Kinect No Longer Necessary – Microsoft Doing Their Best at a Comeback

Yesterday Microsoft announced that its Kinect sensor would no longer be required to operate the Xbox One. At this juncture, it will still be included in every Xbox One package, but it may be turned off indefinitely while you play games or use features that do not utilize the peripheral. This is, I think, the last of a long line of policy reversals from Microsoft. Their Xbox One reveal was greatly ridiculed and hated by the gaming community for its restrictive features, chiefly: used game restrictions, 24 hour online checks, and an omni-present Kinect sensor that is always watching. Over the past few months, Microsoft has done an excellent job of taking in user feedback, and tailoring their product to it. We lost the 24 hour online check-in restriction, and the used game policy was switched over to the conventions of this generation. This was already a massive coup for gamers who thought the system was extremely restrictive in areas that were traditionally free. Now, the final major piece of the puzzle, the oft-reviled Kinect sensor will no longer be necessary. This leads them open for a possible price drop in the future to bring a Kinectless system out at price parity with the PS4.These are changes that gamers should welcome with open arms, but it is important to remember how we got to this point.

Why would anyone have cared that this looming this was always watching you?

I can’t help but feel a little sorry for the tech giant. They attempted to show a product, that I’m sure many people believed in when creating it, but they were so divorced from the reality of the market that they didn’t even consider that many of its touted key selling points would not fly among their base. I’m guessing this is why we had such knee jerk reactions from Microsoft soon after the reveal, with Don Mattrick himself saying that those who don’t want to be online all the time should buy an Xbox 360 instead. It was said by many Microsoft employees that the Xbox One could not operate without an online connection, and that Kinect was so in-built that it could never be removed from the hardware proper. Famously, gaming celebrity, Angry Joe, interviewed Microsoft’s Major Nelson, who chastised him for suggesting that they could simply flip a switch and remove the online restriction, stating that it would be impossible to remove it. We know now that these were all lies, but they are understandable lies if you look at it from the perspective of a group that was completely caught off guard by the reaction. After all, they couldn’t do anything at the conference, so the safest thing to do was to simply, bullheadedly, defend their product.

It’s still pretty funny.

They should have known better, however. About a year or two before either new system was launched, rumours of used game restrictions and always online talk was circulating about the gaming community, and they always sparked near universal hatred from gamers. Anyone who spent more than three seconds doing market research would have understood how much of a stupid idea all of these policies were. It’s been argued they were banking on Sony doing the same thing, so everyone would have to accept it, and this is certainly the more sinister interpretation. But after giving it a lot of thought, it doesn’t make sense. I don’t think they had any idea that these policies would be controversial in any way. I think they were blissfully creating a machine that the bulk of the gaming population would despise. If they were banking on Sony, this would require Microsoft to be aware how unpopular the policy was. Of course, I’m treating Microsoft as if it’s a person, and the reality is that there could have been people all over the place that realized the folly of such policies, but the ones in charge seemed to be caught completely off guard.

Of course the best thing Microsoft did was loose itself of Don Mattrick. Now he’s Zynga’s problem/messiah.

I hate Kinect. I want that bias out before I start writing about the useless sensor. The way I see it, Nintendo struck gold with their simple and intuitive motion controls that never worked outside of Wii Sports. As soon as Microsoft and Sony saw the green that Nintendo was raking in, they started their own motion control projects. Sony simply copied Nintendo, putting out the more accurate, but incredibly uninspired Playstation Move, while Microsoft tried to work on something bigger, something far more expensive. Kinect was, and still is, heralded by Microsoft as controllerless play. This is true to an extent, but instead of revitalizing the industry, it never really did anything. Voice commands and hand waving on menus are a cute novelty, but Kinect fails hard in the one matter that it was designed for – gaming. The only games that can make Kinect work are stationary games such as Dance Central or various Wii Fit knock offs. No other game has successfully integrated Kinect in a way that justifies the $99 peripheral. I, personally, see the novelty in shouting Fus Roh Dah at the television maybe once or twice, but after the fortieth time, I’d be begging to go back to my simple and unintrusive button inputs. I’d love to be proven wrong, but I don’t think there is a single gaming element that Kinect brings to the table that isn’t eclipsed by NES-era technology.

You’re telling me I don’t have to flail my hands around or shout at the television? All I have to do is press a button? That’s genius!

One of the major problems with Kinect was that it always had a small user base as it was a late-in-life peripheral, and only a fraction of the Xbox 360 userbase actually owned one. This meant that fewer developers were willing to design pure Kinect games. By packaging Kinect with every Xbox One and forcing its use, Microsoft may have been hoping to broaden the amount of developers willing to take a chance on it. A problem with this is that the motion controls bubble burst. Nobody in the industry has any respect for motion controls. They all still exist in some form this generation, but they’re more dying husks and what-ifs than they are legitimate means of gaming. Microsoft is the only one who’s pushing them hard. This means that few if any multiplatform games will actually focus on motion controls and those that exist will be minor at best. Kinect being stripped of it’s ‘all important,’ status may have an effect on this as well. If Kinect is truly completely unnecessary, then many developers won’t bother with it. It is much easier to develop a game on a PS4 or Xbox One and port it exactly as it is onto the other. There is little reason to bother with something like Kinect unless Microsoft pushes it through using their own dollars, something that they are pretty fond of doing.

Not one of these is any good. It’s time to realize that. It was an interesting experiment, but it’s over now.

Over the past couple of months, Microsoft has gone a long way into restoring faith in the company. Their blissfuly ignorant arrogance surrounding E3, and the reveal was something that completely alienated them from the base, and many of these gamers will not be returning due to how they were treated at these events alone. However, Microsoft has stepped back. They’ve changed the dangerous and harmful policies that they were trying to push. We shouldn’t forget that they did it, but we should be happy they stopped. Now the choice for next gen system (Ignoring the Wii U), is whether you want a $400 system or a $500 system with motion controls. Exclusives look great on each side with more on the way at Gamescom and the Tokyo Game Show, I would assume. For gamers, these exclusives are what matter, and, if people start focusing on exclusives, Microsoft looks a lot better than they did in June.

– Mistranslations For The Modern Gamer


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