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Archives: Xbox Kinect - Features and Problems

Originally published in October 2010
Simon Nguyen

When Xbox Kinect (formerly known as Project Natal) was first unveiled at the 2009 E3 summit, it initiated quite a reaction from both consumers and industry insiders. People were very impressed by the technology’s many possibilities. Xbox Kinect promised the ability to play video games remote-free, making gaming truly interactive. One year later at E3 2010, Kinect (now a complete product) was finally demoed to the public. This time, however, the reaction was noticeably lukewarm due to factors such as the steep suggested price, control issues and the current consumer mood.

The chief purpose behind the development of Kinect was to capture the casual video game market, brought about by the Nintendo Wii. Tech giant Microsoft wanted to take the best feature of the Wii console — motion control gaming — and significantly upgrade it. The company has certainly achieved this objective with Xbox Kinect. For the first time ever, players can navigate menus and play video games without a control device. Users will be able to interact virtually with Kinect using either simple hand gestures or voice command. Think of futuristic scenes from sci-fi movies like Tron and Total Recall.

How does Kinect manage to pull this off? Included with the device is a specially designed camera that captures a person’s every movement and translates it perfectly onscreen. This means developers can create games that flawlessly simulate real life sports and activities — even ones that require full-body movements. To a casual player, this is a big selling point as there will absolutely be no learning curve. Additionally, many game developers have already confirmed support for Kinect. In fact, several dozen games (designed specifically for the device) are set to release in and around the device’s launch.

While Kinect is certainly impressive, there are many noted problems. The one problem that has consistently plagued the device throughout its development is the small lag time between the player’s actual movements and those onscreen. Although it is a relatively minor issue, effects from the lag do add up over time resulting in delayed response and imperfect control. Another issue is the fact there may be conditions that must be met for the device to work as well as it has been advertised. These conditions include where Kinect should be placed, distance between the active player and the device, and an absence of disruptive light sources.

Will Xbox Kinect be a huge hit with consumers? While Kinect will undoubtedly capture some of the casual video game market, it is unlikely to replicate Nintendo Wii’s success. This is due to two reasons. One is the fact that Kinect is rather pricey. The device is set to cost nearly as much as a Wii console. If you don’t already have a XBOX 360, you will also have to purchase it to use Kinect. Another factor is the current state of the video game market. Due to tough economic conditions, many of the casual gamers that helped drive strong sales of Nintendo Wii are no longer active buyers of video games. There is hardly any demand for casual video games at the moment. Coupled this with the problems already stated, Kinect is likely a very tough sell beyond its launch. 

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