When Microsoft announced the Kinect, the motion-gaming peripheral that requires no controller to work, it was celebrated by the mainstream and hardcore alike for its unique functionality.
Since then, Microsoft has delivered enhanced features, but for the vast majority of gamers, it has become a bit of a novelty. Sure, it’s a neat way to command the Xbox or shout some orders in games, but beyond that, it delivers little value to the average person trying to sit down, relax, and enjoy a title.
For that reason, I’m interested in finding out how the peripheral will be incorporated into the next console Microsoft offers, the Xbox 720. According to reports, the console will be integrated directly into the device, meaning it won’t be an extra accessory. But for those of us who like to have our consoles tucked away in cabinets, that’s a problem.
Beyond that, I’m sure Microsoft will deliver a host of improvements to the Kinect to ensure that it has better quality, an improved microphone, and faster response times. For those who use the Kinect often, that’ll be a major selling point.
But what about the rest of us?
The fact is, the Kinect is unable to escape its inherent functionality as a device that lets folks control the on-screen action with motion. It’s a gimmick in some games, and something that has delivered little value in far too many titles. The issue isn’t Kinect’s functionality; it’s the very way in which we actually play video games.
Realizing that, I don’t think Microsoft should make Kinect too important to the experience of playing the Xbox 720. It’ll be a nice addition for those who enjoy that type of gaming, but for everyone else, the peripheral will be an extra feature they pay extra for and receive little benefit from.
Given Microsoft’s success so far in the gaming space, I don’t think it’s dumb enough to miss that point. In fact, I can see the software giant making Kinect an important, but not too important component in the gaming experience in its Xbox 720. It’ll be there for those who enjoy it, and for everyone else, it’ll be something they show off at a couple of parties and quickly forget about.
Given Microsoft’s latest strategies, I think the company’s focus with the Xbox 720 will be graphics quality and entertainment options, in that order. Microsoft knows that solid graphics that look much better than current-generation hardware is vastly important. But the company also knows that the longer it can keep people engaged with its console’s software byway of movies and television shows, the greater its chances of hurting the competition.
Although I’m not sure when Microsoft will launch its Xbox 720, I’m fairly positive that Kinect won’t be as integral to the gaming experience as some believe. The future of gaming rests solely in the hands of content. And while Kinect can supplement entertainment experiences, it can’t create them.
Microsoft knows it. And it won’t let its love for its peripheral get in the way of that understanding.
Don Reisinger is a technology and video game columnist. You can see what he's up to each day on Twitter by following him @donreisinger.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SlashGear