Let us take you back to the year 2010, when the future looked so bright for motion control technology. Microsoft was riding high on the potential of Kinect, their new peripheral that was going to take motion control gaming and push it into the future. In fact, Microsoft believed so strongly that Kinect was an important pillar of their company that they created a special pre-E3 event dedicated solely to the device.
Now let’s move forward to present day where it’s a completely different picture. E3 2014 has come and gone, as has Gamescom 2014, and Microsoft has not just pushed Kinect out of the spotlight they’ve practically put it in a corner. And we’re not talking about the same clunky Kinect from 2010 either; this is the Xbox One’s Kinect, a more refined version of the motion control device.
So, why in just four years has Microsoft pulled a 180 on Kinect? The answer isn’t entirely clear, but there’s no mistaking that something has changed. It could have been the fact that Microsoft forced the device on gamers with the Xbox One bundle, and those gamers in turn shunned Xbox. Or it could be that a new regime has taken over Microsoft’s Xbox division, and they don’t believe that motion control gaming is the future. Either way, what was once a pillar of Xbox is now barely a lean-to.
Granted, there are still some Kinect games in development — namely Fantasia: Music Evolved — but E3 and Gamescom proved that Microsoft’s opinions have changed and they don’t have much to show for the device. Where prior press conferences for those events used to be at least 50% Kinect, that total was brought down to a measly 5%… if that. The biggest Kinect-related of news of 2014 was that Microsoft was removing the device from Xbox One bundles.
But perhaps there’s something bigger at play. Perhaps it’s not just Microsoft who is completely changing their line of thinking, but Sony as well. Just take a look at the PS Vita — a handheld that, like the Kinect, used to be a pillar of its publisher’s press conference. This year it was also almost non-existent.
Sure, they were some mentions of Vita at E3 and Gamescom, but only as an also-ran. Most of the “new” games announced for Vita were titles that are either currently available on or coming to PS3 and PS4 as well, or that were previously released on another platform (PC, Xbox, etc.). No new games, no new features. Nothing.
And so, like with the Kinect, we’re left wondering whether Sony has pulled the plug on their Vita experiment. Have they realized that Nintendo dominates the handheld market and decided it best not to waste any more money? Or maybe they are so happy with PS4 sales that they think Remote Play will be enough to push Vita sales all by itself.
Interestingly enough, it’s most likely the recent unveiling of the PS4, and the Xbox One as well, that has changed Sony and Microsoft’s line of thinking. Now that there are new consoles on the market, it’s up to these companies to win back their old fan bases and entice new gamers towards their systems. Where the established install bases of the PS3 and Xbox 360 encouraged experimentation, like a goofy motion controller or an expensive handheld, this new generation is not as conducive to risk-taking. Just ask Microsoft – who took a risk with DRM, lost favor among gamers, and lost an edge in the console war.
Unfortunately, for those early adopters of Vita and Kinect this new line of thinking leaves them out in the cold. No one likes to find out that the device they spent hundreds of dollars on is dead, especially not when they were initially promised so much. But that’s what we’re looking at right now, two devices that still have their uses but are currently showing few signs of life. Admittedly things are looking better for the Vita as they are some games coming to the device, but it’s slim pickings regardless. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if, come E3 2015, many gamers forgot that Vita and Kinect even existed.
Do you think that Sony and Microsoft have abandoned the Vita and Kinect? What do you think they could do to turn things around?
Follow Anthony on Twitter @ANTaormina