Gamers who consider their core hard have always thought of Kinect as just some gimmick Wii-successor that they’d never use because true gamers use analogue sticks or fight pads or morse code or something. And maybe the first Kinect was like that. The Kinect 2 on Xbox One? Completely different. It’s truly an extension of the controller without the constraints of a controller.
We already know the Kinect 2 is ridiculously powerful enough to see your heart beat just by looking at you and that its innards are stupendously smart. But the point of bundling Kinect with every single Xbox One ever isn’t to force you to host Dance Central parties or make you teach Skype to Grandma, it’s so that Microsoft can make a better controller without changing its controller (without changing it too much, I should say. The new Xbox One controller is tickle me sweet).
Microsoft demoed a FPS game that took advantage of Kinect in a completely natural game-playing way. Your hands are on the controller. Your thumbs are on the analogue sticks. Your fingers are on the triggers. Oh crap, a giant rocket is coming right at you on your screen. You move your thumbs accordingly, you subconsciously lean to the side with it, the rocket passes by. Phew. You’re OK. You didn’t even realise it but you just controlled a game with Kinect and you didn’t die. Hmm?
Because every console will have Kinect, every game can be developed with it in mind. Just leaning to a side can make your character move, like it did in the Xbox One FPS demo. And because Kinect 2 is so advanced, it can read your movements almost as quickly as you can press the B button. Microsoft showed how if you touch your temple in the FPS demo, it’ll immediately turn on x-ray vision in the video game. If you raise your controller, your character will raise a shield. Maybe those aren’t natural movements to you but how is pressing a random button any more natural? What if you could map out certain game actions to buttons and natural motion gestures?
With Kinect, controlling the Xbox One is no longer limited by the number of static buttons on the controller. Imagine pointing at which enemy your AI partner should focus on. Or cycling immediately to your pistol or grenade with a quick hand gesture. Or motioning your troop to stop with a halt. Or cornering a turn in a driving game by leaning. Or calling for timeout in Madden like you would call for timeout in real life (okay, maybe that’s a gimmick). And that’s just what I thought of in 30 seconds. If you gave real game developers time? They’d blow away all the useless tricks we made fun of on the 360. We can’t judge Kinect today without wondering it will do for us tomorrow.
So don’t think of Kinect on the Xbox One as a Kinect you’d never use. And don’t think of the Xbox One controller as the only way of controlling things. That’s just needlessly limiting your view. They could stay different. They could become interchangeable. But they won’t exist without each other anymore. A Kinect is now a part of every Xbox controller. Is that really worse than slapping a trackpad onto every controller?