For those of you that are totally fine with the state that video games are currently in, and wish to see no further development, then the current state of affairs with Microsoft and the Kinect are absolutely perfect for you. Those of us that are curious as to how far we can take gaming, its immersion, and the future technology being used for our entertainment systems, then you’re down right outraged at the Kinect-less Xbox One bundle. As a business, Microsoft is making a completely understandable move, but it’s potentially a move that will only benefit the short term, and not boost in the long term. The Kinect has always been argued as a “useless” peripheral that isn’t necessary for the gaming audience the Xbox reaches out to. It’s an argument that has been made since the Kinect for 360, but that was because it was an add-on for an already successful console. The Xbox One was looking to change that with packing the Kinect with every console, but removing it barely six months after the console’s release creates complications for developers.

The Kinect technology for the Xbox 360 was very limited, it worked with a large space that most hardcore gamers didn’t use, and had a difficult time using its voice recognition. Very little development went into this peripheral simply because there was no guaranteed return on the development for it. Plenty of indie developers took to the Kinect and created amazing things for the device, but nothing really practical for an immersive game experience. The very best we got was voice commands in Mass Effect 3 and Forza 4‘s driving simulation that really only worked with very particular rules that were necessary to abide by. We also got some very bad examples of how the Kinect worked, Steel Battalion wasn’t exactly the crowning jewel of the Kinect on the 360, but it was a start and a step forward.

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If you thought controlling a mech with the Kinect was fun… you’re in for a baaad time.

With the announcement of the New Kinect 2.0 at last year’s E3 the potential and possibilities sky rocketed. It was looked at as a part of the Xbox One, a necessity; you can imagine all the potential ideas that developers had with this information. It was to have facial recognition; it could read the weight and strike speed of your movements, it even had the ability to read when you were happy, angry, or sad. Its precision was so accurate that it could read each finger on your hands! The Kinect 2.0 had plenty of work to do in order to prove itself to the masses in comparison to the original Kinect. It began with the utilization of the Xbox One’s Home menu, nearly everything voice navigated; it worked much better while listening over the television, the distance necessary to use the device was shortened. Everything was an improvement over the previous model. So much potential, so much to look forward to with the immersion of gaming!

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Originally Microsoft announced the Xbox One and Kinect as a whole.

Since the Kinect 2.0 has only been out for six months, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the potential. The device is going through its basic paces, and not too much research into the peripheral has been done yet. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to try out Kinect Sports Rivals, I highly encourage you to try the demo, or go rent the game. The game will scan your body and put it into the game to the best of it’s ability, and the results are pretty darn accurate! Kinect games used to be difficult to control, and could lose its tracking of you as a player; however, the Kinect 2.0 does extremely well in Kinect Sports Rivals at keeping up with you! All in all the Kinect 2.0 just wasn’t all talk, there was plenty to look forward to in the future, and the games were just getting started.

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An example of the end result of the avatar creator in Kinect Sports Rivals.

I now bring your attention to the first AAA game in development for the Kinect on Xbox One, and it is that of Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved by Harmonix. With the decision to unbundle the Kinect from the console, it makes Harmonix’s development time seem less worth it than what it really was. Imagine a game that you’ve had in development for quite a few years, and are almost guaranteed a wide audience because everything is there for your consumer base to play without any trouble at all. Then all of a sudden, that gets taken away from you, and potentially destroys a large majority of any potential return on the money you spent developing that game. It’s the equivalent of someone going to college to graduate and be told their degree isn’t as useful as it was when they first entered college. You feel like you wasted your time and efforts.

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Harmonix’s beautiful rhythm game Disney’s Fantasia: Music Evolved was just the start of things to come.

Microsoft and Xbox initially made a sound decision in bundling together the Kinect with the Xbox One. It became a part of the system, and let developers work at coming up with great new innovative was to use the technology without any sort of worry about wasted effort. With the removal of the Kinect we’re right back to where we started with the Xbox 360, a step backwards in development. There is now no point for any Triple-A developer to spend time on the Kinect since there is no guaranteeing their audience will have access to it. It’ll be up to indie developers to make any sort of break through, but even then, it still wouldn’t be worth the risk to spend the resources in developing a great idea for the Kinect. It’s strange to take a step backwards in technology. Games and developers demand to push the envelope with the technology within these machines. But to have what was once an integral part taken away entirely really limits what can be done. So now the Xbox One is stuck with it’s controller, and we’ve held a controller for two decades of gaming! It was that potential next step that we had to look forward to.  I only say that we are taking a step backwards because the decision to remove the Kinect also removed the key developers needed to make major breakthroughs with the technology. Because of that it’s very doubtful that we’ll see anything impressive ever come out of the Kinect.

As I said, the decision made by Microsoft is quite a gamble. By this enacting this move, they intend to gain a mass audience by competing with their rivals at Sony with a $400 price point. While this may be great for many gamers wishing the Xbox was just that much cheaper, it isn’t great for the industry itself. The Kinect was an in-road to the future of game development, and this decision to drop it could effect more than just Microsoft going forward. What about the future? A peripheral’s sales are dependent on features and games that are linked to it. If developers lose interest in the Kinect now that it isn’t a mandatory part of the system, it could add up to some big financial losses for Microsoft. There was talk of more potential power with the removal of the Kinect from the system, but it truly sounds like an excuse to justify the decision. Usually when a peripheral is not being used, the system will not lose resources because of it, so the notion that the Xbox One could be more powerful without it is probably false, or greatly exaggerated at the very least. This decision undermines Microsoft’s talking point of the Kinect being an integral part of the Xbox experience. Of course this doesn’t mean that the Kinect is now to be condemned from households worldwide, but it becomes even less likely for people to bother with it in the first place. If we look back at the Kinect on Xbox 360, the device was ill-received both with the consumers and the bigger development companies.

Right now you can say that there is no point for a Kinect and argue it’s uselessness. As it stands now with Microsoft’s decision, you’re correct, the Kinect is now a gimmick and the possibilities of it becoming any more than that are extremely slim, whereas beforehand the potential was very high. Gestures that are more responsive to call out plays or issue orders, horror games that read your face to up the intensity of the game, these are only ideas that I could potentially come up with. But with a better understanding of the technology myself, or even other developers could come up perhaps with something even greater!

About The Author

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Broadcast Team Lead

Alex enjoys long walks on the beach, mountain biking, and spending time in his extensive library reading novels from authors of yore. His hobbies include traveling the world putting small critters into ball shaped capsules, slaying Flying Wyverns, and mastering his wake-up Heavy Shoryuken!