Impressions of Microsoft Kinect

With E3 underway most of the games presented in the press conferences can be put into two categories: boring 3D shooters and Microsoft Kinect (with the notable exceptions like the new Rayman game). Here are some quick random thoughts on the new Microsoft input device.

  • The Name: Is bad. “Kinect” as in Kinetic and Connect? It is difficult to pronounce and difficult to remember. Every time I type it I need to re-construct the word in my head. The “Wii” is silly but at least it is memorable and easy to pronounce.
  • “Me Too”: As expected, the system comes with an arsenal of copies of Wii games. This is most unfortunate since we have all played those games 4 fucking years ago. Microsoft failed to show anything notable that would distinguish their product from the Wii or showcase a game idea that wouldn’t be possible with the Wii… apart from maybe Dance Central but that just doesn’t look appealing to me. It’s difficult for me to imagine this system to be successful in this circumstances. Who is this marketed at? Families? Why would a family buy this over a Wii?
  • Precision: Of course, as a game developer I am interested in what the system can and cannot do. So I really enjoyed the Ubisoft Your Shape demo. It was shown at the Microsoft and at the Ubisoft press conference by the same person. The system recognized a different height every time. This suggests that there are some precision issues. On the other hand, the live 3D preview in that game looked astonishingly solid.

  • Standing: All E3 demos of Kinect so far have shown people STANDING in front of the TV. I wonder if this is a requirement of the system. A standing game is most likely a short funny action game – a party game. Party games are fine but my demand on party games is quite limited and easily satisfied with what is available now. Is there REALLY enough room in the party game market to rationalize Kinect? I would have been interested in at least one title that can be played sitting so I know there is potential for other game ideas.

  • Voice Recognition: To be honest I’m quite surprised by the fidelity of the voice recognition. While not a system seller, controlling movies with voice seems like an idea I could get used to. I would really like to get rid of at least some remote controls. On the other hand, I suspect there was some trickery going on behind the scenes to ensure there would be no mishaps during the stage demos.
  • Lack of Substance: Generally, none of the games shown looked like something that was made to spend some time on. Kinect Adventures looked cool but how long would I play it? Maybe three hours? You see, that’s where the Wii has an advantage. Wii was already at this point 4 years ago. They learned a lot since then. They have a lot of short party/fitness titles but also a lot of games that use motion control for more ambitious gaming. Microsoft seems to have to go through that entire process all over again.
  • Children of Eden: … but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Children of Eden blew me away. I was considering on buying the system simply to experience it by myself. But Children of Eden made me REALLY look forward to it. I just hope for Microsoft that they will be able to come up with more titles of this magnitude.

Generally I think Microsoft did a lot of mistakes with the Kinect. I don’t think it will be able to match the success of the Wii. On the other hand it is a quite interesting piece of technology and I’m expecting it to inspire a few hidden gems of genuine innovation during it’s lifetime. What do you think? Will you buy it when it comes out?

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

5 responses to “Impressions of Microsoft Kinect”

  1. Aaron

    I think people are being awfully hard on MS about this one. Kinetic shows a whole lot of potential.

    The name isn’t that bad. Does anyone remember how awfully stupid “Wii” sounded after they had been calling it Revolution? We’ll get used to this one too.

    The games are mostly casual party games, which does mirror the Wii, but what do you expect? It’s newly released hardware, and developers haven’t had much time with release bits to do anything besides simple party games.

    You can definitely use it sitting, they just stand all the time because they are doing demos on stage, and full body gestures differentiate them from Wii and PS3.

    But come on, be fair here, the potential is huge…

    Auto sign-in with facial recognition, and auto join in when friends walk up is pretty damn neat. Video conferencing and voice recognition (assuming it is done well), is cool too.

    You can use both hands and more without buying multiple controllers. If you are playing some 4 player simultaneous dual sword game you don’t have to shell out for 8 wands.

    Nothing says you can’t use the controller at the same time, and I’m betting many games will have you use the controller with extra commands done with analog motion, gesture, or voice instead of cramming it in on the limmited controller buttons and creating quirky control layouts to try make everything fit.

    Commanding allied units with hand gestures instead of pushing a button and trying to navigate menus under stress would be welcome. I think turning your head to pan the camera and help with the tunnel vision in driving, shooting games, and others would be great. Analog ducking and dodging instead of a simple dodge on/off toggle. I think there is a lot of good stuff they can do with you still just holding the controller while on the couch.

    And of course, can you imagine a Punch-Out/Street Fighter type game where your fighter actually performs you actions? Instead of interpreting your motions as gestures that could have been done better with a button press (a problem with just about every Wii game). That would be truly great.

    My main concern, which I’m suprised I’m not hearing more about, is the one second recognition lag that seems to be in all the demos. That could be a problem. but I’ll wait and see how that pans out.

    I’m not sure what more MS really could have done with this one besided give developers 3 magical dev years to bring out the next Gears of War with fully matured Kinetic best practices. At the same time I feel like Sony could have come out with voice recognition and showed switching wepons with voice commands or controlling dragons by screaming, “UP, UP, DOWN” and people would be praising them.

  2. Krystian Majewski

    I see your points. That was the vision I got from last year. This year I would have expected games or at least concrete product demos that would show me that vision. I wanted to see the 4 player dual sword game and the Kinect-augmented controller game. I don’t find Sony’s technology particularly interesting either but they have shown things like Sorcery.

  3. Krystian Majewski

    Good point about the delay, by the way! I noticed it too but for some reason I didn’t realize that this could be a problem.

  4. Aaron

    I think it will probably be next holiday season before you see any really great stuff.

    You’re right, Sorcery’s motion control is impressive.

  5. sirleto

    one point about voice recog: on android mobile phones (less mhz computing power) google did a perfect job of it. so i bet there are specialized companies out there to hire for that and it will be as good as possible on the xbox, too.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


follow Krystian on Twitter
follow Yu-Chung on Twitter
follow Daniel on Twitter