The Failings of the Kinect Two Years Later

2 min

The Kinect for the Microsoft Xbox 360 was one of those peripherals that at the time looked like it could have been a big deal. Motion control on the Wii was currently all the rage and even then, it was using a controller with some waggle to control games. The idea of using a set of cameras and microphones to accurately follow your movements and respond to your movements and speech was revolutionary. What was even more amazing was that it actually worked quite well. Sure, it isn’t perfect, but for a rather inexpensive piece of consumer technology, it does a great job at what it is supposed to do.

The problem that the Kinect has faced, from the start, has been support from game developers in providing the “killer apps” for the Kinect. Studios needed to really take the time to build the best possible games to work with the Kinect and make it a worthwhile device. Early on the objections seemed to be that it was not in enough homes to justify the production and development time to make great games, but a big push throughout 2011 including an even bigger push during the holiday season placed that weird little device into more and more homes.

Sure, there are a few games out for the Kinect that are pretty fun and well worth the time and the money. Stuff like Kinect Adventures that is packed in with it is actually a pretty fun party game and serves as a decent workout as well. The first Kinect Sports title showed what you could do with the Kinect and how a sports title could become a big deal on the Xbox 360 with motion control. People tend to like the dance games that have been released for it as well, but the overlying theme between all of these games are that they are very far from being actual, you know, games.

The only “game” of value that I can think of for the Kinect would have to be, hands down, the Gunstringer. The Gunstringer is an on-rails shooter where you are using your hands to mimic what it would be like to control a puppet who happened to have a gun in his hand. It tells a story, keeps the player engaged and most importantly, it is a really fun game. Twisted Pixel showed that you could do something worthwhile with the Kinect and they made it look easy. A studio actually took the Kinect seriously, didn’t half-ass a game and came up with something that was relatively well-received by the media and showed a lot of potential for actual Kinect games.

The Gunstringer was released in September of 2011 and what is alarming is that we have seen very few actual games get released for the Kinect since then who have built off of the success of taking the Kinect seriously and developing an actual game for it. Sure, there was Kinect Star Wars, which I’m not sure took the Kinect as serious and included Kinect cliches like dance segments and, well, it felt like something George Lucas would be okay with. Then there was October of 2012’s Fable: The Journey by Lionhead Studios, the game that helped lead to Peter Molyneux’s departure from Lionhead Studios to start up a new studio, 22cans. There really isn’t a lot to say about that game, either.

The device itself is a neat piece of consumer technology and I’ve always felt like it was just screaming for more light gun-esque and beat ‘em up games that were done correctly, but the support for it has just never been there. Microsoft’s best efforts to get bigger name games onto the Kinect have been failures and right now it just feels like an optional part of some of the major titles of the past few years. It is cool that there are voice commands to use in Mass Effect 3 and Skyrim, I gotta say that at times I enjoy triggering a shout while my girlfriend is playing to tick her off, but outside of that, it is a very dusty piece of tech in my house.

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  1. This isn’t surprising – the Kinect, like the Move (and, when implemented properly, the Wiimote), was only ever a niche controller suitable for a relatively narrow range of gameplay implementations. The ones it’s built for (dancing, sports) work great (was they do for Motionplus and Move), but these types of games don’t lend themselves to the epic adventures that most AAA games are the stuff of. I’m very glad these devices exist, but early on it was pretty clear to see that everyone expected too much of them.

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