Where’s the download game love, Kinect?

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5 mins read

Microsoft sent around a press release today, proudly proclaiming that 10 million Kinect sensors and 10 million Kinect games have been sold.

It’s an impressive feat, to be sure, and in targeting a casual audience, Microsoft has found itself a new market. The momentum should continue, too, with a set of games and applications that should prove very popular with that same audience.

Avatar Kinect will bring a new social experience for Kinect users. Michael Jackson The Experience and Carnival Games were megahits on the Wii, and no doubt will be the same with Kinect. Kids can look forward to Kung Fu Panda 2 and Seasame Street, and if the success of Wii Fit and Brain Training was any indication, Body and Brain Connection will have adults checking in every day (for a month or two, at least).

But this is all retail. One thing noticeably absent from the Kinect marketing hype is any kind of real downloadable title. There’s some DLC for various retail games, which is a good thing, and then there’s The Gunstringer, which looks like a lot of fun, but other than that there’s not a whole lot to look forward to on Microsoft’s download service.

(It’s possible we’ve missed the news of some major Kinect downloadable games, of course, and if we have we’d love to hear about them!)

I’m guessing there’s a couple of reasons for that. Optimising a game for Kinect is probably beyond the resources of smaller development teams. A game needs to be developed for Kinect exclusively by nature (or significantly adapted from other versions of a game), meaning an indie can’t simply release across multiple platforms, in turn making it something of a financial risk.
Smaller development teams and indies also don’t tend to make games for casual audiences (iPhone/ iPad aside), and this is especially true of the traditionally hardcore Xbox 360 developers.
From a marketing point of view, Kinect is still a casual toy, rather than a hardcore gaming device, and while Microsoft promises there will be more hardcore games on it in the future, developers seem to be struggling with the lack of physical input when it comes to producing FPSers or RPGs with any real depth. 
Is this a sign of things to come?
Casual gamers just want to buy the hardware, buy a game, stick it in the disc slot and play away. Part of the reason Nintendo’s WiiWare service has struggled to gain market share is because the traditional Wii owner just does not care to navigate through online shops. I suspect Kinect will suffer a similar struggle. While Avatar Kinect is a nice idea to try and get people involved in the Xbox 360’s excellent online service, at this stage I wonder how many people who bought the console for Kinect have even signed up.
It’s an interesting contrast. Sony’s Move has not been as successful in terms of sales figures, but from a download point of view, there are more quality games that make use of the peripheral, and they cover just about the entire spectrum of gaming, from Flight Control through to FPSers.
While I don’t think Microsoft has anything to worry about with Kinect, and I’m sure it will continue to sell like hotcakes, I wonder whether it would be a good idea for Microsoft to start providing greater incentives for smaller developers to come up with controllerless gaming ideas for download. We’ve seen already that digital download platforms are a breeding ground for creativity, and if Microsoft does want the hardcore Kinect games, it might well be XBLA where the experimentation needs to happen.

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