Kinect was a pretty awesome concept back when Microsoft first released it. We heard talk of fully motion-controlled games, of voice-activation on our consoles, and of a gaming experience unlike any we'd ever experienced before. Everyone was all abuzz with hype...until the peripheral actually released. While it certainly did have a great deal of value for businesses who knew how to unlock its potential, for the consumer it was just sort of...gimmicky. Very few games actually utilized the Kinect to its full potential, and of those, even fewer managed to do it well.
This actually sums the game up quite nicely.
At the moment, the only one that really comes to mind is the Just Dance series.
In short, as far as this console generation is concerned, Kinect was a bust. From the standpoint of a consumer, it wasn't anywhere near worth the money Microsoft was asking for it. Microsoft, fortunately, is aware of this. It doesn't plan on making the same mistake again.
Instead, it's taking a calculated risk with the decision to bundle every Xbox One with a Kinect model. No longer is the device simply a peripheral that some players will have. It'll actually be worthwhile for developers to add Kinect support, or to design games for Kinect from the ground up. With Kinect as an integral part of the Xbox One interface, Microsoft hopes that it'll become a widely-used peripheral; one which might even revolutionize console gaming.
It knows you're there, too...
"With the Xbox One, content and game creators generally know that Kinect is there, and can start generating content that is more predictable for everybody that owns an Xbox;" explained Xbox UK's marketing director Harvey Eagle, speaking at the Xbox One's first official UK showcase. "That's an important difference," he added.
"With things like voice and gesture which work much better on Kinect for Xbox One," continued Eagle, "it's a much more integral part of the platform than it ever was previously when it was a peripheral, and add-on; something which game creators weren't necessarily aware of. The previous experiences haven't been as rich as we would have hoped, so that's why we bundled Kinect with the Xbox One, and why we believe it's integral to the box."
You'll still look like a clod using the new one, too.
"It's part of the user interface, and for some tasks, it's the best way to access them...We think there are fundamental differences to the way the Kinect will work for Xbox One. "
In short, Microsoft is banking on the Kinect to bridge the gap between the Xbox One and the PS4. If the peripheral doesn't deliver as well as Microsoft is hoping, it might well spell defeat this generation. After all, as we've already established, Sony has a rather considerable lead.
Plus, although Kinect 2.0 has some cool new features, it's more of the same stuff we've been seeing for the past few years. What would've been truly exciting is if Microsoft had found a way to bundle the Xbox One with Illumiroom. As some of you might recall, the prototype (seen in the video above), is effectively a projector that expands content onto the walls of one's living room. What this effectively does is allow for even deeper immersion in a game, particularly when paired with Kinect.
Unfortunately, that device isn't exactly going to be viable anytime soon. The setup alone (including the specialized room in which the console would be located) would cost "thousands of dollars" for an average consumer. Ah, well. Maybe Microsoft will manage to get the thing up-and-running and release it as a peripheral partway through the Xbox One's life cycle.
Never hurts to dream, right?