The holiday slate of games is rolling out and culminating with this week’s releases. Of all of those games, very few of them take advantage of a certain camera peripheral. The Xbox One’s Kinect has seemingly been left out in the cold, with only Disney’s Fantasia: Music Evolved really taking advantage of its capabilities. All other games on the Xbox One docket curiously shove the Kinect aside and there are no signs that Microsoft will be developing for the game in the future.
The future isn’t looking very bright for Kinect, a far cry from when Microsoft was touting it as a major selling point for their new console. The writing, of course, was on the wall when Microsoft announced that they would begin selling Xbox One consoles without the Kinect peripheral attached. So with little on the horizon, it may be safe to say that the Kinect’s best days are behind it.
However, a handful of the Kinect titles that I’ve seen this year have proven that maybe the peripheral should get a second lease on life. Aside from the abysmal Kinect Sports Rivals, there have been a handful of good Kinect games that showcase its potential to create good gaming experiences. There have been enough of those good games that I'm hopeful Microsoft won't abandon its camera peripheral just yet.
The main examples, of course, are the efforts from developer Harmonix. The aforementioned Fantasia: Music Evolved is one of the most unique games of the year, offering a musical experience unlike any other. The remix element is one that cannot be understated and the simplicity of the Kinect controls make it accessible to just about anyone. Friends that hardly ever touch a game were enthralled with Fantasia, which is really where Kinect seems to shine, in general. Games like Fantasia and Dance Central Spotlight show that there's still an untapped crowd that can be courted if Microsoft shows the same dedication that some of its developers do.
Kinect does more than cater to the casual crowd, though. One only need look to Deadly Premonition creator Hidetaka 'Swery' Suehiro's latest Kinect-enabled adventure to see the oddball potential that the peripheral's motion control capabilities still have. D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die may have been the weirdest game I played this year, but it was also a sterling showcase for what Kinect could still do. With its penchant for quirky storytelling and Swery's incorporation of DDR-style prompts into a point-and-click-style mystery, D4 was an enjoyable romp. The fact that Microsoft silently trotted this game out to die with zero fanfare isn't just a disservice to a creative game designer like Swery, but it's also selling its own creation short.
Swery is likewise baffled by Microsoft's direction, but still has faith that Kinect can offer something positive to the world. "If someone gives me the chance, I can make a game that's even greater than D4," he told Shacknews. He also added that Kinect isn't completely down and out just yet. "In order to succeed, people need to put out more games like D4, change how the players see Kinect, and fix the brand. It isn't impossible to do. It's just a matter of whether or not someone will do it."
Another developer that has had experience working with Kinect is Iron Galaxy Studios. Wreckateer was one of the few Xbox 360 Kinect games that wasn't a complete mess. On the contrary, it was quite good. Iron Galaxy hasn't offered any Kinect games to the Xbox One yet, since their hands are currently full with Microsoft-exclusive fighting franchise Killer Instinct. However, while the studio weighs the financial pros and cons of jumping into a new Kinect-related endeavor, Iron Galaxy does see the potential for good Kinect-enabled gaming.
"In order to succeed, people need to put out more games like D4, change how the players see Kinect, and fix the brand. It isn't impossible to do. It's just a matter of whether or not someone will do it."
"Creatively I’ve always liked working on Kinect games regardless of how commercially successful they are," Iron Galaxy CEO Dave Lang told Shacknews. "There’s not a lot of times in this job you get to solve problems that haven’t been looked at by hundreds of different teams before, and doing motion-controlled games is still kind of novel in that regard. Definitely not opposed to making more motion control games."
Those that own an Xbox One with Kinect are already familiar with its capabilities outside of gaming. Scanning codes and voice commands are fine features, but Kinect's gaming software is flatlining. As someone that vocally expressed hate for the Xbox 360 peripheral regularly, this is something that would have been greeted with a shrug five years ago. Having seen what the Xbox One's Kinect could do, I can only express what a shame it would be to completely abandon it now. Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus are showing that there's still room in the gaming world for out-of-the-box ideas in gaming. Hopefully, 2015 is the year that Microsoft takes a defibrillator to its Kinect and ushers in a new batch of games that take full advantage of its abilities, fulfilling the potential that the publisher always believed it had.