Microsoft Didn’t ‘Listen’ To Fans About Kinect
First, the future of the Kinect is the same it has always been: limited to a niche market. That’s who plays Kinect titles. They’re the people who buy Dance Central games and their ilk. They’re a small minority of players, but still a meaningful, engaged group. That there’s not a Kinect in every Xbox-owning home does not mean the device will shrivel and die any more than it did last generation.
The real fact is not that Microsoft abandoned developers making Kinect games, but that developers abandoned Kinect.
The real fact is not that Microsoft abandoned developers making Kinect games, but that developers abandoned Kinect. We’re four years into this piece of hardware’s life and there are still very few games that even come close to being an exciting reason to own it. Look to the Oculus Rift or even the early days of the Nintendo Wii for analogs: Oculus is definitely not in its finished state and yet each pretty decent approximation of what it will be like gets people excited for the hardware. Lines to try Oculus games are always lengthy at trade shows and conventions, because people are interested in that hardware, and that hardware gives you a good reason to be interested in it.
The Nintendo Wii’s motion control never even approached perfection, but in the novel days of its youth, the possibilities were highly apparent. Sure, you could cheat and waggle, but if the hardware were improved, think of how much more interesting controlling (some kinds of) games could be! The tragedy of the Wii is not that it was overblown or overhyped, but that Nintendo failed to convert that hype into real innovation. Instead, it squandered excitement for years and let the console be filled with shovelware.
Kinect had that shot too. It was an innovative product with interesting ideas when it launched on the Xbox 360, and it got people excited for the possibilities. But years have passed and the simple fact is that waving at your TV screen just isn’t that fun. Shouting at your TV screen just isn’t that useful. Four years later, there are certainly no Kinect games that turn heads or make people say, “Wow, maybe I’ll spring for that $100 after all,” or “Wow, there are things I can do on Xbox One that I literally cannot do anywhere else — and I want to do those things.” If people felt that way about what Microsoft is selling, this situation wouldn’t have come to pass.
The simple fact is that waving at your TV screen just isn’t that fun. Shouting at your TV screen just isn’t that useful.
Neither has the Kinect set the new generation on fire with innovative gameplay or entertainment possibilities, and if it was going to, Microsoft sure did squander the opportunity. Clearly Microsoft hasn’t found enough exciting software to tie to the Kinect to make it worthwhile in these opening months with its new console. The same thing happened during the Kinect’s entire lifespan. There are no killer Kinect apps.
The truth is that Kinect was never going to usher in some exciting new era of gaming — at least, not without Microsoft itself either creating exciting content, or paying developers to do so. It was, and has always been, a gimmick. Like the Wii. Like the Playstation Move. It’s not going anywhere, and there will be gimmick games for it and they’ll be great for a certain kind of player. But we’re better off without the Kinect, without years of shovelware like what Nintendo allowed on the Wii, and without great “innovations” like being forced to shout at your TV.
Real good ideas thrive, they draw attention, they get people pumped and excited and interested in making things and taking advantage of them. Kinect was fun for a while and may have its uses, but it wasn’t a good idea in that sense. Microsoft forcing people to buy it in order to get their console did not change that fact.
So mourn not the passing of Kinect, nor applaud its passing and the supposed-brilliance of Microsoft for casting it aside. Certainly don’t applaud the “choice” your pal Microsoft now allows you to have. When bad ideas lose money, changes get made. That’s what has happened here. It’s not a favor, nor is it an insult. It’s just making room, hopefully, to focus on better things.