This year the holiday season for games is going to be slightly different over any other year. Now that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are half way through their projected 10 year cycle, both Sony and Microsoft are trying to rejuvenate their brands. This month, Sony will first take the plunge and see if they can recreate the buzz and sales Nintendo’s Wii obtained when it was released nearly 4 years ago.
I for one, will not deny that the tech behind both move and kinect is impressive. They look like two very impressive and strong peripherals and both companies are confident that their product will be the thing to buy this Christmas. To be honest though I’m worried. Both Sony and Microsoft are walking in the wrong direction.
Today I will focus on Microsoft and their motion tracking device Kinect.
Let me start about when I seriously got worried about the future of gaming. It was during Microsoft’s E3 press conference this year. Now last years was acceptable. “Project Natal” was the big secret at the end and didn’t seem to take too much light off Microsoft’s other big products. This year however, really made me doubt Microsoft’s ability expand to new customers while keeping their current ones happy. It doesn’t matter if you love or hate Xbox and Bungie but if it wasn’t for Bungie’s Halo: Combat Evolved as one of the launch titles on Xbox, the Xbox could have fallen on its face. Halo is the face of Xbox. It is Microsoft’s biggest selling exclusive franchise.
When people heard that Bungie were going independent, everyone realised that Halo: Reach is going to be Bungie’s last Halo game, at least for the next 10 years. Considering this was going to be Bungie’s last Microsoft press conference appearance showing off a Halo game, we all expected it to go with a huge bang. What we got instead was a very quick talk about what they feel Halo was and a new campaign trailer. That’s it. Instead what we got was demonstrations that went on for far too long and far too casual and family friendly. Last time I checked, core gamers are the main attendees of E3.
Microsoft spent at least an hour showing off the underwhelming launch line up with a couple of potentially promising games in Forza Kinect and Star Wars Kinect but even Forza seemed to be made a lot more casual. In the last few months, Microsoft have been just showing very user friendly and casual centric games. I’m open to all genres of games but every single game bar maybe one or two are just far too casual. Their main promoted games are Kinect Adventures and Kinect Sports. They just seem to be advanced versions of games we’ve played on the Wii four years ago. Where’s the appeal in that?
For months I was waiting for a good looking, exciting hardcore game and then out of nowhere I stopped caring. It’s not because I don’t want it anymore, I’ve just come to accept that it’s not really going to be possible. When you don’t have a controller to move around then the best thing they can put you on is a rail shooter or adventure and that’s just a step backwards.
Another confusing thing about Microsoft is that Kinect has voice recognition. This is actually something that could bring really interesting games and even innovate adventure games to something brand new. Like Tom Clancy’s Endwar, RTS games could finally work on consoles or may even be better than its PC counterpart. They’ve shown how impressive it can be with the Milo demo shown at E3 2009. What does Microsoft do though? They throw Kinectimals at us and put a cloud in front of Milo. It seems as though Microsoft doesn’t even know the fate of Milo. Some are saying it will be eventually released while others are stating it’s just a tech demo to show what Kinect is capable of.
I have a lot of respect for Microsoft. They’re trying to really turn a home console into an all-round media entertainment product that could save the consumer hundreds of euro but their recent actions have left me perplexed as to their direction of Kinect. Are casual players really going to put down the Wii to pay 300 euro to play a new style of motion controls. I genuinely hope so because Kinect has the potential that’s quite unlike Sony’s PlayStation Move. It can really make casual players jump to a more core console
But is it a step backwards. How is stripping the gamer of the one physical thing that they incorporate with video games a step forward. I cannot see that in a year from now I’ll be telling people how great this new Kinect game is. Microsoft have been so wrapped up in Kinect that after Gears of War 3 next April, they have no hardcore games coming for at least the rest of that year. It seems as though they are going to have a Kinect dominated holiday season next year.
I mean, a part of me is saying why not? The technology is something special. It has a great chance to make a game unlike anything the world has ever played but the unfortunate question is if they’re going to. Microsoft are nurturing their new little baby while forgetting to pay attention to their 4 year old, the core gamer who have been an Xbox 360 owner since it launched.
On top of that, Kinect games are going to feel stripped down to create a more user friendly interface. Games seem to be just taking a mini game style with the focus on quick and “fun” look for the whole family. They have games like Forza Kinect and the Star Wars game for the core but even those still look too casual. I’m aware the marketing behind Kinect is for casual audiences but because they are casual they will simply not splash out 300 Euro for a more advanced mini games.
Then again I could be wrong. Maybe Kinect will sell the 4 million that’s projected. Maybe it will gain a whole new wave of casual players and maybe the core will splash out for it too. I’ll be happy if it is a success but Microsoft better not forget the people that made Xbox 360 such a huge name: the core gamers.