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Better with Kinect? Actually, Not a Bad Idea

As we move toward the end of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 console cycles, we must now take the time to say farewell to all the gaming peripherals we sank money into.  The PlayStation Move offered a new way to dance, move and shoot.  Similarly, the Kinect have us new ways to dance, and to even use force powers.  The past few months have shown us that new consoles are emerging with a newfound commitment to make games that console owners largely want to play, instead of enticing the passing eye.

This year’s E3 was quite an interesting one.  Two of the console juggernauts came to blows and in many aspects, the PlayStation 4 won the battle coasting in on the platform of providing the same experience that PlayStation 3 owners enjoyed so enthusiastically in the current cycle.  On the other hand, Microsoft was left to tend to its wounds in favor of recreating the current gaming environment with a few new bells and whistles.

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Since then, Microsoft has backpedaled on many of the stances that earned it the ire of many constituents.  The 24-hour online authentication policy has since been removed, meaning that Xbox One owners will be able to play even when offline.  Used games will also work freely on the One, whereas previously owners could only trade used content a finite number of times.  These used games will also not require a one-time fee for use, either.  Although minor, current generation microphones will also work with One.  The Xbox One is also region-free now and even serves as a nifty devkit.  Perhaps one of the bigger changes is its use of Kinect, as the peripheral will no longer be required to use the console.

Yet, Microsoft remains rigid in its stance about bundling the Xbox one with the Kinect.  Despite the reaction from consumers, the company is adamant about the value of the camera/microphone duo.  Even at a $100 difference, Microsoft continues to boast the importance of Kinect.  Despite the anger and protests from the gaming community however, keeping the Kinect bundled is a smart move for Microsoft.

In this generation, the Kinect has been little more than a gimmick in most of its applications.  Games based solely around the peripheral lack depth, capitalizing on movement mechanics to entice the consumer.  To the “hardcore gamer” however, these things offer very little in the way of a memorable experience, or even a reasonable investment.  Part of that lies in execution: by going after the casual gamer, Microsoft created a device that targeted the casual demographic- the demographic less likely to stay on board for the long haul.  In doing so, developers had little incentive to build upon the software.  Besides scrolling through the dashboard menu, or an in-game voice command here or there, many players found little reason to keep the Kinect out.

Microsoft actually has the opportunity now to make the most out of the hardware this time around.  Every Xbox One unit will come bundled with Kinect 2: Electric Boogaloo.  Every player that buys the console will get the device, regardless of what genres they play or whether they even enjoy online content.  For developers, every Xbox One owner now has a Kinect.  That means that the demographic is no longer relegated to the movement crowd, and studios can now find ways to implement the camera and microphone in meaningful ways that enhance gameplay instead of “transforming” it.  To make the purchase of a Kinect unit optional is to recreate the schism of the current generation.  Simply put, there will be another wave of Kinect games, instead of games with Kinect.

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Admittedly, all of this is said with a bit of faith.  We know that in the launch title Dead Rising 3, yelling from the comfort of your couch will alert the undead to your presence in the game.  Got a loud parent/child/animal/sibling/roommate/significant other?  The feature can be toggled off to return to the traditional way of rushing zombies from behind.  My point is, developers won’t have a reason to add voice or take visual cues unless they know for certain the person buying their game will have access to those features.  Otherwise, it is a waste of time and effort for developers, and for Microsoft, it’s a waste of an investment.