Besides the expansiveness of Microsoft’s pockets, the histrionic stupidity of E3 in general and the fact that there is no depth to which PR teams will not sink, given sufficient quantities of caffeine – no abuse of the brain, knee joints and bladder they will not contemplate – the one thing last night’s Cirque de Soleil extravaganza should have re-impressed upon you is that Kinect is ‘for everyone’. Universal appeal was the company line at the peripheral’s unveiling a year back, and universal appeal remains the company line today.
Trouble is, Microsoft’s ‘everyone’ does not, in actual fact, cover everyone. Rather, this ‘everyone’ is the latest in a series of imaginary buying demographics mass-produced by the likes of Coca Cola, MacDonalds and (of course) Nintendo – another encore for that classic commercial quartet, the nuclear family. Jovial, pipe-smoking Pop. Supportive, apron-clad Mom. Little Joey with his model airplane, and Sally with her pigtails. There’s no room in the picture for the heavy-duty, isolationist, Call-of-Duty-spamming ‘gamer’s gamers’ with whom the Xbox 360 has been hitherto associated. No room for you, if our estimation of our readership is correct, and definitely no room for me.
The point was writ large in the form of some disgracefully shiny lifestyle demo reels, four madly-grinning, All-American actors jiggling in front of various Microsoft-branded shades of Wii Sports and EyeToy. Meanwhile, on the floor of the arena itself, dehydrated journalists glanced round frantically for means of escape or, failing that, suicide.
Specialist write-ups of the Kinect reveal have been almost universally negative, lambasting everything from the choreography through the canned applause to the high tech yet patronising attempts at audience interaction (Darth Vader’s appearance was a solitary highlight). We’d love to suggest that Microsoft wasn’t anticipating this response, but the opposite is probably true. The publisher’s real guests of honour were the ‘mainstream’ commentators, not the dependably cynical hardcore press – safely unacquainted with terms like ‘latency’ or ‘pre-rendered’, and rather more susceptible perhaps to diversionary razzmatazz.
As far as its traditional consumers are concerned, much now hinges on the company’s conference this evening (morning in LA), where the bulk of Kinect-enabled third party titles are expected to make berth alongside pricing details, release dates and a more comprehensive account of product strategy. Having stoked much gossip and mystery over both the artist formerly known as Project Natal and the precise nature of its E3 offering, the big M has stumbled at the first hurdle, and it’ll take more than another fancy lightshow to restore the balance.
Kinect is due out in November. Why not refresh your memory of our first look piece?