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.