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Game Buzz 21: Kinect: A Tragedy of Errors... With a Happy Ending?

Jonathan Lester
Game Buzz

Game Buzz 21: Kinect: A Tragedy of Errors... With a Happy Ending?

Game Buzz is a weekly opinion column designed to take an irreverent look at one of the biggest news stories to break in the past week. Every Friday we’ll be bringing you another slice of reaction to topical gaming news, and inviting you to agree, disagree, shout assent, vent rage, scream and complain to you heart’s delight. This week, following speculation about Kinect's price point and a number of statements from publishers, we take a look at what might be in store for Microsoft's answer to motion control.

Wow, this has been a bad week for Kinect... and it's all about the money.

Kinect's $150 price tag has been under constant attack from all sides these last few days... and even from within. Microsoft are apparently being wracked by internal disputes over whether to release their peripheral at a loss due to its huge manufacturing costs- and retailers and publishers alike are lining up to take their shots. HMV, ShopTo and Morrisons have doomed Kinect to fail if it debuts at anything over £100. Square has calmly dismissed Kinect as a novelty toy that "won't change the games industry." Activision are "concerned" that it's simply too expensive to consider producing anything but a few selective titles for. Frankly, Microsoft's inability to finalise their price point is nothing less than a flagrant show of weakness.

Game Buzz 21: Kinect: A Tragedy of Errors... With a Happy Ending?

However, this latest week is just the tip of a blunderous, shameful iceberg. Microsoft has mishandled, mismanaged and missed the point at every stage of Kinect's publicity campaign over this last year; demonstrating a gobsmacking degree of incompetence and detachment from the desires of the average gamer.

Microsoft started strong when Steven Spielberg stepped onto the E3 stage last year... but it's been downhill from there. Seeingly ashamed of their own peripheral, they clammed up tighter than Bobby Kotick's purse strings- issuing weak and defensive press releases on an irregular basis. Whilst Kevin Butler took great gouges out of Kinect, Microsoft simply sat there and turned the other cheek; letting their potentially revolutionary project dwindle into obscurity. Heck, in a recent poll, only 15% of gamers had even heard of it!

Game Buzz 21: Kinect: A Tragedy of Errors... With a Happy Ending?

THIS is how you advertise a new product.

This publicity fiasco reached its crescendo in their E3 Press Event... where no amount of animatronic elephants and poorly-acted happy smiling families could cover up the stench of weak launch titles and a blatant lack of substance. From beginning to end, MS have simply botched the job.

Game Buzz 21: Kinect: A Tragedy of Errors... With a Happy Ending?

This is NOT.

But here's the thing, folks. Whilst Microsoft appear to be actively attempting to drive their product into the ground, Kinect is actually a very capable and exciting piece of technology in its own right. In fact, I'd go as far to say that it's got the potential to be a true game changer- possibly more so than the Move or the Wiimote. Before you reflexively scroll down to the comments to give me a right royal flaming, allow me to explain my reasoning...

Microsoft have been banging on about how hardcore gamers can stick with their beloved controllers, and casual gamers can enjoy Kinect... but seem to be missing a very important point. What's stopping a game from using both a controller and the Kinect peripheral at the same time? Just off the top of my head, I'd love to stick my hand out and mime a drive-by shooting in a GTA title... or wield a virtual sword with my right hand as I control my character's movement with the controller's thumbstick.

Game Buzz 21: Kinect: A Tragedy of Errors... With a Happy Ending?

The only weapon you'll ever need.

And that's just the camera. The voice recognition software claims to be one of the best in the business- so the mind boggles at how this could be applied to almost every gaming genre. Giving accurate commands to virtual squad members in the middle of a pitched firefight or deploying a powerup would be as simple as taking a breath... and just imagine what it could do for the console RTS genre? Being able to snap back to your base or give extremely complex commands to offscreen unit groups would completely change the face of console strategy games. And hell, scrolling through labrynthine RPG stat menus would feel like that scene from Minority Report. With Swords +1.

Game Buzz 21: Kinect: A Tragedy of Errors... With a Happy Ending?

Of course, this is just off the top of my head. I'm sure you could come up with any number of better suggestions... which is where Bethesda comes in. Seeing Kinect in action, they suggested that it was "wasted on games", and Microsoft ought to open up the API to its budding crowd of Indie developers to see what they can come up with. Whilst it's unlikely that they'll show much love to the bedroom devs (considering the current shameful state of the Indie Games service), I can hardly begin to imagine what the combined creative skills of the independent scene could come up with.

The fact of the matter is that Kinect offers developers genuine choice. It could be used to create entirely new game experiences or integrate and improve upon existing ones- and I genuinely believe that, if handled properly, Kinect would be the most important console innovation since Xbox Live and PSN. But that would require Microsoft to manage and price it properly... and as we've already seen, there's almost no chance of that happening.

Goddamn it.

Add a comment10 comments
Red Seb  Jun. 25, 2010 at 23:48

This is a shame for Microsoft... there must be a huge casual gamer market out there who could benefit from this - it would also help people like me who get used to one set of controls in one game and then take three weeks of continuous play to get accustomed to the controls in another game. The idea of using the Kinect alongside a controller is another great idea - GTA drive-bys would be taken to a whole new level.

Freddie Buxton  Jun. 26, 2010 at 02:27

I don't think Microsoft's launch is looking too bad. I mean just look at the Wii's launch. Hell just look at the Wii's lineup now. It's hardly impressive yet its sales figures are staggering.

With regards to Microsoft's pricing of Kinect, I expected it to be a heavily debated issue both internally and externally. With the Wii or PS3 Move, people will always need new controllers or more controllers or half controllers or little bits you put on the bottom of your controllers to make them better (but make sure you buy a new case as your old one doesn't fit anymore just like all the plastic tennis rackets/steering wheels/wands you bought). This is especially true for Move if Sony continues its policy of inaccessible battery packs which eventually lose their charge and render the entire controller worthless.

With Kinect you don't need anymore controllers for everyone to play. I'm sure Microsoft will come up with some gimmicky accessories (this is the company who makes their own harddrives) but it is still playable for up to 4 players (maybe more, I'm not fully sure) without ever buying anything else.

This means that Microsoft needs to be very careful with their price point and I understand why they are leaving it to as late as possible to deliberate it. What does it matter that we know how much it is until maybe a month before it is out. I personally wouldn't sell for a loss as I don't have much faith in the casual market as a whole going out and buying loads of games just as most don't with the Wii. I agree that Microsoft should focus on its integration into games with controllers whilst also producing some causal games.

As someone who already owns an Xbox 360, Kinect is like buying a cheap Wii except there isn't won't be that moment when I realise that I need two controllers for each player and a fitness board to tell me to lose some weight.

Matt Gardner  Jun. 26, 2010 at 10:01

You're forgetting that the Wii has Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, it has Twilight Princess, No More Heroes, a fantastic mo-con reimagining of PES and arguably the best version of Tiger Woods 10. What's more, look at the stuff Nintendo are rolling out post-E3.: Metroid, Kirby, Zelda, Mickey. Kinect has shown me absolutely no software to get excited about whatsoever.

Personally, I'm with Jon and Bethesda on this one....open it up to indie devs while you're peddling craptastic shovelware and fitness programmes and, if experimentation happens to lead to innovation, snap up the talent and make the most of it!

By the time Kinect rolls out, it'll be the same price as a Wii. Now I'm not holding the Wii up as a totem of gaming quality, far from it, but it does have one or two truly stunning killer apps that we always knew were coming. Can't say that about Kinect.

Freddie Buxton  Jun. 26, 2010 at 18:10

I'll agree with your point about Tiger Woods, PES and a few others as of this post but when Move and Kinect come out I wonder if the same will be true.
As for SMG1+2, both games are best played with a classic controller not the Wii's motion controls. Also the Wii has been with developers for a good few years so it should be expected that they have some quality games coming out after E3.

All I hope is that 3rd party developers take to Kinect better than they have done to the Wii and I think the potential is definitely there.

Ben  Jun. 27, 2010 at 17:21

I think an amazing idea for Kinect is.... force-feedback gloves!

It could be like you are actually touching 3D objects. That could be good for more than just porn games.

Jonathan Lester  Jun. 27, 2010 at 17:22

Exactly. Kinect is an incredible piece of tech in its own right. Whilst it absolutely deserves solid support from third party publishers, it also demands a quality backing from its parent company- and they've been very lax in both promoting the device and securing significant third party commitment.

It's up to MS to prove that Kinect is a viable investment for 3rd party developers. And frankly, ANY of us could do a better job than Microsoft are managing at the moment.

Jonathan Lester  Jun. 27, 2010 at 19:35

Interesting idea! It'd be some sort of powerful...glove... a Power Glove if you will.

All jokes aside, yes, Microsoft need to address the lack of tactile feedback.

Matt Gardner  Jun. 27, 2010 at 22:10

Microsoft are using Justin Bieber to promote Kinect.

This does not bode well.

Jonathan Lester  Jun. 28, 2010 at 10:31

So...they're using Nintendo's castoffs then? Yet another example of how Microsoft's marketing machine have completely lost the plot.

Lee Jackson  Jul. 8, 2010 at 11:40

Maybe they'll design some funky bodystraps to sell as extras - maybe even with your favourite 'Hannah Montana' licensed designs!

As featured on - motion, plus kinect & move!

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