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So the console I use the most leads off this year’s conference? Works for me. I like watching these and just going with a stream of consciousness on my thoughts, using the all new, limited edition, BULLETPOINT feature (note, may not actually be new or limited). Jump with me and let’s get a little nerdy, shall we?
Well, if there’s one thing we should realize by now, it’s that the Wii really was a gamechanger. Sadly, this may not necessarily be a good thing. Xbox’s press conference this morning leaned VERY heavily on the once named Project: Natal, now being called Kinect. Certain parts of Kinect look pretty cool. The Minority Report style menu navigation is straight up future awesome. They also showed off a lot of voice control ability for everything from movies to music.
The games that were shown off though…well, they were either a dead ringer for Wii Sports, or Wii Fit. Joyride, the game announced last year for free is now under the Kinect umbrella as well. Kinetic Sports and Adventure look like they could be amusing, but they are still essentially just Wii rips. I can hardly blame Xbox, they know Nintendo has been printing money with the inroads they’ve made with the Casual gaming market, why not get a piece themselves. The workout games (I think 3 of the 1st 15 games announced would count as one) will appeal to the soccer mom crowd as well as letting Microsoft fight some of the gaming—>obesity advocates. Kinect Adventures reminds me of the old Nick Arcade show. Goofy, little replay value, don’t see it being worth much. Dance Central is, well, come on, it’s a dance game. Some may enjoy this one, but it’s not gonna work for me. Props for using Bel Biv Devoe’s “Poison” on the demo though. One of the most amusing little games shown was Kinectimals. If you can’t guess from the name, it’s you, playing with animals via the Kinect. You may recognize this as say, Nintendogs. However, credit to Xbox for upping the cute factor by using a small child and an adorable baby tiger. Would I ever play this, God no, but again, Xbox is looking to get in on the new market that the Wii opened video games up to. The one Kinect game that had a little bit of potential was the Star Wars game. If it can actually give you a solid lightsaber/force power gameplay experience, it could be pretty sweet. The Forza demo looked very pretty, but I don’t see a sim racer working very well with this type of tech.
For an announcement I actually cared about a little bit, Trey Wingo and Josh Elliot of Sportscenter showed up to announce an exclusive deal (Full story from Kotaku here) between ESPN and Xbox. There is a lot of potential here, especially for those who currently can’t access ESPN 3 like me due to their service provider (h8 u Time Warner). The ability to choose your team, do trivia, etc isn’t really a huge deal, but kind of amusing. If this isn’t shut down by blackout restrictions and doesn’t have an insanely long delay from live TV, this could be amazing. Lots of people have tried to ditch cable and use the internet for most of their TV needs. The main thing lost for this plan has always been Sports. This could take out that block and really allow a new way to do TV. Did I mention it is FREE if you already have a Gold account? You like free don’t you?
How about the games finally?
The last major announcement was a brand new Xbox 360. Where was this 2 months ago when my old one crapped out? For $300 you get a new, smaller Xbox with a 250GB harddrive, built in wi-fi adapter (bout damn time), and an allegedly “whisper quiet fan.” If you are looking for a 360, it’s a good deal, but this late it isn’t going to have a huge impact for most. Microsoft finished by going Oprah and giving everyone who was there a free one. Not a bad idea to try and garner some love after what was a very meh press conference.
Microsoft without a doubt is trying to get in on some of the new gamers that have been brought in by the Nintendo Wii. You can’t blame them with how much cash Nintendo has made with the Wii over the last few years. According to Engadget, the Kinect is going to come out at $150 with games costing the full $60 price tag we are used to. As of right now, I can’t see any reason why I would pick it up. The games look like Wii clones, years later and more expensive. While the hand controlled menu’s look awesome, video chat seems to work well, and ESPN integration all look good, none seem worth buying. Video chat works between Kinect and Windows Live messenger, but between things like Skype and iChat, if you have a webcam, this is still old news. Most of the games have been done on the Wii or even with the Playstation EyeToy. Not a great look from Microsoft, which is disappointing since they had the opening word. Sony is probably licking their chops right now.