Q&A: Phil Spencer discusses how "all genres" will support Microsoft's motion-sensing system, launch plans for the peripheral, controller-based games that use Kinect.
Last week, Microsoft held a Kinect launch even in San Francisco. Over the obligatory cocktails and canapes, much of the system's launch lineup was on hand, including Kinect Joy Ride, Kinectimals, Kinect Adventures, and just about every other game with "Kinect" in the title. Dance Central was also in the house, as was Adrenalin Misfits and a demonstration station for the new Kinect dashboard (see below).
Also on hand was Phil Spencer, the corporate vice president in charge of Microsoft Game Studios. The executive is understandably excited about the launch of the Xbox 360's motion-sensing system, which his company views as an extension of the console itself. However, with a launch lineup of mostly workout and casual games, there is some skepticism that the controller-less system will appeal to the core demographic Microsoft Game Studios has cultivated with titles like Mass Effect, Gears of War 2, and Halo: Reach.
Since he's seen many unannounced games for Kinect, Spencer said he has no such concerns. He sat down with GameSpot to discuss the launch plans for the system, what games are in the pipeline, and whether or not the Kinect camera will secretly watch the room where it's stationed.
GameSpot: Now some people are a little apprehensive about having a camera that can track them and recognize their faces in their living room. What do you say to those people?
Phil Spencer: Well, do you have the controls to not make it always connected to the Internet? Yes. Is the thing always looking at you? No. You'll see when you use it that you actually stand up and wave to activate the camera. Then the camera will see you, and that has nothing to do with the RGB camera. That's just the infrared picking us up. So it's pretty specific when it's looking into the room, if you want to call it that, and when it's not.
GS: Now Microsoft is treating Kinect like the launch of a new console. How much further do you expect it to extend the Xbox 360 life cycle?
PS: Well I am kind of simple on this question. For me, it's how it is going to do in the market. We come to these events, and we bring people, and they bring in their families. We watch people play, and I love seeing them light up. But in a few weeks, it's going to be on the shelves and that is when we will see if people go buy [it]. If it delivers the way people think it's going to deliver, and by that I mean people and their families, then I think as a platform holder and as an industry, we're going to want to build as much content for that customer as we can across all genres.
GS: Now speaking of genres, the launch lineup for Kinect is heavy on workout titles and minigame compilations, and a few casual games, but there's not a lot of core games. I mean Sony is really pushing how the Move will support SOCOM 4 and Killzone 3 and how that system can support core games. When are we going to see some core games for Kinect?
PS: Well we view Kinect as a fundamental part of the [Xbox 360] platform. It is as core to the platform as [Xbox] Live is. And we think about the all products in our pipeline, including things that haven't been announced. And just like there's an [Internet] pipe connected to the dev kits, there's a camera connected to the dev kits. So you think about those dev kits and those teams and that creative space, and how they want to add [Kinect] to that experience.
I think over time for first party, you're not going to see that differentiation between "Is that a Kinect game?" and "Is that not a Kinect game?" You're just going to think about these things as 360 games. Now that doesn't mean there's no controller included. This is just like Live, since Live is used in many different ways across many different experiences that we build.
I think our [Kinect] launch lineup is strong. It's deep. I think it's great seeing the third parties step up. But our gamer customers should expect to see Kinect across all genres. All genres will support Kinect at some point.
GS: I think one area where it could be really fun is using the controller and Kinect in tandem, which we're already starting to see with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. Do you see many more games that use both?
PS: Well, when you think about voice commands, when you think about gestures and how those are recognized by the system, you can imagine these scenarios where the experiences are intertwined. I mean using the controller comes naturally, but now there's this added feature in the ecosystem--voice, gesture. So absolutely, I think that will become an aspect of what people see as a 360 title.
GS: Do you foresee Kinect functionality being patched into existing 360 games? I know Sony is patching a bunch of existing games with Move support, games like Heavy Rain.
PS: We start thinking about stuff from the beginning, about the full capabilities of the system, and then getting the best creators thinking about the whole ecosystem and creating on top of it. This isn't about trying to ram stuff in where it doesn't belong. For us, the experience is from the ground up, and that's why you see the first launch experiences are completely body controlled. That was the bar we set for ourselves: to make a game that uses the body that's as fun as one that uses the controller. We're putting those games out there, customers will tell us what they think. Third parties have put out a lot of games, and I've been really impressed with the creative that's come to market.
GS: Now Sony has said that by the end of March 2011, it will have 40 titles that support PlayStation Move. Will there be a comparable number of Kinect titles by then?
PS: Well, we are launching with 17 games, which is right up there with the Xbox 360 launch. Now one thing we, as a first party, don't want to do is dominate our platform. There's a real healthy third-party ecosystem on our platform; that's really important. We want to foster that. We get our games out to third parties early; we show them what we're doing in first party to help build interest and excitement. The level of support we're seeing from third party is growing.
In terms of numbers…I don't know whether it's 30 or 40. But what I can say is the diversity of experiences I see both on the floor here and in development tells me there's going to be a lot of content there for a lot of different players. That's what people really want is those highlight experiences. If you look all the way back to the beginning of the 360, we have a pretty good track record of producing AAA hits on a regular basis to our customers.
GS: When did Joy Ride become Kinect Joy Ride?
PS: Well early on, back when it was called Project Natal, we had done some work with Burnout, so we knew that racing worked. So we said, "Hey, let's hook up the Natal controls to Joy Ride and see what happens." And we did it, and it was a lot of fun, especially since it's not a sim racer; it's a little more kind of comic-y. But it was about a year ago, and we were a month away from shipping what was Joy Ride, and we said, "Hey, I think a better way for this to come to market is with Kinect." And the team did a great job. It took them, what, nine months to turn it around and add Kinect? I mean the core game kind of stayed the same, the progression and the art, but it was really in the input in the controls.
Wow, motion gaming! i've never seen this before! Now we have motion gaming (Wii) without the controller in HD! PASS............
@amaan4ever so for fps games do u like point ur finger at the screen and act like ur shooting. ***************************************************************** I think with shooters it will be controller and Kinect. You'll probably use voice commands to give orders and use hand gesters to open doors or navigate screens. I honest can't see any motion sensor device working great with FPS on any platform. KZ3 will probably be a disaster with MOVE. Hopefully Gears 3 never uses Kinect, except for voice recognition. ====================================== @robertcain Somehow I find it hard to believe every single game eventually supporting Kinect in some way. ********************************************************** I don't think he said every single game will support Kinect. I believe he said every genre. FPS and Fighting games aren't going to work well with Kinect or MOVE. It's hard to due fighting games when you are doing all the motion and movement. Strike and dodge detections are never good.
looks like an i pad lol no but i can see my self geting this all thou idk if i like the new dashbord
@depledge63 Totally agree. Until we get some really good core games, using real game-changing stuff (eg Milo), it just doesn't interest me - I already have a Wii. But that doesn't stop it being good for some folk. Slightly worrying is the way that Phil Spencer answered the question about it being like a new console. This'd better not delay the release of the next Xbox!!!!!!
Here I am in a new day and still no sensible comments, I don't see how anyone is copying, I mean, does that mean you don't want cod5, 6 or 7, and so on as they are copies of each other, or any other fps game, it's called progression. If this hadn't happened in the past we wouldn't be here at all with either the xbox or the playstation, we'd still be playing "galaxy wars" (a very old game) Also for the peeps saying I don't want this, I don't want that, it asn't been designed for you personall.. sheesh, stop all the moaning, if ya don't like it don't buy it...
Having played games for many, many years, spending a lot my time playing games. I must say that albeit Kinect and PS Move are cool with the motion sensing and all, but when I come home from work feeling very tired, I just want to sit down and do as little as possible movement wise while playing a game. No way i'd come home and want to jump around, flailing my arms all over the place. Kinect more so than PS Move. I don't like Kinect (Natal), I admit it. I don't think motion sensing reacts anywhere near quick enough. I like the PS Move more because it is essentially 1:1 with your movements because of the eyetoy, and Sony have huge experience with motion sensing technology compared to Microsoft. They are both feeding off the success of the Wii. Sony are the one's that have improved their Eyetoy from years ago into a quality piece of hardware, this is Microsoft's first try. I'm not a ghey fanboi, this is just realistically how I see them both, and it is just my opinion.
I seriously hope this doesn't turn into a case, like the microphone on the DS, where features for it were slapped in just to make use of the hardware. Kinect can't just be slapped into a game, it has to be designed in and I don't see a plausible way to do it with the amount of control needed to play hardcore games. Like how I don't like having to occasionally blow into my DS while sitting on the bus, I don't want to have to wave my arm everytime I want to reload in Gears of War. Microsoft, admit it you are just doing this to get the casual market, now do hardcore gamers justice or don't even bother.
omg i cant belive the amount of ps3 fanboys rageing in here bugger of to the crappy wii rip off forums will yers and i for one cant wait for kinect to launch its gonna blow the wii and its rip off (by wii rip off i mean ps move ofcourse) right outov the water :D
I reckon it will probably succeed because of good marketing, but I tried it at the EuroGamer Expo and the technology was just terrible - me and my friend played table tennis and we were just swinging our arms randomly and we were playing perfect shots... Volleyball wasn't much better. As good as I thought it was before, that REALLY put me off. Move isn't much better really but at least it works. I can't see how Kinect could apply to a game of similar standard to one with a normal controller. Seriously, I thought it was worse than EyeToy, never mind the Wii.
if i was able to rent the kinect accessory and play a few games first i might consider buying it buy 150 bucks is almost 3 xbox 360 games. ill pass for now
whatever, this doesnt convince me that kinect will succeed. i think both sony and microsoft are playing the motion game all wrong...
Ok, i agree that the tech put into this system is mindblowing, but what about the gamer? Video game consuls are meant to shorten the gap between the player and the game. Example: make a system that registers brain waves, making it respond to the players thoughts, rather than having to register phisical changes of the controler or person. thumbs up if you agree! :)
I think the ability to do stuff with your voice and waving your hand in the Xbox dashboard is very cool but I'm sorry, I don't see it working with any of the games I like on the Xbox like Halo and Left for Dead or even Mass Effect.
when talking about sony updating old games to use the move he replies with "This isn't about trying to ram stuff in where it doesn't belong. For us, the experience is from the ground up, and that's why you see the first launch" Yet I remember them showing the kinect playing burnout paradise.. my speculation is this, be prepard to pay on xbox live for kinect features for older titles or maybe rehashed versions of these titles coming out for sale. personaly I don't like this motionless control and I think about 80% of the stuff shown before release was all smoke and mirrors (project milo, being able to scan items into games etc etc) this is just gonna be a very expensive paperweight after the novelty wears off so now you will have this and a Wii keeping your doors open. Speaking of Wii, I wonder what nintendo are gonna do now that everyone has copied motion sensing.. again with lack of 3rd title support and even nintendos titles support lacking they must realise that this console is dead in the water not only has the motion been copied but it's rivals are using very powerful systems and not just a last generation console.
Granted, you may note that I say "appears" and "promised." This is of course because until the Kinect comes out, only the developers know how true the statements about it are. That said, I at least have hope...maybe even faith that the bears share of the hype surrounding it is true. Could any more be said of any new peripheral or gaming console upon first launch? On a final note, the cpu usage concerns me as well. I wonder though how much the motion or wii remote require in cpu usage or like UnderSeven mentions, how much a game like Halo or Gears actually uses (it could be that some kinect features are removed for multiplayer or that new games strike a balance between motion control and other unnecessary elements that will make the gaming experience even better). Ultimately though, if Kinect does nothing more then steal Nintendo customers then it will likely be a success for Microsoft (unfortunately, hard core gamers are not the only ones out there and I can hardly blame microsoft if it pursues them on occasion and not solely me). They can bring new customers to xbox and further develop the technology in Kinect while not purely losing money through R&D. Hopefully, The great game will only use Kinect if it enhances something and won't fall into the trap of adding a peripheral simply because it exists. As such, the game market shouldn't suffer. Ultimately, I have high hopes for Kinect but will reserve my verdict until a few months afte the dust has settled.
@ Arrogant_1 The "miles apart" is merely an expression showing that the two are not truly comparable. While PS2 certainly may have had a camera motion control, it never evolved to the level that Kinect, at least, appears to be. Voice recognition, facial recognition, 3d landscape mapping, multi-contoller (people) capabilities; while some of these elements were certainly in the PS3 magic duel and eye toy, they were not refined to the level promised by Kinect. Simply picking apart the individual components and boiling them down to their most basic level hardly captures a new technology. Cameras have been around for decades but surely an older polaroid camera could not compete against todays market. The same could be said of TVs and computers. To put it differently, the motion camera is promised to be far better in the Kinect than in past attempts. The voice recognition isn't simply a microphone but a way to communicate with the device. Neither have been combined into one device for gaming as Kinect has done. If these were the only differences, then they would be as far apart as any camera, tv, or gaming system made today compared to ten years ago. But certainly, I would agree that if someone only wanted a microphone to talk smack over multiplayer then I wouldn't tell them to get a Kinect. However, that is not to say it doesn't have value.
I don't see Kinect as a threat to hardcore gamers. I believe Microsoft and game developers are aware of what 360's owners are about... They mostly love to be on their couches playing for some hours moving nothing but their thumbs and fingers... I don't think that Kinect is coming to replace this experience and frustrate a large amount of XBox consumers, but to add new possibilities and to attract more people to the platform. Kinect is fore some, not for all, and I don't think it would slow down the production of controler-based games for good. I have a XBox and, of course, I like to spend my time playing GTA, still. But I often go to some friends' place to play Wii together and it's also fun. It's gonna be nice to have a Kinect in my living room and invite friends home sometimes... Maybe we're gonna look like morons dancing to the camera, but we're gonna LOL at ourselves and have a great time. So it's gonna worth it.
The Cpu usage of the kinect really kind of bothers me. This could be overcome possibly in future versions, by including an in board cpu, but having to upgrade a kinect is not going to win points with any gamers. I wonder if firmware can fix that. I also wonder how much CPU usage standard 360 games take. My guess would be that multiplayer games suck up the most CPU, which would suck because that would be highly limited to what the kinect can do.
After owning a Wii since launch I have come to realise that motion gaming comes with a honeymoon period. After this has worn off, you realise that it has to be the games which are the true priority. Keeping this in mind, I will see how Kinect turns out. If it ends up with a solid selection of exclusive games then I may well buy it. I will not write it off just yet, I will just keep my eye on it for now.
@gudni Lol, I couldn't agree more! I wrote a couple rants/posts about how silly the "who made who" rant actually is. All that matters is no matter what you play, you enjoy it ;]
Article conviently forgets to mention the fact that the Kinect system consumes about 10-15% of the Xbox 360's computing resources, and thus there will never be any true hardcore games in glorious HD, so forget about Halo Kinect, aint gonna happen.
This interview made it clear to me that they are clearly targetting more casual and family-friendly audiences first, yeah and I hope that I really said ''first'' and not ''only''.
@Arrogant_1 Didnt the power glove come out in 1989 (Nintendos first attempt at motion controls). I really dont care whos copying who.. Im just glad that slowly and steadily people are begining to see that motion controls can be awesome. No amount of HD glory on a regular control pad can make some of the great Wii games better. Regarding Move: The Wii has already tought developers what works and what doesnt with this type of controls and there is no reason for Move to go through the same excrusiating learning curb. This is where Kinect worries me more.
still kinect is a load of bull i dont want to play with motion or do crappy mini games i want to sit down with a controller and not look like a moron dancing around and waving
would everyone just STF up and wait for this thing to come out and we all get a chance to play it and see what its capable of before bashing it. i remember when I got the original xbox at launch and everyone was making fun of it and me for not getting a ps2. now look at xbox and what it has done for gaming we should all hope for the same with kinect
@Burns314 Really, I was getting tired of the "who made who" rant... but if you read the snippet the whole way through, you would have noticed it talked about the "Magic Duel" combo in '01 & then how the "EyeToy" was released in '03. The "EyeToy" most certainly IS a motion based control peripheral. Your argument and mine are similar, cause for real, I HONESTLY don't care who came out first... Did you really read my whole rant/post or just see a part that you wanted to debate & decided to post a rebuttal off of that? ;] Could someone explain to me how "Kinect" is SO "innovative" & the tech is "miles apart"? Motion camera, been done... Voice recognition, heard of a headset/mic? The wheels on the hype-wagon go round & round, round & round, ...ROUND & ROUND. For the record: I am slamming "lemming-type behavior" NOT MS, Kinect, or 360. I do have a PS3, but I have a great neighbor w/a 360 that is kind enough to swap systems w/me for weeks at a time.
@Arrogant_1 First off, the post you made (or at least the snipet you took from wiki) concerned a motion technology similar to the wii controller and not a camera based motion controller. Second, saying that Kinect is a "copy" of the PS3 motion controller first researched in 2001 is like saying a sports car is the copy of the model T. They may be built on the same premis but expanding technology and innovation puts them miles apart. Finally, who cares? I mean, the PS3 doesn't have a camera motion controller so whether xbox's is based on their technology is moot. I could say the PS3 is a copy of atari or another older game system but that doesn't mean I'm going to run out and grab an atari online to play. As for Kinect, I have great hopes for the peripheral but I'm going to wait to see what games are coming down the pipe line. It could work well with the controller or by itself in many ways but if it only does casual games like the Wii tends to then I'll probably sit this one out.
@ToySoldier34 I agree with you. However, the success of Kinect will ultimately be left to the numerous development houses and MS partners to create compelling content (i.e. games) that will utilize the Kinect technology. The success of those games will drive how popular Kinect will become, and will drive how quickly 360 users will adopt the Kinect interface. In other words, poorly written games will hurt Kinect directly, and will add nails to the coffin. Rest assured that MS will flog the heck out of Kinect for the foreseeable future. Good for them, I think this is an excellent step forward for us all. Even if the results are intangible at this point.
This was a good interview! Thanks Gamespot! This is the first time MS brass has openly favored a possible controller for Kinect...Even if it is just the standard controller. I think MS's tune will change considerably after the holiday rush. I am prototyping a physical hardware controller for Kinect. I am teasing it here: http://goo.gl/7WCC PLEASE check it out. We need the support of the core gaming community! If you wish to receive quicker updates follow me on twitter @cjovanbaker Thanks!
I want to lie back in my big comfy chair, relax, and play. I don't want to have to stand up or constantly make gestures or talk to play core games.
@DCUltrapro "who wants to waggle around a retarded colour ball on a stick anyway?" Your comment was worth reading until this line, which shows that you're no different from the PS3 fanboys you seem to hate so much. Not everyone shares this opinion and you seem to take it as a fact.
It has to be integration, not separation. Kinect + controller = probably very good. Just Kinect on it's own, wibbling your body and hands about like a lunatic = oh dear. For instance, on an FPS game, you could plainly use the control sticks for general control which will perfectly as it always has.... but what then if on that game you were pointing your sights at some particular idiot which could be another Live player or just in-game bot, who's annoyed you in some way, then you reach out your hand, making a gun shape and then "click - BOOM!" with your finger and thumb, and what happens on screen then is some sort of amazing blood/guts slow motion death.... all created by taking your hand off your controller just for that moment. THAT'S the kind of thing I want Kinect to be for....
Hate to break it to the masses of idiots on here, but "Kinect" AND "Wii" are both using copied tech that Sony developed back in 2001... A snippet from Wiki: "History Research on the PlayStation Move began as early as 2001, stemming from parallel development of the EyeToy which was eventually released in 2003. An early prototype version of the Move was demonstrated in a technology demo known as "Magic Duel" in 2001, in which developers experimented with color-based 3D controller tracking, including prototypes using spheres.[fn 3] In 2008 Sony began work on developing a commercial product, integrating inertial sensors into the motion controller, and refining the device from an engineering and a design perspective." Do what I did, research. Here I'll make it easy: google "history of motion gaming" and you might actually LEARN something! Side note: Those [#]'s are references found at the bottom of the page, figured I needed to explain Wiki also... considering how blind/inept some people on this site can be. ;] Now that the "who made who" rant has been smashed... I still wanna play "Kinect" regardless! I hope it does AMAZING things, which is what all systems are MEANT to do! This "my system/peripheral is > yours" crap is getting old.
I'm going to have to agree with Ultraviolence and R2K3W. I'm getting it for my own reasons but if you for lack of intelligence/vision/own ignorance can't see how something will work doesn't mean that it won't work. Nobody is forcing anybody to buy this don't like it don't buy it. I mean as a long time gamer if you would have told me back in the NES era that I would have a controller with 8 buttons, start, select, two analog sticks and a D pad; I and many others probably would have looked at you crazy but times change and things move forward it is an experiment that i honestly look forward to seeing how it turns out.
@Ultraviolence I wish it were that simple, but it is more than just don't buy it if you don't like it. You may have also noticed that Microsoft's 2011 exclusive line up really doesn't have anything other than Gears 3 at the end of the year. Microsoft put a huge amount of resouces into Kinect and supporting it inorder to steal the casual gamers from Nintendo. So even if we don't want Kinect and don't plan to buy it we are still effected. Of course theres no reason to hope it fails because that only hurts everybody, but I really don't see this going very far.
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