Microsoft’s foray into motion-controlled gaming has not only come with a huge marketing spend, it’s had its fair share of doubters. Kinect may not fit hardcore gamers, but it’s certainly cornered Nintendo’s casual crowd.
Earlier this week, a friend of mine with no previous interest in gaming was quizzing me about Kinect, having seen numerous TV and press ads.
‘Where can I get one?’ they asked. ‘I suppose this means the Wii is old hat now?’ My heartiest congratulations to the Microsoft PR team, you’re doing a great job.
I’ll admit I was sceptical of Kinect (née Natal) when it was first announced. Microsoft kept its controller-less motion sensing device a closely-guarded secret, and press demonstrations appeared to be carefully orchestrated.
Rumours about its limitations flew around the net continuously. You couldn’t use it sitting down. Only two people could play at the same time. It didn’t recognise certain accents. Bill Gates was using it to spy on your cat (apparently Bill loves cats).
First impressions of Xbox Kinect
However, a few days away from the UK launch on 10 November, I find myself warming to the concept of Kinect. Although the tech is far from perfect, there’s no denying that it is impressive. It would take a heart of stone not to be thrilled the first time you stand in front of the device, which replicates your movements exactly on screen.
My first Kinect experience was with the bowling game in Kinect Sports. I’ll admit I was apprehensive to play a game that seemed nothing more than a high-resolution version of something Wii Sports did three years ago, but it pulled me in straightaway, and genuinely felt like a totally different experience.
Kinect Adventures and Joy Ride had a similar effect, and it’s hard not to play them without a big stupid grin on your face (especially with other people).
The clever line up of launch titles is clearly designed to pull in the casual crowd. Dancing, sports and racing are all represented. And then there’s Sonic the Hedgehog, which may be something of a dirty word to current gamers, but is still a recognised mascot for anyone who hasn’t touched a games console in the last 20 years.
Kinect perfect for the casual crowd
Kinect isn’t going to replace the traditional controller by any stretch. Most games require inputs far too complex for this sort of device and there are some genres that I just can’t imagine working. First Person Shooters, for example, would be dreadful. And I don’t fancy a Kinect version of Civilization. The buttons on Sony’s PlayStation Move motion controller should have much more success here.
However, for the ‘pick up and play’ types, Kinect is pretty much perfect. I can imagine that the Wii’s of the world are in danger of being relegated to kids bedrooms, with Kinect taking pride of place in the living room.
Yes, the tech needs a bit of polish, and we’re going to want some games that don’t just ape the Wii’s line-up, but despite this, Microsoft has proved itself to all those doubters out there (including this one). Your move Nintendo.