E3 2011 – Microsoft: Failure to Kinect

Cronus here. It’s that time of year again: the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo has just wrapped up and we’re here bringing you the news and our impressions. This year, I’m first up covering the first press conference of the week.

Now I’m going to be honest here: I really dislike Microsoft’s press conference. I really don’t want to have to cover it. But after some thinking I decided I would be both cutthroat and horribly biased and then give an objective overview on the arguably good and bad points of the conference as a whole.

First and foremost: Microsoft’s conference sucked. It wasn’t about games or technology. It was about Kinect. Last year’s Kinect focus was a complete disaster with its over-the-top presentation: an open stage filled with performers creating distraction from the stage demos. This year’s was a complete disaster for the exact reverse reason: An overly elaborate stage with completely bland and uninteresting stage demos.

A quick jump to the second last announcement of the conference has us looking at Kinect Fun Labs. The title shows usage of the Kinect abilities involving finger-tracking in 3D space, creation of virtual objected live-modelled after real objects and face recognition.

More like Kinect: That Shit We Already Knew About

Now as cool as all of these things may be, not a single one of these technologies are new. In fact, Microsoft actually showed us all of these things 2 years ago during the first Kinect announcement, back when it was still known as “Project Natal”, and were demonstrated with the “Milo” demo.

However, having scrapped “Milo”, Microsoft released the Kinect without games which showcased these technologies and are now attempting to sell us that kind of launch software now touting it as something new and exciting. This alone is enough to debase the excitement in what was probably the best showcase of Kinect’s abilities.

Having sapped the excitement of the best the Kinect has to offer, We can move on to look at the rest of the conference and why it’s so underwhelming.

With a few notable exceptions I’ll go into in a bit, every game announcement was complete with a Kinect demo or announced to be used with Kinect. In fact, one of the informal announcements was that Microsoft plans on making sure every game will eventually have Kinect support. This would normally be a good move, but given that Microsoft seems to have no idea on how to market the tech properly, the move instead looks trite and groan-inducing.

Out of an 88 minute conference, 51 minutes were dedicated to Kinect demos, game trailers and related announcements.

Out of the 13 games that were announced (not including games announced in groups such as the EA sports lineup), only Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, the re-imagined Tomb Raider, Gears of War 3 (which was announced last year), Halo: Anniversary (a remake of the first Halo), and Halo 4 did not mention the Kinect. Forza MotorSport 4 only mentioned it in passing, which was nice, but even so, that means that out of the whole hour and a half long conference, these titles had little more than half an hour on stage.

Even anticipated heavy hitters Mass Effect 3 and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier were reduced to long Kinect demos as opposed to simple game announcements and gameplay demos.

Now, I’m not just here to hate, and I did like some games that were shown:

Nice 'Bloom'. But seriously, lookin' good.

The Tomb Raider re-imagining looked fairly promising: a cinematic action/platformer that holds a chance at standing alongside the Uncharted series in the eyes of gamers.

An 8 minute long demo to start? Wow, way to stall guys.

Modern Warfare 3 looked as good as ever, continuing the legacy of it’s predecessors and probably moving to take its share of the market.

This Shit Again 4

Halo 4 was a teasing trailer that closed out the conference, and Halo: Anniversary is perhaps a meager attempt at milking a cash-cow, but hopefully it provides a good measure a fun.

Fancy, Shiny Cars do Fancy, Shiny Things

Forza Motorsport 4 seems to also be benefiting from the late generation graphics boost and hopefully the game engine is as enjoyable as its previous incarnations.

Unfortunately, this is where the majority of my praise ends.

Ice-T in the house. Because he's famous like that, I guess.

Gears of War 3 may be nice and all, but to re-announce a game from last year? It doesn’t add many points.

One of the worst segements of the conference has to be learning about Kinect being used to control the new Xbox 360 dashboard. Wow, nice touch. I’m impressed. And you even integrated it with Bing. And to make the package complete, they’ve announced a partnership with YouTube. Congratulations, Microsoft. You announced that your system will finally, after more than 5 and a half years, will support (only though a specific partnership) something that both your competitors were able to support on day one of their individual console launches.

Way to join the browser age. Because a firmware fix to change your dashboard couldn't have done this years ago.

Live TV was also added to the system, which is nice and all, but an announcement like that is supposed to be a kick that gives some extra mileage to the rest of your conference. Newsflash: You can’t get extra mileage when your vehicle has a broken engine and a gas tank full of sludge.

And to wrap up this disaster, is the half hour before the closing Halo 4 trailer. What was basically “Kinect Central”

Oh, hell no.

To start, we have what is probably the most perverse use of a video gaming system I’ve ever heard of: to emulate a trip to a Disneyland theme park. Yeah, the experience that most every North American child would love is now being cheapened to a Kinect game on the 360.

God fucking dammit, guys. Now you're ruining childhoods without rule 34.

Following Kinect: Disneyland Adventures, as if it makes up for the grievance of the previous 4 minutes, is the announcement of that game people have wanted for so long, Kinect: Star Wars. I was honestly surprised by the announcement. I was disappointed by the demo.

About fucking ti- Wait. This looks like it sucks. Fuck.

Hot on its heels is another family fun game; Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster. I’m not even gonna bother with an image for this one.

Okay, now I’m not here to bash the family fun games either, but Microsoft needs a reality check. You are at E3. The only people you’re trying to talk to are the people who are attending and who are watching, and I’m sorry to disappoint, most families with young children are not watching E3. You are wasting valuable stage-time and money on showcasing titles that would be just as well (hell, probably better) received being sent in the usual press release kits that non-E3 games generally are to reviewers who probably know people who would be better fit to try out the games with their kids. As for your immediate audience, the crowd in front of you is nothing but industry members. They want to see the best you have to offer, and like I said, if a press release kit works better for your game, you’re better off finding something cooler for that stage slot.

This decision of theirs paints one of two pictures, neither of which are appealing.

1) Microsoft’s marketing division (or more than just that) is full of idiots who don’t know what the fuck they’re doing, thus making the company look like they don’t have a clue despite having been in the console ring for almost a full decade now.

2) Microsoft honestly has nothing better to put in those slots which then reflect that Microsoft as a whole has nothing happening in their own development studios and/or that 3rd party support for the system is drying up and that the company is being abandoned in favour of their obviously more stable competitors.

Either way, Microsoft ends up looking like the loser, be it because they’re idiotic and incompetent, or because they fucked up and they aren’t getting another chance.

To end that horrible conference, I have here the puns that inspired this year’s post title.

E3 3011- Dear Microsoft, we need to disKinect

E3 2011- Feeling disKinected with Microsoft (more like overKinected)

E3 2011- Microsoft, we’re just not Kinecting

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