DisKinect: Why I’m Not Getting Xbox Kinect (Yet)

Microsoft has officially entered the motion gaming battle royale this week with the relase of Kinect For Xbox 360. All three gaming juggernauts — Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft — are now competing with motion gaming at their disposal. Although Nintendo started and pretty much dominated in its first year with the Nintendo Wii in 2006, now in 2010 Sony and Microsoft are attempting to cash in.

But should you? Should you buy Kinect, or any of the motion gaming platforms this holiday season? I won’t. Here’s why.

Nintendo wowed kids, parents, and grandparents alike with the Wii, which for better or for worse expanded gaming to a truly mass medium. Casual gaming began to become fully realized. Cute little avatars that hardly represented your aunt or Peter Griffin could play baseball. It was a thing, and quite a thing it was. Despite its success, however, the Wii still alienated the other side of the gaming community, the dubbed “hardcore gamers” (although I personally hate that term). Even with the Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and No More Heroes franchises on Nintendo’s casual white bundle of joy, the Wii still had its detractors and motion gaming was dismissed as a fad.

But Sony and Microsoft wouldn’t hear it. Although they had the “hardcore gamers” (GRR!) under their banner, they wanted to get some of those figures casual gaming was reeling in. At E3 2009, both Sony and Microsoft unveiled their motion gaming projects, and just this year they have delivered commercially (admittedly I’m still waiting on sales figures of the Kinect but they did have a gigantic launch party last night in New York City) as well as critically. IGN described the PlayStation Move as having “the potential to be the best motion control system on the current crop of consoles” and have sold well over a million units domestically in the United States. The New York Times reviewed the Kinect as a “crazy, magical, omigosh rush.”

So. Gaming is slowly trying to get you out of your couch. I gotta say, I’m going to miss being lazy just to enjoy a leisure activity. But not so fast: Is motion gaming really the end? Am I really going to have to navigate my Xbox dashboard with my hands like I’m living in a real-life Minority Report? More importantly, just how many more people will start comparing Kinect to that movie?!

For the record: I don’t have a PlayStation 3, hence why I won’t go looking for the PlayStation Move either. But you could arguably apply the same arguments here as you would for the Move. Maybe. Not.

Here are some reasons why I personally will not be buying Kinect this holiday season, yet.

1) Lack of must-have games.

Take a look at the list of all initial launch titles of Kinect, thanks to Kotaku.

Out of those fifteen titles, you have a blended mesh of carnival games, racers, and fitness/dance games. Not only have we seen these games elsewhere before and perhaps better, but there are no games that, at launch, just scream the Kinect as a must-have system. This is the immediate complaint any “hardcore” gamer will try to convince anyone with who is considering a purchase, and frankly they’re right. Although Dance Central may attract those hipster teenagers that love America’s Best Dance Crew, they’re not exactly mind-blowing or demanding great attention. Besides, those teens who would purchase that game could just, you know, dance.

Keep in mind, Kinect as well as the PlayStation Move are acting like new consoles as opposed to “expansions,” both having a unique library of games and features and even kinks that need to be worked out. If history means anything is that new consoles rarely, if ever, have killer app titles that demand a purchase. It takes awhile for developers to fully utilize the technology at their disposal. a year at most. Most of the games listed at launch are novelty carnival games or dance games, because they are easy to make and demonstrate the potentials of the technology, not the full realizations. Both the Move and Kinect have great potential, but they aren’t ironed out yet, and won’t be for awhile.

2) Price.

For what it’s worth, the price is actually not that bad… if you already have an Xbox 360. Alone, the Kinect is priced at $149.99, and that is somewhat steep for what is essentially a camera you hook up to your console. As of now, the best Xbox you can get is already priced at $299 (that’s the S model Microsoft released by surprise at E3 2010) and the cheapest without buying used is $199. That’s quite pricey in a tough economy in general. Anyone seeking to jump into gaming with the Xbox and Kinect will have to invest, at best, $450. Oh, you also need a pretty big LCD HDTV. Oh, and surround sound speakers. Oh, and space. You know, for the full experience.

Above: Economic downturn.

Speaking of…

3) Space.

I actually don’t have an issue with this, but many other gamers do and they need to take this into consideration. Remember what Kevin Butler said at Sony’s presentation at this year’s E3?

See I, love, gaming, ‘kay … GAMING, is having a ridiculously huge TV in a tiny one-room apartment.

Much like the Wii, you need some space. LOTS OF IT. Look around your setup for your Xbox. Is it in your bedroom or living room? Do you have anything surrounding it? Do you have enough legroom? Any lamps, fragile items, etc.? You do? Suck it up. Because to enjoy Kinect, you’ll need to move it.

Check out this article from Kotaku about the first (recorded) dude to break his TV because of lack of foresight on his surroundings. Phil Villarreal, writer and critic, jokingly (although with frustration I’m sure) said, “Do not under any circumstances play Kinect Sports Volleyball at 1:30 a.m. while standing under a ceiling fan with a dangling chain for a light switch.” His brand new television was damaged in a style not unlike the initial complaints about the Wii remote and the slippery palms of gamers.

So, keep that in mind. If you want to shake your groove thing like this guy below, make sure you have the space for it.

Although they are few reasons, they are definitely questions that not only I, but others really, really need to ask themselves before they drop their money on Microsoft’s newest toy. This is not a jab, however, or even a campaign to not buy Kinect, or even the PlayStation Move. In fact, it is quite the opposite. These motion systems are definitely must buys one or two years from now. Although I like dancing just like any other Asian American teenager, it does not make for great, long-term gaming. What Kinect and Move prove is that we are starting to move above and beyond with what is required of a fairly new mass medium that is video games, and that should be admired. The technology for virtual reality gaming that we’ve seen in 80’s sci-fi flicks are finally starting to become reality, but there’s a reason why it was science fiction twenty years ago. These things take time, and the technology as well as the developers need to better acquaint themselves with what is at their disposal.

I have in my head ideas that are not only for entertainment but games that could also benefit society, which has long been a question about the medium. How useful can video games really be? I’m imagining right now a “surgery” game that simulates the experience of performing operations on a patient. Any fan of Grey’s Anatomy can understand the drama, and anyone who has played Trauma Center will know it’s one hell of a rush. But Trauma Center on the Wii wasn’t exactly a simulator. I can see Kinect or Move’s technology being used by medical professionals as a way of testing interns in an environment that is much safer as well as accurate, as well as experienced surgeons who are trying to practice and improve without the need of cadavers.

Or sexual tension.

That is just one possibility. Who knows what else motion gaming’s technology could be used for? It’s a wonderful thing. It just needs time to fully realize itself, because right now it’s still a toy, one that I know for a fact I will be passing this Christmas.

Next year, though? Who knows.

Probably just sexual tension.


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