Of hand-wavey Kinect discussions

I feel compelled to comment on the emerging Kinect debate. Is it a gimmick? Is it useless? Will it change gaming?

Well, in my opinion – sort of.

I really don’t mean to indicate that I think it will somehow replace Core gaming, and I especially don’t mean to indicate that I believe it’ll meet Microsoft’s extremely high estimates.  It has potential, but… well, Microsoft is perhaps a little optimistic.  The launch titles are a bit anemic, it’ll draw obvious fire from the “but those are all games that were on the Wii before” crowd, with the notable exception of Dance games.  But, then again… I mean imagine if Viva Pinata 3 were released, and in addition to the solid gameplay that made the others sell, you can ALSO reach into the screen and tickle your Fudgehog or feed your Doenut oats from your hand?

Is it useless / not required? Sure, but it’s a game, and games are about fun, and that would probably be quite a fun little side thing to have in that kind of game. It’d be doubly fun for your kids, and this kind of thing might thus work out well as a soft co-op option in the same way a second player could interact in limited fashion in Mario Galaxy.

Similarly, you can bet Fable 4 will have some kind of pet-your-dog Kinect scheme, and it has potential for making UIs and inventory systems in RPGs less burdensome. There’s a lot of odd stuff you could do as extra content, if you could assume a fair penetration of Kinects in the market. Heck, imagine what someone like Keita Takahashi (Nobi Nobi Boy, Katamari Damacy) could release as an experimental XBLA/PSN title targetted at this thing, and never even mind the odd stuff that will doubtless pop up on Xbox Indie Games.

I can’t see myself ever buying a branded Kinect dancing/whatever’ing launch title (or the similar games that will come post-launch), but I can absolutely see myself wanting one because of all the bizarre little side things developers do with them… again, assuming the market penetration is there. If it isn’t, any effort spent on that side content would be largely wasted, and it wouldn’t happen. But given the marketing, that’s still enough reason to at least take a “wait and see” approach over just calling it dead on arrival.  I really can’t see Kinect outright failing at this point, Microsoft has really managed to capture the public’s attention.

The Wii’s basic failure was that, after all was said and done, you could ONLY do the gimmick’y side stuff, it was difficult to really blend it in where it made sense and stick to traditional controls (and production values) where it didn’t. So as new casual gamers grew fatigued with the novelty, there was really nowhere to go for an evolved/bigger experience. Here, we’ve got a scheme where you could easily one-hand the controller, quickly wave your hand to move an item in your bag, then go back to your dual thumb sticks. It’s an extension to controls rather than a replacement, and an intuitive one at that, and on a system with a solid Core demographic and title base instead of on a system that tends to only have the occasional solid release that almost invariably comes from first parties. It’s got a lot more room to grow than the Wii did.

Personally?  I won’t buy one for a while, but I’m still pretty excited by the possibilities.

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