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E3 2011: Why Microsoft's press conference showed that it may have much bigger problems than Kinect

So the Microsoft press conference. Not pretty was it? In fact I’d go as far as to say that for the core gamer it was a steaming great car crash of twisted metal, boiling blood and squishy bits of brain hanging off the wing-mirrors. I’m not just having a moan because of the lack of first-party core content and the proliferation of Kinect here, though the percentage focus was pretty miserable unless you’re three years old.

No, the biggest problem, way beyond what Microsoft chose to show, was the way Microsoft showed itself to be thinking about the industry around it. Or rather not. There are bigger problems here than Kinect. Much bigger, much more fundamental ones. And they could run Microsoft into a whole heap of trouble very soon indeed.

It was the worst of both worlds

First up, Red Ring of Death aside, Microsoft had been doing pretty well this generation until last year. Sony started this gen about as popular as a clown with herpes, coming across as arrogant, complacent, and holier-than-thou, with an attitude that it had the one, true path for the future of gaming. Nintendo just gave the impression that it didn’t give a toss about gaming or gamers at all any more. Sorry guys, Ninty had better things to do than pay attention to the loyalists who’d kept it afloat through a tough decade. It had money to leech off idiots, children, and the children of idiots. And boy, did it have a lot of money to leech.


Above: Ah, those were the days...

But Microsoft. Good old Microsoft. After a slow start with the original Xbox, MS has spent most of this generation knocking it out of the park, and doing so – hardware failures aside – with a fairly clean reputation amongst the hardcore gamer. More affordable and approachable than Sony, more aware of the core gamer’s needs than Nintendo, basically, you were safe with a 360.

Now though, the inverse is true. MS has taken on all the traits that hampered both of its rivals, and combined them all into one big festering cocktail of distasteful presentation.

The Nintendo ingredients

Fairly obvious, but I’ll go through them anyway. Microsoft has spotted the potential in the casual market and thrown everything at it until it has nothing left to throw. Nintendo did the same thing to significant financial success, but with certain grave failings as well. Nintendo, for all of the benefits afforded by its consistently progressive thinking, has often been its own worst enemy.

Nintendo you see, in celebrating its own cleverness,  has historically often become so drunk on its own ideas that it’s ended up dancing on top of the innovation table for so long that it hasn’t noticed the urine in its trousers and the puke on its shirt. The Virtual Boy. Game Boy Advance connectivity. The Power Glove. Nintendo’s mess-ups have often led to better things later on, but the company’s early enthusiasm has often blinded it to the fact that its ideas are often technologically not ready or else conceptually flawed.


Above: Conceptually flawed

And Microsoft it seems, perhaps as a result of being the youngest of the current platform-holders, has stumbled wide-eyed into the pitfalls of Nintendo’s own excitable thinking. “The casual market is untapped! Let’s get it!” thought Nintendo. And then thought very little else until the market was bled dry. “The casual market is buying a shitload of Wiis! Let’s get a slice of that ourselves!” thought Microsoft. And then buried its head so far in its exciting new ideas that it didn’t see anything that happened between then and now. Or any of the mistakes it was making.

The Sony ingredients

Remember when Sony was all “Hey, you’ll be glad you spent all your rent and half your food budget for the month on a PS3, because we’re fricken awesome and you’ll see that we’re right soon”? Remember when it was all “Unsure about Blu-ray? Well screw you. That’s only because you’re an idiot and we haven’t educated you yet”? Remember when it was all “Screw controller rumble. That shit is gone, dog. You really want this hastily cobbled-together tilt-o-pad, and soon you won’t be able to stand playing a game without it”? Yeah?

Well that’s Microsoft now.

When you’re launching any new product, you have to give off an air of confidence. But if you take it too far, you come across as arrogant. Further than that, and you become preachy. Further than that, and you become desperate.

 
Above: Screw that rumble, bitches! You've got wonky dragons now!

Look at Microsoft’s general message with Kinect last night. According to Microsoft, it is the future. It will improve everything, from TV to communication to games. The world has been missing it’s particular brand of magic for all of the time it hasn’t existed, and good Lord, should we be grateful that Microsoft has created it to show us all how empty and dysfunctional life was before it.

Those TV remotes that have worked perfectly, quickly and efficiently for decades? Rubbish. What you really needed was sluggish and unreliable voice commands. Those quick and easy-to-navigate game menus? Rubbish. You really wanted to wave your arms around and hope a camera knew what you wanted and could react fast enough. Those nippy, responsive control systems that the games industry has been honing for thirty years? Rubbish. You’ve just been waiting and praying for the ability to shout into a microphone, simultaneously feeling awkward and divorcing yourself from the immersion of your chosen game world.

Topics

E3 Microsoft

88 comments

  • bawrash - June 8, 2011 3:13 p.m.

    "I think you're overlooking the simple fact of how troublesome it is to have to get up and jump around" Your words, maybe you should re-read your own statements! Maybe kinect would have more possibilities for you if you stopped being so narrow minded. When thumb sticks first came out racing games used them for accelerating and braking. Now they've found it more practical to use triggers. Its the same with the kinect, they're trying to find the best way to utilise it and that's down to trial & error. Its not all about 'jumping around' their pushing voice recognition which will be great for games where you'd normally have to pause and access the menus to use items, magic or command team members. And correcting spelling and grammar mistakes likely so it cant be used against you in an discussion is pathetic, this is a forum not a phd thesis.
  • NuclearXmas - June 8, 2011 11:45 a.m.

    I'd like to correct myself in that I should have said try and not trying in the second sentence. And button should be buttons. I also shouldn't have wrote "my having".
  • NuclearXmas - June 8, 2011 9:26 a.m.

    @bawrash I wish the other guy would respond, he actually made a decent argument. You, on the other hand, didn't even seem too thoroughly read out my statement and trying to make unfounded assertions that I'm just "TOO LAZY" to enjoy kinect. Again, extra button and joysticks open up MORE possibilities and build upon the EXISTING INFRASTRUCTURE. Kinect on the other hand severely limits what you're capable of doing without my having to go through some ridiculous and awkward action. By the way, the Wii was only successful because of how hard it tried to get noticed by the average joe who couldn't give two shits about gaming or name the main character in halo. And you know what's funny? of all the people I know who own Wii's and of all the times I've been over to peoples houses and looked at their Wii's, I've never seen them turned on and they've always had a noticeable amount of dust on them. I've also never met an actual gamer that has had even a shred of respect for the Wii. And this is partially why I switched over to PC gaming, because microsoft has clearly lost touch with their audience.
  • leejohnson222 - June 8, 2011 8:40 a.m.

    i watched all 3 conferences and none were amazing, that said MS were the worst, kinect stuff was awful, painful to watch. All tom clancy games will be in kinect ! these are not games for casuals and i believe that motion/hardcore games do not/can not exist! Crytek exclusive is kinect ! i know TV services etc are important but you buy a games console for games. Halo 4 = the 7th halo game with more to follow this just shows they are milking this like activision likes to kill i mean milk a franchise. Sony was ok some good news, vita great price amazing spec and could compete well with software support, didnt focus too long on move and kept things moving well, dust was interesting, shadow, ico this year with twisted metal, uncharted 3, resistance 3, infamous 2 strong exclusives, but where was the bomb shells, no last guardian, nothing from quantic dream, 8 days, the getaway. Where was kevin butler? Nintedo show that they take risks on hardware even though the wii u is horrible, why not take risks on software and stop living off 15 year old franchises? we are not all still 12 years old ! Nintendo shares fell when the U was announced and if it does well or not there wont be one in my house. E3 2011 underwhelming overall i felt.
  • leejohnson222 - June 8, 2011 8:22 a.m.

    ive now watched all 3 and all 3 were not great to be honest, but sony had best content and new ips to show, dust was interesting and the move games if you like motion gaming. Halo 4 wow this is being milked now, when halo 4 comes out it will acutally be the 7th halo game and then there are 2 more to follow, no thanks. All tom clany games for kienct and cryteks game is kinect ! tv and services are important, but you buy a games console for games and MS dont have many games to make you buy this console. For me sony has more to offer, but where were quantic dream? last Guardian, ff versus, Agent, 8 days, the getaway? I think you will see more and more ps3 exclusives/studios and im glad the quality stands ahead of any other exclusive for me. This year ico,shadow hd, uncharted 3, resistance 3, twisted metal. Nintedos shares actually fell when they announced wiiU and that thing looks horrible to me, i sold my wii when i stopped using it i wont be buying nintendo again.Plus they only rely on 15 year old franchises, they take risks on hardware but never software, why no new IPs? Vita looked amazin and the price makes it even better, get monster hunter, dragon quest and other big names on there and fully support it and it will do well.
  • FinderKeeper - June 8, 2011 7:45 a.m.

    "If Nintendo’s Project Café turns out to be what I, and many others, think it will be, then Nintendo could tear past in a triple-processored, 1080P speedboat and rescue the ship-abandoning core right from under its nose tonight." (Ninty announces new, uh, controller... the "Wii U") Or not. Well, there's always next year ;-)
  • lvsteven - June 8, 2011 5:54 a.m.

    Microsoft is looking at the Kinect as a way to maximize the hardware sales on the 360 they are already profiting off of. In a few years it wont matter. Play your plastic guitar or drums lately? Yea.. I haven't either.
  • Its_JKro - June 8, 2011 5:35 a.m.

    Please remember that inovation takes time. No one, not Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft can flip a switch on and make something work well and make everyone happy. Things like the Kinect is what the gaming industry needs. It's not perfect and I'll be caught dead before I buy one right now, but the Kinect is a foundation for the future. Think about the idea of Kinect as a baby that will grow and mature into the cool things that we see on TV and the movies. Someone has to do stuff like this first and now it's Microsoft's turn. Please just cut them some slack. In year if they pull this again have at them, but in the mean time just chill out everyone.
  • bawrash - June 8, 2011 1:44 a.m.

    @NuclearXmas Lets go back to a D-pad and 2 buttons cause everything else is too "troublesome" for you. How about you shut up and sit down if that's not too "troublesome" for you! Pressure sensitive buttons and triggers, rumble feature, 6-axis, racing wheels, analog sticks. Hell I may only see 60% of a game so how about they cut the other 40% to better improve the development of the bit I play which takes me to my point just because you don't want it doesn't mean everyone else feels the same. p.s. to say motion controls are a dead end when Nintendo was resurrected on a waving stick and kinect has made a tidy amount of sales over the year clearly indicates you know jack.
  • ZigzMagoo - June 8, 2011 1:42 a.m.

    The difference between Microsoft and Nintendo is that Kinect is optional, and there is only one good game that absolutely requires it (Dance Central. With the Wii, the vast majority of games require motion control. I don't know why Microsoft is being criticized. At least they are supporting their technology
  • rustedfaithuk - June 8, 2011 12:11 a.m.

    I have to say that the motion controller age is a innovative thought, and could well revolutionise gaming. IF it was more intuitive, had much less lag, didn't require living rooms to be huge and well made so you don't look like your playing charades. But everyone seems to be praising it as the new direction of gaming. It's application are admirable, but in a practical aspect I have to agree with @NuclearXmas. Sure there are many gimmicks that have gone on to become mainstream, but there are an awful lot more that didn't. Many people have tried to reinvent the keyboard, and a lot of their ideas have improved efficiently in typing and make more sense. But it never went to market because no one wants that change, because there is no problem with good old qwerty. I reckon if the motion controllers are to be a success, we need a new a few generations before we get even close. As for now, it's products aimed at a different demographic to microsoft and sony usual. And it's annoying.
  • NuclearXmas - June 7, 2011 11:12 p.m.

    @FoxdenRacing My comment above was in response to the post you wrote for Hank. This one is replying to the one left for me. I don't think you understand that kinect's involvement with any game is going to change the game for everyone, no matter if my possession of kinect is required or not. It's going to mean that developers will have to change a game to make it compatible for kinect, and it's going to mean development time will be taken out just so it can be used with kinect. You also contradict yourself between both posts. You say to me that kinect should be used alongside controllers and will never make for a feasible replacement. Yet you state that kinect is the potential future of gaming and how controllers are potentially outdated tech that we don't want to give up because we fear change. Or maybe you just think I'm being not properly judging this potential tech by putting down kinects downfalls despite it being new tech and that they may innovate it and build upon it to make a less flawed device. When in reality I'm simply arguing that motion controls is a dead end in gaming and xbox's agressive pursuit into this market is a waste of time and resources. As for you saying I was making the point you were. I assure you I wasn't. The examples you brought up have all impacted gaming in a positive manner, the examples I brought up have all impacted gaming in a negative manner. My point was that you can't just associate something with change and say that it's inevitable and always turns out to be a good thing. Because that's a pretty narrow minded perspective on things. Although I do see how you would say I'm just the epitome of all that fears change, and that I'm just as blind as your former classmates, putting something down because it's new. But it's not just me claiming Kinect is trying to bring down the controller and drastically change gaming, it's microsoft as well. And the fact that they so freely admit it really just goes to prove my point. And if you didn't catch that than you missed MY POINT. As for your narrow minded assumptions of me? I don't care for the genre of games you described. And I'd say you were quite off with my tastes. I must also point out how funny it is that you condemn me for rejecting a piece of hardware by saying I was everyone to conform to a specific genre of art. I don't know how you made that connection, but whatevs. As for my hostility, I tend to vary my approach based on what I think will get the best reaction. In this case, I chose to be insulting and offensive, coming off a blatantly angry. Just because I felt that'd get the best reaction, and actually incite a well thought out response. I guess that worked.
  • NuclearXmas - June 7, 2011 10:47 p.m.

    @FoxdenRacing I think you're overlooking the simple fact of how troublesome it is to have to get up and jump around. And how limited you truly are by the technology. You can't really do anything other than one action at any given time. With a controller, I can move, shoot, duck, roll, stab, reload and change weapons simply and effectively. With a keyboard + mouse the possibilities become even greater. With kinect, I can only perform one action at a time, two maybe, with heavy prediction to the point where the game is basically holding my hand and telling me what to do. The only way they can expand upon that is by requiring people to perform complex and awkward movements that'll end up being tiring. Which is ultimately why it'll never appeal to the hardcore circuit. Because it's not ideal for longterm gaming. It'll only make due for quick, 30 minute sessions that'll eventually grow boring and dull after a month.
  • FoxdenRacing - June 7, 2011 10:37 p.m.

    Nuke: Congratulations on completely and totally missing my point, and then flinging insults at me...ironically enough, insults that contain my point...in some misguided attempt to show other readers that being able to attack somebody proves you're superior. Well done, and incredibly mature to boot. We get it. You hate Kinect. You seethe with rage thinking about any form of gaming that doesn't fit your personal definition of 'hardcore'. Anything with colors other than stubble, fire, concrete, dirt, blood, and cleavage is an affront to your masculinity, as if admitting to liking anything other than a 17-year-old's version of "maturity"...hypersexualized women, ultramasculine men, pointless grit, and gratuitous violence...somehow makes you less of a man.
  • FoxdenRacing - June 7, 2011 10:17 p.m.

    Hank: Just because something is labeled a gimmick doesn't make it so, and that was my point; gimmicks are defined by their entire lifespan, rather than skeptical fingers being pointed at them initially. All of those useful things were once called gimmicks (a short-lived one-off, since you assumed I didn't know the definition) before they were fully understood, no matter how helpful they ended up being. When they were first introduced...one in the late 70s, one in the mid-90s [I know, I know, I'm an old fart]...both analog controls and mouselook were written off as a gimmick; very few people saw the point in having them outside of that one specific game or niche sub-genre. Now they're taken for granted (case in point: go play Goldeneye 64). The first analog controllers hit in the Atari era: Colecovision's 'Roller Controller', the paddles to play Circus Atari or Pong with, back then just about every game had 4-way movement (or 8-way movement if and only if you were lucky), and traditionally-controlled games had no semblance of precision. Or even to fast forward almost 20 years, when the N64's stick was mocked for its oversized middle prong, sloppy motion, and rotten accuracy compared to the PS1's fairly tight D-pad. Only once the Dualshock hit the scene with a few games to show its potential did analogs become ubiquitous. Same for mouselook; Quake came along in the era of Doom II, ROTT, Heretic/Hexen [I don't remember which came first], and a sea of cheap knock-offs where 'smart aiming' [if the enemy was above you, the shot would automatically go up, etc] and a strafe button was the entrenched tech...sadly, auto-aim/sticky reticules/etc are making a comeback as FPS caters more and more to the console crowd. WASD+Mouse was new, it was unintuitive compared to arrows + shift/ctrl/alt (what we already knew), and it took a little while to be adopted as the 'best way' to do it. I was among those that hated it until acclimated, and I was far from alone even in my dinky 200-per-year high school. Once adjustable sensitivity came in, once the code for using them got better, and once gamers had some time to acclimate, it became universal...especially when the advantage of dual movement [run and strafe] and the sheer precision a good mouse offered became known. 10, 15, 20 years from now, Move will more than likely be seen as a gimmick, limited by its simplicity; same for Wii Waggle controls. Neither can augment, both can only replace, and replacing controllers dooms them. Kinect at least has a chance, if developers stop trying to replace controllers and instead augment them, just as all those other little steps in gaming history did. Rumble became a way to get the player's attention subconsciously, instead of making them look away from the action or stop listening to the audio cues, breaking their immersion to convey such a simple message. Analog controls [both stick and mouse] added much more granular control. Twin sticks and mouselook permitted simultaneous movement and rotation, on two axes each. Every tech I listed was doubted, mocked, and derided when they were introduced...yet every one improved already-existing control methods and became adopted as a result. Anything that has ever tried to outright replace traditional control methods...Sega Activator and PS2 Eyetoy, for example...has flopped. Whether you like it or not, Kinect has potential...but as of yet, it hasn't been anything resembling harnessed, as MS tries to push it as a replacement for controllers rather than an augmentation to them. It has the potential to separate camera control from both movement and rotation. It has the potential to present mouse-like precision to the games with cursors, it has the potential to make twin-cursor games not only possible but intuitive, and it has the potential to add a third form of control when both hands/thumbs are already busy. Whether it gets harnessed and improves gaming or goes down in history as a gimmick...well, we'll just have to wait and see.
  • NuclearXmas - June 7, 2011 10:10 p.m.

    @Cerberus99 At first I was stunned by how stupid that comment was, but then I realized 99 was probably your birth year.
  • NuclearXmas - June 7, 2011 10:07 p.m.

    @FoxdenRacing WAI WAI WAI WAIT! You mean, just as the virtua boy was a gimmick? You mean, just as the power glove was a gimmick? You mean, just as the gunman for the PS2 was a gimmick? You mean, just as the game boy camera was a gimmick? You mean, just as the ***EYE TOY*** was a gimmick? Many of those examples are inaccurate comparisons, because they merely build upon the existing structure, not attempt too tear down everything gaming is built upon under the claim that it's "innovative" and "convenient" when logically it's inefficient. Just as it has been pointed out by the men at GR numerous times before, it's much simpler to push a button and a controller offers for much more dynamic and immersive gameplay. But by all means if you enjoy dancing around your living room like an autistic retard in order to accomplish simple and unchallenging objectives. Then by all means buddy, you swing that lightsaber. You swing it and swing it hard enough to loose balance and fall into your coffee table. Oh well, three years from now we'll all be on the same page. I guess it just takes some people longer to spot bullshit than others.
  • DoctorCrazy - June 7, 2011 8:45 p.m.

    I liked the microsoft presentation...
  • Cerberus99 - June 7, 2011 8:36 p.m.

    I love how people complain about needing to "flail" your arms to use the Kinect. Have you ever even used one? Plus, Microsoft isn't making you buy the Kinect in order to keep using your 360 or XBL, so stop whining and don't buy one if a traditional controller is your thing. The Kinect is new tech and frankly I love the world of opportunities it opens for developers and gamers alike. In case people haven't noticed, games aren't just games anymore. They're interactive movies that people immerse themselves in. The Kinect takes that one step further, almost putting you IN the game. I think that's awesome. Yes, Microsoft has jumped on the family game cash-cow that Nintendo has been riding for so many years, and yes, the current selection of games for Kinect is pretty lame, but you need to have some vision and imagination. Kinect could very well be the future of gaming but it's going to take some time to really develop the tech and the games to truly "sell" the core gamers.
  • jackthemenace - June 7, 2011 8:20 p.m.

    I always had so much faith in Microsoft. From when the wii came out, I believed Nintendo was doomed, and the same with Sony in the last few weeks, what with PSN being down. But now, After seeing the Wii U being geared towards more hardcore players again, and after playing inFAMOUS after I got it free as a "sorry" from Sony, My faith in those two is completely restored. And after THIS, my faith in Microsoft is shaken. Disturbingly so.

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