LOS ANGELES--Having just returned from the Microsoft world premiere event showing off the newly named Kinect camera for Xbox 360 (formerly known as Project Natal), we're left with a burning question. The games demoed at the event ran the gamut from titles that let you drive a car, boat, and mine cart--all with graphics that would make a Nintendo Wii blush. But cool hardware aside, who's going to want to play these games?
Behind the pomp and circumstance of packing a college arena with white-robed journalists and an entire troop of Cirque du Soleil dancers, the real stars of the evening were the Kinect camera and games. About half a dozen were demoed by a collection of faux families, some suspended upside down or in mid-air, but all the footage shown was clearly pretaped, and not an actual live use of the Kinect camera (which we admit would have been difficult with the light show and acrobatics going on at the same time).
However, as impressive as the event itself was, the first round of Kinect games demoed seemed, well, exactly like first-generation games. There were several variations on using your hands and body movements to drive a vehicle, from a car to a raft to a kind of mine cart (with your avatar body on top, contorting to grab icons).
More promising was a yoga app, as well as a virtual pet. At the event, we actually snagged a tiny stuffed animal, which included a scannable code--we assume it would then place that particular animal in the game (which is called Kinanimals). Somewhat more strained was a follow-the-moves dance game, but given the success of television programs such as "So You Think You Can Dance," we may be on the wrong side of the cultural zeitgeist on that one.
But after all those game presentations, we're struck by how similar they are to games we've already seem for platforms including the PlayStation EyeToy (which originated on the PS2 in 2004) and Nintendo Wii. The EyeToy is a particularly apt comparison as it also used only hand and body movements, not a control stick like the Wii or upcoming PlayStation Move. … Read more