How Microsoft's new Kinect focus lost a connection with one gamer

“You know what would be really funny?”, we said the other day. “If we counted the number of times the word ‘Kinect’ was uttered during last year’s abhorrently motion-control-fixated Microsoft press conference, and then compared it to the number of times it’s said this year”. Our thinking was simple. An increase would be cynically amusing, A decrease might show a conscious about-face after last year’s dismal, much-maligned show.

Our findings? A vast drop-off in occurrences of the dread word. But much to our surprise, it didn’t make us happy. It actually made us really sad. Because what we didn’t expect was just how the context of our results could make things much, much worse. 

Above: We are legion

I’m not just on a downer because of the physical process of counting the Kinects. That task fell to me, admittedly, and it was pretty painful on a psychological level. It was bad enough having to relive the whole hour-and-a-half of that vapidly casual-baiting crap, but the second I remembered that the fistbumping Disney kids were coming up? The longest and most agonising second of my life.

But no, that wasn't the problem. There was something much worse in store for me tonight, and in a disgusting twist of the old fate-fork, it turned out to spring from my greatest hope. 

Last year, the word “Kinect” was spoken out loud 81 times during Microsoft’s E3 press conference (or ‘Project: Please Love This Irrelevant Device, Core-Gamers. We’ll Do Anything!’, as I like to call it). Given that said conference ran for around 90 minutes, that’s roughly one “Kinect” per minute. This year though? Just 22 Kinects. Almost a 75% drop-off. I should have been overjoyed that Kinect is being given less prevalence, but the fact is that this year’s drop in direct mentions actually shows that the device now dominates the 360 more than ever before. Because you see, the reason that Kinect was not as frequently directly addressed was a rather sad one. Because it seems that Microsoft’s assumption is now that Kinect is the Xbox 360. 

Above: It turns out that this seething horror was just the start

It was Microsoft’s omnipresent matter-of-factness regarding our presumed use of Kinect that bothered me most through this year's press conference. Remember how E3 2011 was all about trotting out innocent third-party core games that had had Kinect functionality unceremoniously stapled onto them in a flailing attempt to make the device relevant to the core gamer?  Remember how big a deal was made out of that? Remember how MS virtually pointed a large comedy finger on a stick at BioWare’s Ray Muzyka, while virtually doing a special little Kinect dance (being careful not to show the bottoms of their shoes, obviously) and virtually bellowing “OMIGOD! LOOK! KINECT IS IN MASS EFFECT 3 AND DOESN’T THAT JUST MAKE KINECT AWESOME!?

None of that this year. Oh yeah, we got Kinect integration demoed in proper core games, but the tone this year was just “…and of course Kinect does this…”. As if all core games have Kinect functionality. Splinter Cell? No big reveal of Kinect integration, just a simple “…and because Sam is the head of 4th Echelon, now you can issue voice commands with Kinect”. The reveal of Wreckateer, that shameless 3D Angry Birds knock-off that MS has coming this summer? It wasn’t revealed as “a new Kinect game”. There was no talk of magic or innovative, fun, motion-controlled technology. In fact almost surreally, there was no mention of Kinect whatsoever. Just a woman talking us through her on-stage arm-waving as if waving one’s arms is just how video games have always been controlled. 


Even when discussing the 360’s various new dashboard-related features – previously the bastion of all things magical, and of course, only possible with the power of repeated shouting and awkward spasms – barely any reference was ever made out of the need to own a Kinect in order to take part in what was clearly Kinect-only interaction. And frankly, that was almost flat-out sinister.

So I can now search for entertainment genres by simply barking “Edwardian Donkey Husbandry Epic” or “Sci-Fi Cockney Cheese Horror” at Bing now, can I?. You know, I bet if I go home and try that tonight whenever I eventually get out of this office, precisely bugger all will happen. And precisely bugger all will happen because I don’t own MS's migical magical motion-control camera. But to MS, that didn't seem worth bringing up, in this or any other of the many situations it referenced seemingly default Kinect functionality tonight. Because it now seems that to Microsoft, you just have Kinect. You just do. If you own an Xbox 360, Kinect is plugged into it, and Kinect is primarily how you control it. Because, after all, why wouldn’t it be?

And I don’t like that. I don’t like what it seems to say about what MS seems to assume about me, and I don’t like what it seems to say about the way MS sees the Xbox 360 (and no doubt its eventual successor) going. Not one little bit.

In fact I reckon the way that Kinect wasn't mentioned this year was a bigger harbinger of doom for the Xbox-owning core gamer than anything that happened at E3 2011. How about you?


  • Cloudiology - June 5, 2012 7:54 p.m.

    Ok i completely understand the bitching we all do over the kinect/wii (u)/ ps move, it can be ridiculous. but i mean we go batshit defensive when people complain about graphics saying "gameplay over graphics!!" until our heads explode. but nintendo pioneered it, sony copied it and ms improved it. completely new forms of gameplay and what did we do?? BITCH and COMPLAIN about how unnecessary it is and (especially in the early days aimed at nintendo) complain that they should improve hardware, graphics and keep the general controller and gameplay design. i do understand that generally sony/ms/nintendo went about it the wrong way, (except mostly awesome first party wii games) I'm just saying. we're fickle pricks who love to complain... while talented and ingenious people get smashed for trying things different with current hardware.. P.S. come on vitaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! 8p
  • Darth Olds - June 5, 2012 11:47 a.m.

    Glad I was not the only one who watched that press conference and said, "Does Microsoft think everyone owns a Kinect?". I don't own one and am actually still on the fence about it, I just don't like the assumption that all Xbox gamers needed was one E3 of Kinect being rammed down our throats and something like 6 months (give or take) of the hardware being on sale for everyone to adopt it. It would of been nice to know if the new dashboard updates are going to still be accessible to those of us without Kinect or if we are going to have to adopt one to keep up with the biannual updates.
  • amagasakiseb - June 4, 2012 10:22 p.m.

    I have absolutely no intention of buying a Kinect. I wasn't convinced when it first came out and they haven't done anything to convince me that it's worth buying now. The only "motion control" I like is using a mouse or trackpad. If the next Xbox is going to use this annoying technology then I hope the next Playstation doesn't because I don't want to be forced to accept this stupid piece of equipment into my life.
  • J-Fid - June 4, 2012 3:11 p.m.

    I had no clue what was going on in that video. The entire thing was a mess, just like those castles that were destroyed.
  • TheCakeIsaPie - June 4, 2012 3:05 p.m.

    My therapist made $5,000 off of me last year after I saw that child actors video. And now that you have shown it to me again and ripped the memories screaming back to the surface, my therapist surely will be able to afford a yacht. Thank you so very much, GR.
  • StrayGator - June 4, 2012 2:59 p.m.

    Oh, the joys of following an LA event from the eastern hemisphere... Go to sleep, Dave. You will have a lot to chew on tomorrow.
  • GR_DavidHoughton - June 4, 2012 3:04 p.m.

    So much chewing too be done. Oh so much chewing.
  • Y2Ken - June 4, 2012 2:53 p.m.

    I definitely have to agree with this. When you say it this way it really does seem as though they assume you have a Kinect now. And while I'd like one in theory, I'm not going to pay that much for it when it adds only minimal functionality to most games. I just want to play Dance Central (and Kinectimals shhhh don't tell anyone).
  • Lemons - June 4, 2012 2:42 p.m.

    I concur with your findings Mr. Houghton, or to put it simply, this shit is fucked.
  • BladedFalcon - June 4, 2012 2:39 p.m.

    Before reading the article, I was gonna complain. But now i understand what this is about, and you are right. I saw just as much Kinect pandering in this show if not more than last year's, but this time they pretty much assumed that if you have a 360, you have a kinect. Which to me, made it a bit less jarring WHILE watching the conference, but it is annoying to think of after.
  • ChaosEternal - June 4, 2012 7:59 p.m.

    Do they really believe that everyone will be willing to either drop an extra $100 for an Xbox with Kinect, or get a pretty useless 4 Gb Xbox with Kinect instead? One could get quite a bit more for their money with $100 than by buying a kinect, and apparently they either hope people don't realize this, or hope to make people believe the opposite is true. Or maybe neither. Ah well, it doesn't really matter that much. :P

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