Xbox 360 with Kinect; you will either nod your head in acceptance or cringe at the notion. There seems to be no mid-ground, it’s just like the old cliché goes, love it or hate it. Monetarily, the peripheral is by no means a failure. Microsoft has reported 10 million units shipped as of March 9th, 2011. It was able to push 8 million of those units in its first 60 days of release which is a guinness world record. Kinect has quite a few accolades already but with monster sales comes a monster amount of consumers to keep interested.
I am an early adopter of Kinect. My Stepdaughter begged for one during last year’s Christmas rush and this basically left me with no choice. No doubt, there was some curiosity on my part. A new control that has no control; could this work? I was a bit skeptical but right off the bat I was quite impressed with what it offered, technically. The device responded well to my flailing. The voice command works well as long as my son (who is a toddler) is quiet. It allows for a decent video chat. My stepdaughter loves it so I guess it’s a win right? Possibly not.
Let’s jump 3 months into the future where I have dance battled my stepdaughter to Lady Ga Ga’s Poker face for about the 300th time. At the big finish we both look at each other and decided we are both done with this. Even my stereotypical Hispanic avatar, Angel, seems to be in awe we are still playing. We look to switch games but Daleen has grown very weary of petting virtual animals so she leaves the room to go read…willingly. I motion my hand…to reach for my control to return to the dashboard and ultimately shut down. Has the Kinect Run its course already? Has my $150 investment only carried our interest until March?
I’m sure many people have had this feeling at some point after their purchase. What Kinect offers as a tech device is great. Almost Minority Report standard, but what makes a great peripheral for a game system is support, specifically games. The launch titles were so-so. Typical releases such as the sports sims and a slew of workout games didn’t really hold my interest. I already have my mirror judging me; I didn’t need my games doing the same. The quintessential dance game I mentioned above and a new take on virtual pets have also been done before. Granted, the experience has changed slightly but not dramatically enough to keep me coming back for more, and this seems to be the consensus among my group of friends who also own one. I personally was hoping for some shooters, maybe even a racer or a boxing game. At least some integration with existing games, but nothing to that extent has happened as of yet.
I know I sound like a very bitter consumer but I still have faith. Microsoft gave me some hope during their E3 conference showing this year. Almost the entire show revolved around Kinect integration with the new dashboard or specific games. I know many journalists and gamers alike were not impressed by the presentation due to lack of new games shown, but I understand the push by Microsoft. They must reassure those who have the device that there are new things on the horizon, and keep early adopters loyal while trying to gain a few more people to join the experience. I for one bought into it.
Much of the presentation revolved around new dashboard uses but there was some game integration shown. I was happy to see that the upcoming Ghost Recon: Future Soldier will feature actual gameplay with Kinect and voice commands. Customization screens can be controlled with the wave of a hand. Shooting can also be initiated in similar fashion. I almost had an aneurysm when I saw Mass Effect 3 would offer some of the same (big fan of the series here). There were even some new titles shown in the coverage in the likes of The Gunstringer, a cartoonish shooter in which you can take cover and string targets together. Ryse, a hack and slash title which takes place in ancient Rome which will emulate sword and shield combat. Finally, my son’s personal favorite, Sesame Street Once Upon a Monster. It will play out as a storybook with various minigames that have to be completed.
I know after reading this, most people will think I’m way too overexcited about Kinect again. Maybe I am, but this has to be looked at as the beginning. Kinect is still a new device, and it will take time for developers to create specifically for it. The lifespan of the Xbox 360 has been elongated so there is still time to make Kinect a legitimate gaming device. I feel dedicating almost an entire E3 showing to Kinect is enough evidence that Microsoft believes in its creation and will support it. I also have to admit that the new dashboard integration is pretty slick also. Is this enough to bring more consumers and keep those who own it interested? Only time will tell. I’ll ask BING about it when the update arrives.