The Future of Gaming Just Appeared

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, gamers and non-gamers. I have played the Kinect. Earlier tonight a Microsoft Representative held a free, open to the public demo of the Kinect. Anyone could walk in, have a snack, and play the Kinect on a large screen TV with a crowd of people. I was one of the first to arrive, because I myself wanted to see what the Kinect held. It was different. It was unique. It was absolutely nothing like the Wii or the Move.

And it was the future of gaming.

Right off the bat, let me say this. It's hard to describe, maybe impossible, the difference that the Kinect brings to the table. This is not, I repeat, not a competitor to the motion control systems offered by Nintendo and Sony, this is an entirely different experience, something new. If I had to be asked to drive it, this is a level of newness that could be compared with the jump from Atari controllers to the Wiimote. This is something new, and it's in such infancy the surface of the potential behind this beast has barely been scratched.

I played two of the games there, a breakout clone from Kinect Adventures (where you are effectively a soccer goalie) and Dance Central, a dance game so far ahead of the competition that Konami is probably downsizing their DDR department as we speak. Kinect is a different experience. One thing that became very clear to me very quickly was that if there is any disparity between Kinect titles, its not the systems fault. Dance Central is proof of what the Kinect offers in terms of fine tuned input, I watched (and played) and the Kinect's sensors were fantastic, tracking players around the room, even modifying on the fly for seamless jump in and out. The hardware is solid and powerful. If there is a problem tracking something, it lies with the game, not the hardware.

I'll be honest, I had an absolute blast. Nothing could have prepared me for how much fun Dance Central was going to be, but it was everything I had hoped for, save a side by side battle mode. Pulling off moves to the real dance was a far cry from DDR, and an epic blast. Dropping to my knees to catch a virtual ball in breakout was incredible. Even more incredible was when I looked at my teammate and we high-fived, only to have our in game avatars face each other and do the exact same thing. There's a depth of control here that's going to rock some worlds.

This is where I lay down the gauntlet. Kinect is an innovation that is going to change the face of gaming. It's not an instant success that will sell several million and then die. This is going to be a gradual, but powerful shift in the market. The Kinect adds a depth of control to a console most people have only dreamed of. Just wait, I predict, and declare, that there will be a Football game, probably Madden, for the Kinect, which players will be able to play simply by shouting plays and commands at the TV (and it won't mistake other people for you, the Kinect is smarter then that). Now add a controller to that experience for a First Person Shooter game where you tap the bottom of your controller to reload. You're going to see that. Then add in a 3D TV to give some depth to the whole experience.

Is this going to happen tomorrow? Of course not. This is going to be a gradual shift. Much like the X-box before the 360, the Kinect is probably going to lose money, but build a following. When its successor arrives as an integral part of the next X-box, its going to explode in ways we've never dreamed of.

The funny thing is, words can't do the Kinect justice. I can tell you how fun a game is. But the Kinect is a physical experience. I watched some people get up to play Dance Central and completely fail because they didn't dance. They just stood there and waved their hands, waggling like you would a standard motion controller, while the people who got down and busted a groove on the floor, following the cue cards and making full body turns, rotations and jumps, racked up the points.

If you know someone with a Kinect, you should try it. Be prepared for something....very different. This isn't simply an Eyetoy camera. We had a huge crowd, but it never had a problem tracking the players around the room, which was dark, with a disco ball sending light everywhere. This isn't a motion controller. This is something...very new.

Beam me to the Holodeck, we're one step closer.

1 comment:

Time Enforcer Anubis said...

I'm still not ready to jump on the "Future of Gaming" thing just yet, and here's why:

I grew up playing games like MechWarrior 2, Virtual-On, various flight simulators, and just recently got the chance to play the infamous Steel Battalion.

All of these games have something in common. They all have very specific control schemes that add a lot to the game. Steel Battalion, in particular, is built around its monster of a controller to give a more realistic and engaging gameplay experience.

Now, I've heard about the news Steel Battalion coming out for Kinect, and I'm extremely skeptical about how they're gonna handle it. The whole thing about Steel Battalion was the fact that you were playing with this controller that allowed you to control just about every aspect of your craft. The big glaring problem I see with placing SB on Kinect, and the same with many other control-heavy games, is the fact that there's no feedback or tangibility.

When you lose the controller, you lose an important part of certain games, and those are a lot of the games that are big to me.

So, my question is this: What will control systems like Kinect do for the games that I play to make them better?