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Developers react: No more Kinect
Developers react: No more Kinect
May 13, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

May 13, 2014 | By Christian Nutt
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    34 comments
More: Console/PC



This morning, Microsoft announced that the Xbox One would begin to be sold without a Kinect bundled with the system next month -- and that move is allowing it to shave $100 off of the console's price, bringing it to parity with the PlayStation 4, which has been resoundingly beating it in the market thus far.

The decision has been roundly praised thanks to the business sense it exhibits -- but that's far from the only perspective on the situation.

Some developers are unhappy about this change because of the lost work, or the system's shrinking possibility space for design. Others see it as a betrayal of the core principle of the system as outlined by Microsoft at the outset. Others? They are simply glad to see a more competitive Microsoft in the next-gen console marketplace.

Below, Gamasutra gathers up reactions from a host of developers who took to Twitter to express their reactions to the change.



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Comments


TC Weidner
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The NES did just fine without Robby the Robot, I think the XB1 will also be just fine without the gimmicks...:)

Kale Menges
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I think the console gaming realm at large would greatly benefit from a healthy reduction of depending on gimmicks. Motion and gesture controls have their place, no doubt, but I think we're still so early in the evolution of these technologies and corresponding game designs that it's all still too experimental to be as integral to modern gaming as Nintendo and Microsoft would like them to be. I think ultimately these things have simply confused consumers or overloaded them somehow, creating some kind of decision paralysis, and obscuring games' design focus and entertainment value from being as clear to the consumer as they ought to be. At least the Wii remote has some tangible tactility going for it; I just think Kinect's gesture control and other optical interface technologies are simply too abstract for non-core gamers and create more of an entry barrier than an attractive gimmick (Nintendo is facing a similar issue with the WiiU's second screen gaming). It's unfortunate, definitely (I know there were some really great ideas out there using the tech), but I don't think any experienced dev can really say they didn't see something like this coming.

Brian Peterson
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Fun fact: the purpose of ROB the robot was to be a Trojan Horse to get the NES into toy stores. The Atari crash of the early 80s made retailers very wary of investing in video games, so Nintendo marketed their system as a toy instead. This is why the NES looks totally different from the Famicom - they wanted to avoid all similarity to Atari systems, such as the top-loading cartridges.

They also never referred to software as "cartridges", since that's the term Atari used. They called them "game paks" instead, and that name continued through to the N64 era.

Maybe MS was trying to do something similar with Kinect on Xbox One: convince a casual market that they should purchase a $500 console that is mostly geared towards a more hardcore audience.

Ian Fisch
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My question is why microsoft thought it was worth the extra $100 in the first place. To attract the casual audience? To collect data from peoples' homes? What was it?

Nate G
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Yes, Microsoft was making a big push for a kinect-controlled living room.
The xbox was the voice-controlled hdmi passthrough machine that allowed you to "magically" change channels, do picture-in-picture and chat with your friends while playing games or watching netflix. Without the kinect most of that functionality dies.

Also microsoft saw how many people bought wiis just to play wii sports and wanted some of that money, unfortunately they missed the part where it launched at $250

Dane MacMahon
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@ Nate G

Microsoft's goals from the very first Xbox have been controlling the future of media in the living room. The Kinect was seen as a part of that, in fact the whole interface was designed around it. Now it has probably all come to nothing. I bet the TV stuff ends up in a similar "meh" pile.

Even if they surge back and become the number one game machine in America for software sales again, or whatever the 360 is classified as, I don't think that fits their real long term goals. That's why so many people chit-chat about them selling the whole thing off.

Daniel Pang
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I think that this desire to "rule the living room" is an hopelessly outdated desire that has not caught up to the way we consume media these days.

We don't watch TV from the TV anymore. We have it beamed into our computers, our laptops, our tablets, our phones. We're not tied to the living room. I can watch an entire season of whatever the hit new show is from my bed without moving more than a few fingers, whenever and wherever I want.

The idea that the living room is some kind of sacred money cow is completely stupid. Sure, you can own the living room TV, but mom's in the kitchen following along recipes on her iPad, the kids are in their own rooms chatting on the internet or playing mobile games, and dad's... I suppose dad still gets the TV. Is that who Kinect is for?

The way we consume media is different. The "rule the living room" concept just has no connotations on the way we are now and consume media. The living room was important because the TV was in it, and prior to a mere decade ago was the only or major source of screen space in the house. Now screens are everywhere and at increasingly high resolutions.

Dane MacMahon
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I'd never watch anything I care about on a phone or tablet, but I know things are heading that way. Good point Daniel.

Yamil Chaar
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Remember, "we" are not the entire market. There is a rather big part of the market that still consumes media the traditional way.

In fact, last year it was celebrated that for the first time a third of Americans owned some kind of tablet device. Early this year that figure went up to around 42%. I am willing to bet these figures are similar in other regions as well.

I agree that patterns are changing, but to use a blanket statement in such a way is disingenuous. Let's not jump the gun, shall we? It will take a while before the family/living room is completely replaced. In fact this transition only offers more opportunity if a company is bold enough to conquer all the screen space in a home.

Own the living room and when those people add or transition to mobiles/tablets they are more likely to stay with you.

"http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/06/10/tablet-ownership-2013/"
"http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/01/16/e-reading-rises-as-device-o
wnership-jumps/"
"http://marketingland.com/pew-50-percent-in-us-now-own-tablet-or-e
-reader-70765"

Christian Nutt
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There's no denying that Microsoft got to its major TV strategy late in the day for TV-as-TV, though, is there? And late for console-as-console, for that matter. Both are on the decline, not the rise.


Jay N
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Precisely, but that's always been Microsoft's way to copy what others do and make it more seamless, more "integrated" with other Microsoft products, never to do anything radical or risky. They've usually been fine with this strategy as well, but lately not so much.

I think the Xbox One should have launched in two SDK's to begin with, making the Kinect optional from the get-go. Or at least matched the PS4's price aggressively. As it stands now, this may be too little, too late.

Then again, the PS4 is hardly leaps and bounds beyond the Xbox One, and it's still early days in this generation. Who knows.

Daniel Pang
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@Yamil
I agree - I may have been a bit too hasty in making that blanket statement, but if we're merely talking in terms of traditional market supply and demand, the supply has vastly outstripped the demand. The TV audience doesn't grow in leaps and bounds just because the variety of devices we watch TV on has grown.

What matters to the audience is that they can watch whatever they want to watch when they want and wherever they want. The vast amount of screens available have done this, even if you won't get the "premium" living room experience that Microsoft are selling.

If they're arguing in favor of the living room by presenting it as more of a family experience, doesn't that splinter their audience even more by not speaking to those of us who don't have families?

I'm in Hong Kong, I may be a tad biased as the average Hong Kong person has a premium on living space and therefore not being tied to the living room is very important. There's also China, where the country has developed so rapidly within the last few decades that more people have exposure to smartphones than TVs.

David Lejeune
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"An average of 120 voice commands a month" is such a weird statistic to be touting. That's an average of four voice commands a day. "Xbox On" and "Xbox Off" would probably be two of those. So really, two non-turning the console on voice commands a day. That's not many.

TC Weidner
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yeah the clapper would of been much cheaper

Ujn Hunter
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Not only that... but is it just me, or isn't just pressing the "Xbox" button on my controller much easier than having to say "Xbox On"? Seems weird. I also never understood how MS kept touting the need for Kinect to do voice commands, you could already do it on the original Xbox or the Xbox 360 with the headset in games that had those features.

Kyle Jansen
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It's partly a shame, because Kinect is actually some really cool tech that has a ton of awesome uses. It just seems like "gaming" isn't really one of them, so it's just dragging the Xbox down. I hope they manage to recycle it into an independent product.

Justin Kovac
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Seems the bundles in March did not sell as well as they hoped. I figured they would make the $449 bundles official and give it a nice marketing push. Give the consumers 3 game options and you match the price of the PS4.

Nathan Mates
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With the Wii, Nintendo bundled a game in the base system that demonstrated decently compelling uses for their motion controls. A lot of games ignored that (e.g. Kirby Canvas Curse ignores it 95+% of the time), but the pack-in game at least demonstrated to customers what they were getting for their money. Arguably too well, as a lot of people didn't find a need to buy additional games, based on the attach rates.

Personally, I've been skeptical of Kinect's uses for things other than dance/exercise games simply because there's no haptic feedback. For example, you can mime swinging a lightsaber, but based on the movies, a lightsaber stops moving when it hits another lightsaber. People would feel odd if their onscreen character behaves differently from how they mime -- the uncanny valley of motion controls. Dance/exercise gives you haptic feedback from gravity, eliminating the uncanny valley. There's ~4-5 million Kinect 2.0s (and some largish number of Kinect 1.0) out there for anyone with a good idea. More than zero, but not guaranteed to be present on every console.

If I was a console maker (and I'm not), I wouldn't launch unique hardware aspects without a very good customer demo available day 1. The idea of "build it, and they will come (and figure out how to make a fun game for it eventually)" isn't reliable when spending billions.

Jay N
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Kirby: Canvas Curse was on the DS. Did you mean another title?

Lex DeBussy
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I'm betting he meant Epic Yarn. Since that mostly ignored the Wii motion controls.

Jay N
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Yeah, I kind of figured that was the one. Still an excellent game, though.

Charles Forbin
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Out of the box random thought: both this and Nike dropping their health band thing are reactions to something both companies know is coming from Apple. WWDC is coming up.

Marvin Papin
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Well, are you missing the point. Can somebody give me the name of a good kinect game ?

Marvin Papin
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//

in a tweet, some body said they "WERE interested". but that doesn't seems developing a game on it. Does anyone have a cool concept ?

plus : It's not a gamer tech, not enough responsive (I find)

The way I thought they could have sell it well, is thanks to VR. Full body integration could have been cool, but there is latency and too much competitors.

Now, MSsaid that they would accept eventually and offer for the xbox div. They do not care about devs, nor about gamers. With 360, they found a fast and "simple" way to reach the living room. Now they know, they missed most of there supporters due to the E3 2013.
Nobody at the head of MS knows how a video game works. They just want their 2 digit growth and they sell their hardware like a PC in a company.

If they wanna succeed, they'll have to change.

PS : I hope I'm wrong, this is the only competitor to face SONY (which expect loses, useless to make you a drawing...)

Christian Nutt
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Well, if you're going from 'what somebody said' in the above gathering of posts, Ste Curran specifically called out Fantasia. There really aren't very many uses of Kinect -- let alone stand-alone experiences for Kinect -- for the Xbox One, because there's not that much software yet, period.

There are some examples of Kinect games. I'm not much of a Kinect player at all, but off the top of my head, everything from Dance Central to Child of Eden, to Perfect Woman are all interesting / compelling in their own ways.

Daniel Gutierrez
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Child of Eden was an amazing experience (I have a projector setup though so that may have made it more engaging).

Fruit Ninja was also a lot of fun (had plenty of fun with friends on it).

Marvin Papin
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Yes, dance central, just dance, child of eden.
I didn't play to Child of Eden but it seems to be a good game. For dancing game it's cool, even if it's a wierd scoring system.

My problem is that it's all we can quote from the kinect launch.

They spoke about burnout of the beginning. But that game with a 0.10/0.12s of latency for the control, ouch.

Dave Hoskins
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Writing a game for the Kinect simply means NOT doing a cross platform game. The accountants will tut and shake their heads at you for even suggesting it.
People also found that the always on thing, listening and looking at your living room to be more than a little bit creepy.
MS need to get something right, because in the last 10 years they have been wrong about everything they've made, IMHO.

Daniel Gutierrez
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I really don't think this is a policy decided on out of any thought about consumers or developers. I personally am sad to see them remove it... I actually like using the Kinect on my 360 a lot, and when I get around to upgrading consoles I'll probably still go for the Kinect version (esp if Harmonix's game ends up being good).

But Sony just posted another $1.3bil in losses for the last year, and at the same time announced they're going to focus on the console market. Not that this loss is a surprise (there have been pretty bad numbers throughout the year). But the announcement basically initiates a race-to-the-bottom price war with Sony. Initiating that the same day as sony's call seem to be trying to kick them while they're down (or one day off? timezones of japanese corporate announcements).

They already have a significan enough user base to not piss off Harmonix/others already developing for the Kinect (anyone saying *now* i'm no longer interested in developing for it is just complaining for attention... it's not like the Kinect base out now just disappears). Also keeping in mind that the original Kinect was the fastest/best selling accessory in console history, I think just getting seriously into a price war to put the hurt on Sony Corp is the right business decision to do now.

Eric Geer
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I thought Sony's loses were due to the restructuring of the company, exiting the PC business? Not the console business.

Andy Lundell
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How does Microsoft know how many voice commands we use on average?

Mike Jenkins
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Why is all the voice command stuff married to Kinect? You can't give me that functionality in a microphone that costs under $100 and isn't tied to an advanced 3d camera with motors in it?

Ujn Hunter
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Microsoft is LTTP. This doesn't put Xbox One on even footing with the PS4... it just makes the Xbox One look like a weaker PS4 without the Kinect. Granted I never liked the Kinect in the first place... but now the Xbox One is worse than the Wii U this generation, it's a poor man's (same amount of money man's?) PS4 with crummier exclusives than the Wii U. Hell they should have just cut the price to $349 and kept the Kinect intact. I still wouldn't buy one because MS totally boned themselves with their initial arrogance, which they didn't seem to learn a thing from Sony doing the exact same thing with the PS3 during the previous generation. Sorry MS... loved your Xbox & Xbox 360... you've failed with the Xbox One.

Eric Harris
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Let's face it, the Kinect was not good at enhancing games. The voice control was rarely implemented into games well. It also hardly worked as seen in "Fighter Within". Needed more refinement, which never came.


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