Thursday, June 20, 2013

Did the future for Microsoft's Kinect just skyrocket upward?

Unless you have decided to stay hidden under a rock, chances are that you already know that Microsoft just pulled one of the largest 180s even before seen in the gaming industry.

The 'anti-consumer' DRM policies that Microsoft spent years to develop were just nullified within a matter of days. This is a major win for consumers (and possibly the gaming industry as a whole), as the Xbox One will almost certainly compete toe-to-toe with its rival console, Sony’s PlayStation 4, throughout the next generation.

But the real killer for the Xbox One is quite possibly Kinect. When Microsoft launched Kinect in 2010, over the 60 days following it thereafter, it shifted eight million units worldwide. This landed the peripheral in the pages of Guinness World Records, for the “fastest selling consumer electronics device.” As of February 2013, Kinect has shifted 24 million units worldwide.

The Xbox 360 has now shifted over 70 million units worldwide, making Kinect’s install base a relatively niche peripheral - most favourable with the casual gaming market. But it has been well implemented into core games as well: Forza Motorsport 4 and Mass Effect 3 are but two examples where Kinect has proven that it can enhance core titles for the better, by making creative use of its motion tracking and voice recognition features. With only 34 per cent of Xbox owners utilising Kinect though, developers’ focus on it has understandably been somewhat limited.

This all could drastically change with the Xbox One. Kinect will have a 100 per cent install base with it being a fundamental aspect of the console. Microsoft’s previous anti-consumer DRM policies looked to have a high probability of holding the console back in competing with the PlayStation 4 and its motion control peripheral, the PlayStation Eye, is a separate add-on device. While we have only had a glimpse of things to come with Kinect integration with the Xbox 360, the recent revelation that Microsoft’s Xbox One will basically be on level ground in terms of the numbers, it will no doubt attract more third party support, and all of these developers will have access to Kinect.

Few titles on the Xbox 360 that featured optional Kinect support were actually, “better with Kinect,” as the tagline went. Can a 100 per cent Kinect install base on the Xbox One find the sensor living up to its motto once and for all? I think the probability is quite high, actually.
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