As Microsoft's annual press conference concludes, gamers everywhere are probably left wondering whether the Xbox will ever feature a game without Kinect support ever again. This is a far cry from last year, when the Kinect was largely a side note to the conference, a fact further emphasized by lacklustre Kinect games on the E3 show floor.
This year, the Kinect is everywhere. We all expected a new series of youth-oriented titles where kids can flap their arms around with Elmo, and maybe some degree of gimmicky last-minute Kinect integration with games that were already ready to ship. That has certainly seemed to be the case with the SIXAXIS on the PS3. I'm sure nobody expected the level of support that was announced, let alone integration features with market-leading titles like Forza, Mass Effect and Gears of War that actually look fun. This is the stuff that may very well turn skeptics into front-of-the-line shoppers at Future Shop. Kudos Microsoft, kudos.
It's going to be a good year for Xbox gamers. Alongside new titles from the afore-mentioned franchises, players will see Mass Effect 3, a new Tomb Raider, another Ghost Recon, a new Fable, and more. Oh, and there's a new Halo trilogy coming too, if you care for that sort of thing. Most anticipated judging from the reaction of the audience was a Star Wars title for Kinect. Awesome as it would be to finally put a light saber to good use since knocking Geoff over the head with a plastic replica in the 3rd grade, this might finally be the yoga-in-hiding that will get nerdy couch potatoes some much needed exercise.
One of the announcements I didn't quite get was the migration Minecraft to a console. I'm a huge fan of Minecraft the very essence of the game suits it to one purpose and one purpose alone: numbing the brain, picking at endless cubes of stone when too tired to play something that requires brain power. That, or being lightweight enough to run on my corporate laptop while waiting for a code build. If I'm going to bother turning on my console, it won't be to play Minecraft.
That integration does bring up interesting questions though, since the whole novelty of Mojang (developer of Minecraft) was in its crafty business model (no pun intended). How can an unreleased game be released on a console, a medium that traditionally is very locked down -- once you ship a cartridge or disc, there was no more patching. Now they're allowing the launch of a game that isn't even close to being "done"? I feel a dissertation on the topic in my future. Moving on..
It was interesting how much weight they put behind voice recognition. It's being treated as something of a silver bullet to Kinect's complex menu navigation problem. Waving sideways is fine and all for a one-dimensional menu system, but voice greatly expands the options. Still, shouting "lightsaber on"? Not quite the Star Wars vibe I was hoping for.
All-in-all, this had all the trimmings of a good conference: good games, cool innovations, and no forced-worn white robes. Sony's got their work cut out for them later today.
Check out the minute-by-minute recap of the press conference.