Kinect Totally Isn't Dead. No, Really: Microsoft

Microsoft came out with all guns blazing at this year's E3, delivering one of the best press conferences in recent memory. In dizzyingly fast succession, the euphoric audience was hit with one huge announcement after another — from backwards compatibility for Xbox One to the potentially game-changing HoloLens in action. One thing that wasn't announced was anything to do with Kinect. As in, literally zero mentions in any context.

In its quest to dominate the emerging VR space, it appears Microsoft could be turning its back on this prodigious problem child that nobody loved. We asked Xbox's vice president of devices and studios, Yusuf Mehdi, to explain what's up.

"Kinect isn't dead," Yusuf said to us. "We still believe in it — we still believe it has a lot of great promise. You're going see some games with Kinect, we just didn’t have time. As you could tell, we were action-packed today.

"But you’re going to hear more about that. And we have some other news as well that, again, we just didn't get to do, but you're going to hear about it. It will showcase the benefit of Kinect for developers and we still think there is a great world out there for Kinect. You'll see more to come."

But hang on. If Kinect really isn't dead, how will it tie into all this new hardware that Microsoft has saddled itself to? We now have the Xbox-friendly Oculus Rift, the augmented-reality HoloLens and the Kinect motion-controller; all of which provide varying flavours of virtual reality. It doesn't exactly paint a cohesive business strategy.

We asked Yusuf whether all these divergent technologies had the potential to confuse casual customers. He didn't exactly disagree.

"I think it's fair to say there's so much innovation going on it's hard to keep your mind wrapped around it so it's probably true, you have to spend some time educating yourself...It isn't like people said "Oh, I woke up this morning and I really needed to have a virtual experience." But one of the things gamers really count on from Xbox and from Microsoft is to pioneer the future and bring great new things.

"So I'm not that worried; over time gamers will quickly know these are the games I want to play and here are the devices I can play with. What we're trying to do is say it doesn't matter what technology you love, Oculus, Valve, HoloLens — we're going to provide all of that with Xbox."

You'll note that Yusuf forgot to mention the Kinect in that last quote. Whoops. Nevertheless, it appears the device is still alive and kicking (for now) and we should be getting some fresh announcements soon.

Kotaku attended E3 in LA as a guest of Microsoft.


    Once it was taken out of the standard xbox bundle it was always going to fail. The device works well, I have no issues with mine but if developers don't have a built in user base there's too much of a risk developing anything that relies on it.

      Even when they did try developing things that relied on it, the results weren't great for the most part. I think it's cool tech that just isn't particularly suited to gaming. There are a lot of good uses for it - some of the hacks people were doing with it after it first came out were amazing. But none of them were really gaming-related.

        It never had anyone try to develop anything serious for it. They canned it before there was a decent sized user base for it. The features were always tacked on or low budget shovelware games. If it were still bundled in when xbox reached a good user base devs could have invested in it with more security. Still could have failed but it would have had a chance, not there's zero incentive to put money in to a game that is exclusive to xbox and then on top of that exclusive to xbox users with a kinnect.

        Last edited 18/06/15 10:06 am

          Yeah. I'm not saying we missed out on a golden age of Kinect but I think if developers had of got used to it being there and started treating it like just another tool in the toolbox rather than something entire games need to be built around we would have seen at least a few cool things. Nobody really got creative with it.

            Nobody really got creative with it.
            Not really true; the people who get creative with it are doing so outside of the Microsoft "space." I know of at least one Masters thesis being written around its use as a public interface.

            Its main problem is that waving your arms around is not a very fast or responsive way to control a game. That leaves its only usable niche as those games where moving your body is inherently part of the gameplay (such as dance games).

            The thesis I mention above also found that the number of really distinct, easily distinguishable whole-body gestures available is surprisingly small.

            I'm guessing you never played Kung Fu: High Impact on the 360?

            I tried a heap of Kinect games, and it saddens me that only one legitimately fun game came out of the whole thing. That being said, it's one of the only reasons I fire up my 360 any more, it's a straight up hit at parties.

              Fable The Journey was the only game I enjoyed on the 360 Kinect, but it was really let down by the 360's Kinect. I wonder if backwards compatibility will include using the XBOX One Kinect for XBOX 360 games.

    Guys, Xbox One IS Kinect, thats why it comes with every console, and why all games will support Kin ... wait a minute.

    I still like the kinnect but yeah if it isnt used to its potential its kinda wasted.

    Seems to be too many extra peripherals for the XBOXONE - whats going on here?

    Didnt anyone learn from the Mega CD/32X debacle?

    As long as their future consoles support it in one way or another I'm fine. Gaming won't lose much without it but I really don't want to go back to gamepad based media and OS controls.

    IMO, if Microsoft were still pushing the Kinect they would have made time for it. Same with Sony the Vita and their camera thingy. Seems all the lighters are used for now on the DS4 is for health and other in game effects.

      I think Sony mentioned Vita at least twice, Disney Infinity and World of Final Fantasy, and there also seemed to be a few shots of it in the opening montage as well as some vita games in the game montage. I know it's absolutely glossing over the system, but at least they still acknowledge its existence.

    One thing that wasn’t announced was anything to do with Kinect. As in, literally zero mentions in any context.

    Not true. For one brief moment playing Mass Effect during the backwards compatibility bit - they took a screen capture using Kinect. Might not count as a 'mention', but "in any context" is wrong. Language is important.

    The thing that stymied the possible growth of a kinect market is the PR that came with the release of the Xbox One. With the conference that talked about sports and TV more than games, the focus on always-online nonsense. Announcing that every Xbox One will need a kinect to work was just throwing it to that negative PR wave that happened back then.

    Sure, people do enjoy the kinect, but the whole plan came across as forcing a peripheral down players throats, not to mention a skeptical notion that kinect can be used to spy on you since it is always online and listening for your commands. Even governments got concerned when they heard that little tidbit. When the internet gets into a frenzy about something there really is no way to stop it. I'm sure some game developers saw this and wondered if putting effort into making a decent kinect game was a risk.

    Forget Kinect, it's done. I think one of the big players should focus on a glove, like a power glove or something that has controls on it and you can wave your arm and stuff..........

    "Johnson,...............HIRE that man!"

    I don't see why it can't be used with the VR?

    I honestly don't think E3 is the right place to announce anything Kinect, or TV. It's a Microsoft vs Sony gaming battle to the death at E3, any minute you spend not talking about core gaming is points to the other side.

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