Microsoft says they want to get players off the couch and into the game, in a more active way or gamers can say, cut into Wii’s market share. They have created Kinect, which features a sensor that is used to track body movement, among other features. The games that will be hitting shelves on launch date will offer a variety of activities to get players literally jumping out of their couches, cooling down after a workout, playing with pets and shaking their stuff. Microsoft wanted to create a way where players can just put down their controllers and become the controller, themselves. Kinect is designed to allow your body to replace the controller by using all parts of your body.
Kinect will allow for personalized play by detecting the player’s face and voice. To jump into a game all the player has to do is literally jump into a game. When the player steps in front of the sensor, Kinect will detect the player’s face and log them into Xbox LIVE and connect them with their friends. Kinect will also allow the player to speak to characters in the game, when the game calls for it.
At E3 Expo 2010, Microsoft allowed attendees (by appointment only) to demo Kinect with a series of games that will be available upon launch. Along for the ride, included games like Kinect Adventures, Kinect Joy Ride, Kinect Sports, Kinectimals, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and Dance Central.
In speaking with the developers in between demos, many told me that they have lost weight, since they were working on these titles, one went on to explain that they lost 30 pounds. Of course this is a given because most of them went from sitting down working on games to “becoming the controller” and spent most of their day working on their feet, jumping around, dancing, what have you.
When playing the demo they had for Kinect Adventures, we were just playing a river raft game in which you dodge obstacles coming your way. We played a versus race and were jumping ramps and what not, when the Kinect camera randomly snaps photos of you throughout your race. At the end, it is humorous to watch the photos that were taken while you were into the game. The photos are made available for you to upload them to Twitter and Facebook, plus other social networks. I asked if they are allowed to be emailed, since some family members are not part of social networks, in which they said they were pretty sure that was a capability.
Kinect Adventures was a game I felt could have been bundled with Kinect, whether purchased bundled with the Arcade console or stand-alone, however the game will be sold separately.
Another game that was available on the tour was Kinect Joy Ride, in which you use your body, as the car. Put your hands in the air in front of you, as though you’re holding a steering wheel. No, there is no need to pretend to press on the gas or brake, as the brakes are not even needed. In playing a versus mode, you are jumping, turning, drifting and boosting.
While the game offered some entertainment, I think it would have been beneficial to include this in a launch bundle as well, to offer more of an incentive to those unsure of the purchase. The $149 price that has been floating around for Kinect as a stand alone accessory will not appeal to many that are on the fence. Microsoft is trying to appeal to the casual market with Kinect, however the most of the casual purchasers will not do any investigatory work to find out that Kinect tracks your full body movement in 3-D and not 2-D with the Wii, whom they will be in direct competition with. Being a hardcore gamer, I will be making the leap of purchase because I want all the new systems and accessories that come out, however purchasers like me are far and few between. The PlayStation Move will be another competitor that they will have to win that particular crowd over, as well.
Kinectimals was a title I was a little leery about, however after playing the demo during the tour, I can see how this is a game that can be a solid stand-alone title. The game offers the player a cuddly animal that you can name, pet, train and play with. This game was created for players of all ages and will be geared to those who love cuddly, fuzzy creatures.
The animal will recognize its name and come to you to show you affection, however you cannot be selfish as your pet will want some from you as well. The player will be able to stick their hands out and scratch and pet their animal. Not only are you it’s owner and trainer, you will be able to take your animal down a track of obstacles in which you are the one who will be jumping hurdles and fences, ducking through tubes and running through the track. I have to say, the track did give me a work out because I was literally running in place.
I did find that you had to jump a split second early to avoid toppling the hurdles over and I seemed to always miss ducking under the tube to find my pet running around it. The game is still in development, so I’m hoping that is something that will be tweaked before its November launch.
At the end of the Kinectimals demo, they gave us a little plush of our choice of a tiger, a spotted leopard or a black leopard. They demonstrated what the animals’ real purpose are. In addition to being cute and cuddly, with an E3 logo on the bottom of their paw, they have a tag around their necks. When the game is released and you are in the area to select your animal, you simply hold the card up to the Kinect camera and that specific animal will be yours. I did ask if these plushes will be sold separately in stores and the answer was yes. I can see it now, McDonald’s Happy Meals containing these plushes or being sold Hallmark’s since they are similar to Ty Beanie Babies.
Dance Central was the last Kinect title we had a sneak peek of, with the choreographer of the game acting as our tour guide and our backup dancer. Dance Central is being developed by Harmonix, the same developers of Rock Band. The game takes you dancing through songs by Lady Gaga, The Beastie Boys, Bel Biv Devoe, No Doubt, M.I.A. and more.
I usually prefer to use dance videos as my form of working out, because you have so much fun that you don’t realize that you’re actually performing a work out. I am also one who loves to dance, so this is a game that I know I will enjoy. You’ve heard stories of players loosing weight and in better shape after becoming addicting to games like Dance Dance Revolution. Dance Central is the next title that will hit the dancing genre that will actually teach you dance moves and help you shed some pounds while enjoying yourself, as well. The dance moves are modern and the title will offer an easy, medium and hard mode to get you eased into the game. In speaking to one of the lead designers of Harmonix, he confirmed that downloadable content is also a possibility but not to expect as much DLC as Rock Band, as there is a lot more work involved in creating a track for Dance Central. Not only do you have to get the songs, you also have to create the choreography, as well.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved is meant to also get you on your feet and playing games that will get you distracted from the whole “I’m working out” mindset, as it detects and displays your body and ensures you are performing the exercises correctly. After a weigh in, the game will let you know how many calories you have burned during your workout.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the titles will do at launch in November and I look forward to having fun with Kinect.