Throughout the history of video games, the industry has evolved, changing with the times. Publishers and developers have pushed the envelope, always trying to shock and awe competition and gamers alike. With the release of the Wii in 2006, Nintendo’s choice to sidestep the next generation console war seemed strange. Rather than go big or go home, the Wii relied on ingenuity and creativity to offer a different kind of revolution. In doing so they opened up a whole new market. Nintendo was able to tap into the casual gaming crowd. People who had never taken a second glance at a video game where suddenly packing into stores to get their hand on Wii Fit. The concept was simple: the controller would simplify everything and all would be able to enjoy in the bounty that was Wii.
Since then, Nintendo has sold nearly seventy-four million consoles, shattering sales record after sales record. Their product is now a household name and has dominated the market completely since its release. Like before, the gaming industry has watched and learned from Nintendo’s progress. They have seen that casual players are a viable market and that motion control isn’t as farfetched an idea as they thought. Following in the footsteps that Nintendo has blazed, Sony and Microsoft are beginning to release their own take on motion control. Both have been in development for some time, and both will offer innovative new possibilities for the gaming community.
Sony’s contender for the motion control arms race is called the PlayStation Move. PlayStation Move uses new technology that will change how games are played on the PlayStation 3. Sony has stated that they will treat Move as a new major platform launch, campaigning under the “It only does everything” slogan. The PlayStation Move uses two controllers, a navigation controller and a motion controller. To keep entry cost low, games will only need the motion controller, though more features will be unlocked in games through the use of the navigation controller. The two controllers are used in tandem like the Wii remote and the Nunchuck, but the PlayStation Move has so many tweaks to the ideas behind the original Wii remote that it really is its own beast. Sony has promised incredible responsiveness, competing easily with the Wii Motion Plus.
A different turn
While Sony has chosen to try to directly compete with Nintendo, Microsoft decided to take motion control in a different direction. Their product, called Kinect, has been announced for release November 4th and completely liberates the user from having to hold a controller. Kinect offers a natural user interface that recognizes gestures, spoken commands, and even emotions. Kinect’s sensor bar can recognize up to six people, allows two players to be recognized simultaneously and can differentiatie between up to twenty joints per person. Videos of Kinect in use are inspiring, showing players easily and organically manipulating objects in game.
While Kinect will add new and interesting technology to the Xbox 360, its price will come to a whooping $149.99. For this price, you do also get Kinect Adventures, a collection of mini games looking less than stellar and hardly anything that differentiates Microsoft’s offering from its competitors. However, one redeeming factor that Microsoft has announced is that all Microsoft games for Kinect will carry only a 49.99 dollar price tag. Hopefully Microsoft will be able to develop some good games to pad out Kinect’s expensive cost and make it worthwhile for consumers. The Kinect adds many features to the 360, both in media and gameplay, and will be a cool add-on for those with some extra cash lying around. Microsoft has also added the Kinect to one of their new Xbox redesigns, making the new bundles even more enticing.
While many developers have announced their intent to make games for the Kinect, one game has stood out above all others. Developed by Harmonix, Dance Central is a new rhythm/music game that shows what Kinect is truly capable of. Harmonix is a proven developer and has played a major role in making the rhythm/music genre what it is today. Their work with Guitar Hero and Rock Band has brought plastic guitar controllers to millions of people’s hands on every console and now Harmonix is going to revolutionize the genre again with Dance Central. Using the motion mapping of the Kinect sensor, Dance Central will allow players to bring out their inner pop and lock. Players will perform different dance moves to an expansive number of songs from various decades. So far, Harmonix has announced over 600 different moves spanning over 90 different dance routines.
Dance Central’s gameplay looks smooth and sleek, fully mapping out the players’ moves and translating them onto the screen. Harmonix has pushed the bar for Kinect with a launch title, showing what Kinect is capable of when the right developers use it. The music for the game looks pretty awesome so far, featuring mainly hip-hop and pop that will help players get their swerve on. Here are a few of the songs I am really looking forward to : “Body Movin‘” by Beastie Boys, “Galang” by M.I.A., “Drop It Like It’s Hot” by Snoop Dog feat. Pharrel, and the always awesome “Funky Town” by Lipps Inc. These are just a taste of the full games music roster and more will be announced as the game gets closer to being released. What is cool about Dance Central is that this game will actually teach you how to dance, teaching moves step by step feature called “Break it Down”. So there will be no button clicking or waving plastic around, this will just be a choreographed dance game enabling gamers all over the world to take the dance floor.
The start of something big
Kinect will add a ton of new features to the Xbox console. While it may cost a lot, Kinect will definitely pay off for gamers as time passes and developers are given time to test the boundaries of the new sensor bar. While other consoles have had their turn at motion control, Microsoft’s take will be the most visionary of them all, broadening gaming even more. Kinect’s true potential will be in games like Dance Central, which really highlight the strengths of Kinect. With tons of songs and a new take on the rhythm/music genre, Harmonix will prove that the Kinect will be more than just another peripheral to be passed over. Dance Central will teach people a real skill, something that games like Guitar Hero and DJ Hero have yet to do. All of this is thanks to Kinect’s features and ideas that will bring new entertainment for the gaming community.