Do U Kinect: Has motion-controlled gaming finally grown up?

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By Calder Phillips-Grafflin

Most of you have probably heard, at least at some point, about Microsoft’s and Sony’s recent venture into motion-controlled gaming. Those of you who read my columns this fall probably noted my general skepticism about the demonstration units I had seen; imprecise, absurd, toy-like, certainly nothing of interest for the “hardcore gamers” that make up most of the Xbox 360 and PS3 user base.

Microsoft’s Kinect (formerly Project Natal) and Sony’s Move are very different approaches to motion-controlled gaming: Kinect ditches the controller entirely, whereas the Move is more of a WiiMote on steroids.

The Kinect was certainly a much larger gamble; the closest thing to it, Sony’s ‘EyeToy’ for the PS2, can only charitably be described as ahead of its time, whereas the Move is a much more of an evolutionary growth out of the success of the Wii.

Surprising to many, both the Kinect and Move have done quite well sales-wise; in the first two months, Sony sold 4.1 million Move units, and Microsoft has sold over 8 million in the Kinect’s first 60 days.

What are these devices like to use? In a word, impressive. Game play, simple and even sometimes repetitive, is smooth, intuitive and natural. In the case of the Kinect, movement on the screen corresponds directly to your own movements in an eirily accurate manner. Compared to early demonstrations, the software has been dramatically improved.

In short, the Kinect achieves what the Wii tried to deliver but wasn’t advanced enough or risky to do: fully immersive motion-controlled gaming.

Unlike previous systems that used the motion of the controller, dropping the controller entirely for full-body motion tracking opens up far more possibilities.

While the future of motion-controlled gaming certainly depends on the quality of the games that use it, given the success of the underlying systems like the Kinect and the Move, it looks to a bright future.

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