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Kinect: The device that almost destroyed Xbox

Jubenhimer

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It was 2009, and the Microsoft Corporation was riding high on the success of the Xbox 360. The follow up to the first Xbox, the 360 was a leader in mainstream gaming with stellar exclusive titles, superior third party support, and the best services you could ask for on a gaming platform. Plus a really comfortable controller. But this was also the time Nintendo was at a high as well. The 360 may have perfected the Home Video Game system, But the Wii completely flipped it on it's head.

Using a remote like motion controller, and a particular focus on people who never even played games before, Nintendo stole the show for most of the generation, and lit up sales charts with hits like Wii Sports, Wii Fit, Super Mario Galaxy, and Mario Kart Wii. Naturally, with all that success, competition wants in. While Sony decided to strike with a more direct answer to the Wii in the PlayStation Move Controller. Microsoft, had a much more radical idea. Remove the controller from the equation altogether.

Thus, at E3 2009, Microsoft unvieled Project Natal. A new device designed to extend the appeal of the Xbox 360 with an ambitious concept. YOU are the controller. No remote, no buttons, just flesh, and voice can control the action. Initial reception to the peripheral was mixed, but many saw the potential in the technology.

One year later, at E3 2010, Microsoft gave it a final name. Kinect, hitting store shelves in November that year, Microsoft's final showing of the device before launch was filled with fake acting and a lack of interesting games, many of which *ahem* "Borrowed" from Nintendo's accomplishments. Not that it mattered though, as Kinect eventually became the fastest selling consumer electronics device in history, backed by a $100 marketing budget and the built-in user-base of the Xbox 360, Microsoft's shameless strategy of trying to steal the non-gamer audience that Nintendo previously had more or less to themselves up to that point, worked.

It was at that point though, that Kinect's limitations quicky became apparent. "You are the controller" sounds great on paper, but in practice, it's the equivalent of driving a car with no engine. Without a physical object to manipulate, Kinect's actual gaming applications became very limited, very quickly. No physical inputs with Kinect means no navigating a 3D space, no precise, versatile actions only buttons can provide, no tactile feedback of any sort. That means what would've been a more complex, free roaming, Action game experience on the Wii or PlayStation Move, had to be a wattered down, On-Rails experience with Kinect. On top of that, the lack of a physical controller made all your actions in Kinect feel floaty and imprecise. Motion controls already have a mixed reception in the gaming community, but Kinect did little to combat the stigma.

Yet Microsoft didn't care, they were swimming in money with this thing, and by God they were going to make sure you see Kinect whether you liked it or not. Thus, subsequent years of the 360 had basically devolved into Kinectapalooza. With each E3 showing afterwards being more and more drowned in Kinect games and features. What little non-Kinect content Microsoft did publish durring this time, was safe-bet franchises like Halo and Gears.

The infamy of Kinect came to a head, when it was revealed that a new version of the device would be standard issue with all Xbox One consoles, thus making the system $100 more, than Sony's PlayStation 4 for no damn reason. Adding insult to injury, users were initially required to have Kinect plugged in at all times, and it was always on whether you wanted it to be or not. This quickly raised privacy concerns signalling Microsoft's intententions may have had a sinister bent. This, combined with the console's already draconian DRM controversies, the fact that motion controls were no longer the hot new thing, and gamers instantly wrote off the Xbox One as a joke.

Fortunately, new leadership at Microsoft stepped in, and as part of a change in Management, Kinect was gradually phased out until it was discontinued in 2017. Kinect, for many was a device that did little more than to artificially lengthen the lifespan of the Xbox 360. While the Wii and PlayStation Move had genuine substance in their concepts, and technically still live on through PlayStation VR and the Switch Joy-Con, Kinect was a concept that nobody is Keen to try again, and for good reason. It was all flash, no substance, the textbook example of a soulless gimmick. Created to ride off of a fad, but not do much more than that, and it nearly killed one of gaming's most iconic brands because of it.
 

fallingdove

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Thanks for the write up OP. A great recap of the situation. Though I would argue it wasn’t new leadership that acted as the catalyst for Kinect’s discontinue, it was being destroyed by the PS4 and the need to lower the cost of the device.

If Microsoft had been successful this gen, I guarantee that this ‘aha’ moment you describe would have never happened.
 
Oct 16, 2017
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Kinect is a great device. It just isn't made for gaming.

For example, it is great as a security camera in the North South border of Korea, where it is used to track moving humans.
Kinect security camera
My favorite analogy of Kinect is that of a potato peeler; it is very good at what it is designed for, but you are going to enter a world of pain if you use it as a gaming peripheral instead.
 

Jubenhimer

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Kinect is a great device. It just isn't made for gaming.

For example, it is great as a security camera in the North South border of Korea, where it is used to track moving humans.
Kinect security camera
My favorite analogy of Kinect is that of a potato peeler; it is very good at what it is designed for, but you are going to enter a world of pain if you use it as a gaming peripheral instead.

True, the technology behind Kinect is impressive. But as an input for gaming, it was mostly impractical. Stemming mostly from the fact that you can't really do much of anything with the controller free gaming concept.
 

Jigsaah

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Jan 31, 2018
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I really liked my Kinect and Kinect 2.0. I enjoyed coming home from work, throwing my bag on the floor, plopping down on the couch and saying "Xbox On". I tried some of the games but what really shined was the fitness games. They would track your movements and teach you how to do exercises the right way. Kinect was good for practicality, but as a gaming peripheral it just wasn't what people needed. All sports have some form of tactile feedback. You take that away with Kinect and it's impossible to replace it.
 
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Spaceman292

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Remember in the as when people were using a kinect to perform surgery and defuse a bomb? What a piece of shit.
 
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Nikana

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I really don't think Kinect almost killed Xbox.

The Kinect came from an overall change in strategy to a box for access to content for everyone from casual to hardcore but the bigger market they tried getting into was media consumption. The Kinect was simply an extension of that.

Especially with Xbox one. Microsoft didn't have TV studios in the pipeline because of Kinect. They had it because they wanted to replace your cable box to an extent.
 
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DunDunDunpachi

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It was the Wii taken to its logical conclusion.

The problem was feedback, in my opinion. Gaming is fun because of the close connection between the player and the hardware. Even a non-gamer will be repelled by a game with high input lag (though they might not be able to elucidate their feelings). Wiimote was fairly accurate and also had generous rumble feedback when hovering over icons or performing hits. Kinect provided neither accuracy nor feedback.
 
D

Deleted member 752119

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Yeah that thing sucked.

Xbox 360 was my main most of last gen, with Wii as a secondary platform. Then they focused so much on Kinect late gen, and I had a 3+ month fight with their shitty support when my account got stolen and migrated to Russia. Got a PS3 and have been back maining PlayStation since. Have a PC to play their few exclusives that interest me.
 
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Jigsaah

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Yeah that thing sucked.

Xbox 360 was my main most of last gen, with Wii as a secondary platform. Then they focused so much on Kinect late gen, and I had a 3+ month fight with their shitty support when my account got stolen and migrated to Russia. Got a PS3 and have been back maining PlayStation since. Have a PC to play their few exclusives that interest me.
Since we're going off topic

When Sony got hacked my account was compromised and Sony did nothing for me. Took me 6 months to be able to set my Playstation as the home Playstation again because whoever took it set it to their system. I luckily got my credit card off of it before too much damage was done. All I got was a Sorry and a silver lining response to me being so quick at removing my info. "Well at least they didn't get ALL your information".

:messenger_neutral::messenger_neutral::messenger_neutral::messenger_neutral:

I like Sony's games, but their support is absolutely horrendous. The overall point im making is that how did Kinect have anything to do with your 3 month battle with support there?
 
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Mr Hyde

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Jun 1, 2018
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Tried Kinect at a friends house once and it was the worst piece of shit I´ve ever played. Unresponsive mess with superboring games. So glad that I never fall for these gimmicks, just a waste of time and money.
 

stranno

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I'm a big fan of Eyetoy technology from London Studio and Kinect was a big surprise.

The SDK body recognition (the "real" shape of your body that you can see pip in some games) was amazing, but that wasnt translated properly to the virtual body in most games.

Hole in the Wall is one of the games i like most. Unfortunately it is almost unplayable for two players, it just doesnt work.

 
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Vawn

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I wonder how Kinect would work with VR.

I am one of those who hated Wii motion controls and had zero interest in PS Move or Kinect. But with VR, I ONLY want to play with motion controls for most games.
 

Dane

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The Kinect was the average Joe gimmick, it can work very well, but most of the software was disposable and had a short worth lifetime. It did sell very well though, to the point of the arrogance of M$ to force it upon the Xbox One.

I have the two versions, I still have to test the V2 (especially for mocap), but i've played the Gunstringer on the 360 and loved it.
 

ph33rknot

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I really liked my Kinect and Kinect 2.0. I enjoyed coming home from work, throwing my bag on the floor, plopping down on the couch and saying "Xbox On". I tried some of the games but what really shined was the fitness games. They would track your movements and teach you how to do exercises the right way. Kinect was good for practicality, but as a gaming peripheral it just wasn't what people needed. All sports have some form of tactile feedback. You take that away with Kinect and it's impossible to replace it.
it wasn't the greatest at motion controls but voice commands where awesome
 
Dec 25, 2018
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I remember when it couldn't detect Black People so it was severely undercooked.

It has some good uses in the new iPhones however so it has been birthed the right way but on the wrong system.
 

newtypepilot

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Kinect was just a gimmick to force 24/7 online connectivity onto a console, and to turn a console into a media consumption device rather than just gaming, so it can gather all kinds of usage data, sort of like cortana. This is why their initial E3 presentation was alll about "sports, sports, sports, tv, tv, tv, sports". Motion control will always be a gimmick because the controller was never a barrier to gaming.

and Don Mattrick got paid millions for that mistake lol.
 
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cryptoadam

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Ahh the old days when everyone was jumping on the "motion controls" band wagon.

Give it a few years and this will come back. Virtual Boy came out and died and now VR is making a slow comeback.

Maybe in 2 or 3 generations we will see really good Kinects/Wiimotes, like VB compared to a Occulus rift.

Also Kinect did save the 360 at first, but almost killed the one.
 

JCK75

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As a novice 3D modeler/ Wanna be animator I'm glad it exists as being able to do 3D scans as well as do motion capture with it has been really enjoyable.
as a game I hate it so much, except in one case... I had so much fun with Yoostar 2 it's insane.
 

Jubenhimer

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Motion control will always be a gimmick because the controller was never a barrier to gaming.

To be fair, it does play a part. To someone who doesn't play console games, the standard control layout can be intimidating with all the sticks and buttons. Modern games also require lots of different controls and inputs and that can be very daunting to novice gamers. So simplifying the control scheme is important to appeal to this crowd. The thing is, Sony and Nintendo understand that you still need, you know, and actual controller to make it work. Motion is fine and all, but there are some things that buttons and sticks are simply better at. Microsoft didn't understand that, and so they crafted a device that has impressive technology, but was ultimately useless for most gaming applications as you can't really do anything more complex with it.
 
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Tiamat2san

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inb4temporaryban for shitposting.

Can you elaborate please?
Yeah sorry.
I think that motion gaming was and still is useless.
It’s not precise, not intuitive and does not add anything for the gameplay.
Ok in VR it help to be immersed in the game.
Even then, it’s still not intuitive as it should be.

About Kinect, the technology was maybe good but for gaming , it was terrible.
The latency was horrible and the games awful.
I can’t think of any game where motion gaming enhanced the game.
It always makes it worst to play. (Zelda on wii for exemple)
 

John117

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We gamers were beta tester of the Kinect for Microsoft. Kinect Technology is very important now for MS, they use this tech in Hololens 1/2 and other device.
 

John117

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Excuse me but I must add this: Xbox Scarlett could be support new version of Kinect for VR/AR-
 

Dee Dah Dave

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It’s gamer minded executives leaving / being pushed out, and corporate style suits moving in what damaged Xbox. Kinect is just an element of that.

Mattrick, Whitten and Mehdi were all high on their own farts.
 
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Jigsaah

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Yeah sorry.
I think that motion gaming was and still is useless.
It’s not precise, not intuitive and does not add anything for the gameplay.
Ok in VR it help to be immersed in the game.
Even then, it’s still not intuitive as it should be.

About Kinect, the technology was maybe good but for gaming , it was terrible.
The latency was horrible and the games awful.
I can’t think of any game where motion gaming enhanced the game.
It always makes it worst to play. (Zelda on wii for exemple)
Yea the only cool feature I found in game was in Ghost Recon Future Soldier where you would use Kinect to breakdown and put your gun back together
 

EightBit Man

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Adding insult to injury, users were initially required to have Kinect plugged in at all times, and it was always on whether you wanted it to be or not. This quickly raised privacy concerns signalling Microsoft's intententions may have had a sinister bent. This, combined with the console's already draconian DRM controversies, the fact that motion controls were no longer the hot new thing, and gamers instantly wrote off the Xbox One as a joke.

This was when they have completely lost me, and the final nail in the coffin. I was cautiously willing to give them another chance after being fucked with a Xbox 360 that had a faulty disc drive (causing scratches on my mint DVDs). I will never EVER buy another Xbox product.
 

FatboyTim

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Mandatory:

 

Mattyp

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They should've never forced it on people and better sold it separately, also saving a $100 off the console's price.

This is the issue with it. As far as motion control went it shit all over the wii and move. But you did need a 'bigger' house I guess, a lot of people in europe live in units or townhouses I remember the issues from not being enough space at launch when there's no physical controls for tracking.

Kinect sports drunk with friends is an actual blast that I miss playing.
 
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Mattyp

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Do elaborate on how Kinect could be used for VR/AR

No awkward controllers and control scheme, just put the headset on and sit down and use your hands as the controls, bundle a toy gun with the package even if you want to hold something kinect recognises when you're clicking the trigger reloading and moving it about.
 
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Shifty

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No awkward controllers and control scheme, just put the headset on and sit down and use your hands as the controls, bundle a toy gun with the package even if you want to hold something kinect recognises when you're clicking the trigger reloading and moving it about.
That sounds as godawful as regular kinect without any kind of physical feedback from a held controller.

Not to mention that kinect requires you to be facing it directly so it can see all of your limbs. It'd be a weird half-step toward roomscale where the user wouldn't be able to turn 90 degrees without breaking it.

Two kinects in place of vive-style sensors, maybe, since that'd give full body coverage and also cover legs and feet unlike current VR input devices, but lack of physical feedback would still be dire.
 
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Chittagong

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The best thing about Kinect was that hot blonde in the red hoodie playing the Molyneux fake game
 
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Problem with Kinect IMO was multi-fold.

Even though the gadget itself is pretty cool, and at a price of $150 standalone, or $100 bundled with a console I don't think too many people would say it's a total rip off if the quality was there, There were many shortcomings about it from a technical standpoint and games library.

1. Lag. No matter what game you played, and even in the perfect distance play area, everything had this half second delay

2. Games. MS and third parties went the motion control hand waving retard route thinking Kinect would be Wii 2.0 on steroids. The Wii fad in 2010 was already fizzling out big time as that system had major front loaded sales from 2006-2010. When Kinect launched, Wii sales already hard stopped at close 100M, so it shows gamers didn't go beyond that like PS2 at 150M

Instead of doing motion controls for Fruit Ninja and workout games, some reason almost no games used the camera lens for what it really is....a camera?!?! What a concept huh?

Where's all the games allowing you to take pics and import your mug shot onto a polygon character. Like EA giving PC gamers that Face App in EA Sports decades back? Where's the option to take pics and upload images as game icons? Where's the option to record your own moves and see if a game can import your skeletal moves into a game like it's your own self?

3. The thing didn't work half the time........ "Xbox On". Good luck with the system turning on. Maybe a 50% success rate................ Xbox On..... Xbox On..... XBOX! ON! Beep... system turns on.
 
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Pantz

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For those who never saw Paranormal Activity 4, Xbox Kinect was a heavily featured plot device.
 
Jan 29, 2019
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I really liked my Kinect and Kinect 2.0. I enjoyed coming home from work, throwing my bag on the floor, plopping down on the couch and saying "Xbox On". I tried some of the games but what really shined was the fitness games. They would track your movements and teach you how to do exercises the right way. Kinect was good for practicality, but as a gaming peripheral it just wasn't what people needed. All sports have some form of tactile feedback. You take that away with Kinect and it's impossible to replace it.
The problem is that even in games it has never shown how it was meaningfully better than the PS2 Eyetoy (a camera input for the PS2, it had move games too).

My guess is Kinect caught on because MS is so great at marketing, they will come to a market last and act as if they invented it and whatever they have is better than anyone else's for some minor point, and some people will believe it, especially with tricked demos.

Sony must have regretted not pushing the marketing much more aggressively for their camera, they could have made millions more!

Still, as you said it's great for fitness and dance games, the very young kids love camera input.
 

Rest

All these years later I still chuckle at what a fucking moron that guy is.
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the 360 was a leader in mainstream gaming with stellar exclusive titles, superior third party support, and the best services you could ask for on a gaming platform.
Wait, when did this happen?
 

Fitzchiv

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Kinect wasn't for us. The limitations in interface between user and game are much less apparent or an issue from the perspective of the audience they were going after, which the OP rightly highlights Nintendo had created. It's predictable that Microsoft's decision to go after that market is portrayed as cynical and facilitated by a big marketing push aimed at that audience - it's almost as if they're a big, successful business behaving in a way big, successful businesses do when targeting a new segment. MS and Sony rightly went after a big old slice of pie Nintendo had created, not only for the new customers it brought to the party but to stop existing customers adding another machine to their ecosystem to placate new casual gamers in the family. It was as much a defensive move as it was a cash grab.

As for the Kinect itself, as has been pointed out it was crap for more conventional gaming experiences, but really very good for the kind of fitness and dance games those casual gamers were attracted to - that's the point! Put it this way, my wife has bought two pieces of gaming hardware in her life, a Nintendo DS, and a Kinect. Games like Just Dance etc were right up her street, and once she'd got bored of that and fucked off for a shower, I could put a proper game in and the console continued to get used. The Wii I bought for us gathered dust and eventually got sold on Ebay.

The Kinect was a failure, but dressing it up as a catastrophic, cynical brand killing piece of corporate dogma is a bit dramatic. They took a shot and hit the rim, and they learned a fair bit in a technological sense whilst at it.