So, Kinect...

Alright. I’ve put it off for long enough. Let’s talk about Kinect.

I don’t like doing exclusively negative pieces unless I have something to actually base my opinion on. Flame wars and baseless rants are a dime a dozen on the internet, but I will most likely never own, or even play on Kinect. Still, I can at least attempt to justify my attitude with explanations and predictions. The purpose of this post, therefore, is to explain why I have no interest in the Kinect, but also to elaborate on the scope of the idea as a money spinner, and how Kinect may still make Microsoft some moolah.

Motion sensitive gaming is a waste of my time. Why? Because I’m what the hive mind has taken to calling a ‘hardcore gamer’. I like levels, I like challenges, I like lots of items, I like mechanics with a learning curve, I like a storyline and most of all, I like control. I don’t like Spore or the Sims series as I regard both of these as ‘toy games’- things you play with, rather than play. Fable II also falls into this category. You have to put a lot into the game to get anything out of it, and that’s just not my style.

Motion games are, by their very nature, going to be ‘toy games’. How much can you actually do with motion sensitive controls? The answer is simple- very little. Think for a moment about all the buttons you press, all the combinations you use when you play a videogame. For example, lining up a shot in MW2: You’re holding down the left trigger to aim, using one thumbstick to point your gun, the other to strafe so you’re not a sitting duck, and then the other shoulder button to fire. That's 4 controls for one of the most simple actions in the game.

How would you do this in Kinect? You couldn’t. Something as simple as lining up a shot becomes impossible. Kinect has only one input, your body’s positioning. It can’t detect anything as subtle as a finger movement, or tiny corrections to line up that perfect headshot. How about platformers? Are you going to run on the spot, then jump on the spot to move in game? How do you make corrections if your line up isn’t exact?

So there’s reason one why I’m avoiding Kinect- No one will ever be able to create a game I actually want to play. They are all going to be simple, basic, casual toy games. Those of you who have tried playing anything 'hardcore' on the Wii can probably attest to how irksome the motion controls become after a while- and that’s with some traditional buttons and the analogue nunchuck to back you up.

Next up is the price tag. Suppose I decided I did want to get into casual gaming, or just have it around for when my friends and I are drunk and feel like doing something stupid. Why am I not going to get a Wii? At £130, Kinect is a f###ing expensive piece of hardware- almost half of what you paid for the Xbox in the first place! For that I can get a second hand Wii, some extra controllers and a few games if I play my cards right and shop around.

Advanced menu controls and voice commands? My controller works fine, and it doesn’t cost £130. Video conferencing? I barely use the chat function on XBL, why do I want to pay £130 for the privilege of being able to see people while I talk to them?

Oh and don’t get me started on the technical limitations. There’s barely, and I mean barely 6 foot between my TV and my futon- certainly not enough room to comfortably move back and forth in beyond that line. Seriously, how many people actually have a six foot square block, free of all furniture in front of their TV? Do you really want to move the coffee table every time you want to play a game?

Kinect is made for two markets- casual gamers (or gamers in denial as I like to call them), and kids. The former will already have a Wii, and if they don’t they will get one as they are far, FAR cheaper than Kinect and a 360. The only possible exception is if they live with someone who already has a 360, and as established you can still get a second hand Wii, plus assorted extras for the cost of the Kinect alone. Still, I reckon we’ll see a big uptake from this demographic leading up to Christmas and into the January sales. But after that I don’t foresee much spending as everyone who is going to get one, will have one.

Now kids. They’ll love the novelty value and parents will no doubt be happy their loinspawn are getting some exercise while playing what will undoubtedly be almost exclusively, wholesome family games. If there is a continuing market for the Kinect, this is where you will find it. However, when Microsoft proudly starts toting ‘We sold X many thousand Kinect units this quarter!’ , I will be asking one question- “How many of those where individual units, and how many where bundled with new 360s in package deals?” I’d bet that most Kinect units sold will be in bundle with new 360s within 6 months, and the only reason people will be buying them is because

a) The store won’t change the package deal
b) They’re so cheap in package you might as well, or
c) Parents buying the damn thing get hoodwinked by sales clerks.

I don’t think Kinect will be a flop, at the very least- as I’ve driven home with all the finesse of a railway spike- bundle deals will keep them moving. But the question of how many people really want Microsoft’s new toy, compared to how many of them are pressured into buying it, remains in question.

As intimated, the Wii is the big problem. It’s already there, it’s a known quantity, it’s cheaper and thanks to brand identity, casual gamers are not going to think ‘I Want to buy a games console’, they’re going to think ‘I want to buy a Wii.’ Microsoft is wagering everything on convincing this target demographic that Kinect is better, or even getting them to acknowledge its existence. I don’t think they will be very successful as, fundamentally, how do you market something to non gamers? They don’t read gaming magazines, they don’t go into game shops or attend LAN parties, they most likely nod and smile when gamer friends tell them about game related stuff… It’s like solving the Epimenides Paradox. Still, at least Microsoft are trying. Many people talk about the eye toy when discussing Kinect, but remember that the eye toy had all the marketing of a back alley abortion clinic in a Redneck state. It was bound to fail if no one knew about it to buy it.

So there we have it. Kinect is a waste of (very large) space to anyone but the casual gamer, and the Wii already has them by the short and curlies. A small number of folk may buy it if they live with someone who already has a 360, and are too stupid to look for a Wii. Bundles will keep the thing moving though and make up sales numbers that will allow Microsoft to proudly hail the Kinect a success.

On a closing note I would like to say that I don’t hate Kinect. It’s got zero appeal to me, but at least it’s something new and interesting and that at least needs to be acknowledged- even a step backwards is better than no step at all when innovation is concerned. Especially given the lack of new ideas in the industry at the moment. Likewise I’m sure many of the people who do own it will have hours of fun with it, at least until the novelty wears off. Plus there’s the consideration of how many games you can really make using just the premise of a moving body as input…

Oh, and as for the Playstation move? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA‼‼‼‼ You really think ANY casual gamer is going to be interested in spending over £300? You’re out of your f####ing gourd! Especially when the friggin’ thing essentially IS a Wii-mote! At least the Kinect is different in that regard.

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