and genres. First-person shooters won’t benefit that much, RPG and fighting games will most likely use it gimmickly at best. No, it’s the sports, arcade, racing and platform games where this technology will shine. Games like JoyRide, Forza Motorsports, the sports collection, the possibilities opened up in Fable III, and a Star Wars game (who can resist using the Force and wielding a lightsaber… if only virtually) will make it great for me personally, though I’m sure others will look eagerly and longingly towards Kinectimals or at the possibilities of controller-free workouts via various titles.
Provided that Microsoft’s Kinect does all it boasts (and that’s a heck of a lot!!), and does it with barely-discernable to no lag, I think it will ‘win’ this so-called kinetic control ‘battle’. And this is not coming from me writing for an Xbox 360 site. No, I honestly think that their peripheral shows the most promise and the best jump in technology to lead this sort of gaming into the next console generation and beyond. And some of the features touted are positively droolworthy…
Regardless, this is a very exciting time for gamers, and I for one will be standing in line to purchase a Kinect as soon as I can!!