Last month Microsoft took the gaming experience a step further with the release of Kinect, an add-on to the incredibly successful Xbox 360 which lets players jump into games in a way they never have before. With a combination of an conventional RGB camera and two motion-tracking sensors, Kinect scans you into the game so every move you make is reflected on screen by your character.
The system, which is compatible with all existing Xbox 360s, was released on 10 November and sold a million units worldwide in the first 10 days after launch. Microsoft is confident to have it in five million homes worldwide by the end of the year. But with so much technology already hanging around widescreen TVs across the land, do people need another device?
There’s plenty of shiny futuristic features to the technology: voice control, hand control of the menus, as well as ‘scanning’, which means that the sensor can be shown a colour, analyse it and then use it in the game, such as the colour of your car in happy-go-lucky racer Kinect Joyride (which is obviously not a copy of any Kart-based franchise on Nintendo’s consoles…).
The camera also works as a normal webcam, allowing video chats via Xbox LIVE, but with webcams as standard for most laptops and Skype facilitating video chatting it’s hardly a unique selling point.
What Microsoft have failed to realise is that it’s the strength of the games which will sell Kinect to the masses, especially their current fanbase, and unfortunately it’s a fairly mixed bag. If things had gone according to plan we might have seen Kinect-enabled Fable III as well as Gears of War 3 but alas it was not to be. Perhaps Microsoft should invest in coming up with an IP which really lends itself to showcasing the technology…?
On top of it all it’s not cheap either – despite claims originally that it would retail around the price of a standard game – Kinect currently RRPs at £129.99 on its own, though it does come with the physically challenging Kinect Adventures, or you can pay £249.99 for a bundle with the new slim Xbox 360 console included as well.
The smart thing to do though is to wait for an established franchise to take the plunge and embrace the technology to show the world what Kinect can really achieve. In the meantime relax, gaming is supposed to be recreation after all. If you want a work out though, there is a certain console from Japan which you can flail your arms at to your hearts content, if you need a clue its name rhymes with ‘money’.