Thoughts At The Kinect Launch

Last month, I laid down some thoughts about Kinect and Move – the second generation motion controllers to hit the video game market after the Wii. This week, Kinect went on sale, and it’s been interesting to read the reviews of it given my pre-launch opinions.

Seeing the short article on Sonic Free Riders on Ars Technica, it seemed that a lot of my fears about Kinect had proved to be true. It isn’t that accurate, the controls require a lot of movement and it doesn’t feel immersive. If you watch the video in the post, the game doesn’t even look particularly fun. In short, that particular article doesn’t make me feel confident that Kinect does anything more then the Xbox Live Camera and it’s awful motion games did.

So it’s probably just as well that that wasn’t the only article about Kinect that I’ve read recently.

From proper reviews of the system, I’m left with the impression that Kinect is a technology which has been rushed to market. The videos of it in use show that the control system for the Dashboard and games is quite slow, the device needs a lot of space to be effective and that Kinect simply isn’t as integrated into the “Core Xbox Experience” (in particular the standard Dashboard) as Microsoft led people to believe it would be. All of this could likely have been improved given another six months development time. It also seems, and this is a recurring theme, that there is little you can do with Kinect which you can’t do with a controller (other then dance presumably).

That said, I am convinced that Kinect still has potential. Developers need to make sure they avoid the pitfalls which Sega fell into with Sonic Free Riders for a start. Microsoft also needs to build on the launch and quickly, much in the same way they built on the initially poor Games On Demand and Xbox Live Arcade services. In the last four years, the overall Xbox experience (as MS refer to in their PR materials) has improved considerably and Kinect may well do the same.

Even if Microsoft and developers fail to build on Kinect’s launch, it doesn’t mean it’s a failure. I could well see Kinect being the next Mega CD: unpopular, but showcasing an emergent technology which may come to the fore.

We’ll have to wait and see. I know I’m not going to be rushing to buy Kinect based on the recent reviews…but that doesn’t mean I’ll never buy it.

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