With all the talk about Kinect at Microsoft's E3 presentation, I'm inclined to believe that Microsoft has forgone its core fanbase, and has instead attempted to appeal to a mass market, like children and grandparents. While, on a marketing level, this might make sense, on a personal level, it seems a betrayal of the fans that have supported Microsoft since its first endeavor into gaming around a decade ago.
The first Xbox, while far from the success that is the Xbox 360 today, was a great first effort from Microsoft, who tried to compete against the big guns of veterans Sony and Nintendo, and managed to make a stake for themselves in the gaming world. This time, early 2000s, was a time when video games were not yet as mainstream as they are today, and, without trying to sound like a hipster, it was a better time. Truly, if you even had an Xbox, you were something of a hardcore gamer, because, with the exception of Halo and a few other games, the games offered on the original Xbox were pretty under the radar. However, the core audience, myself included, helped to make the Xbox such a success that Microsoft granted the audience the Xbox 360, a fabulous piece of hardware with great core games such as Gears of War, a new Halo, and Assassins Creed. However, I think that most everybody can see that there was a huge shift in the late 2000s, as gaming became more and more socially acceptable, with Call of Duty 4 at the forefront of the revolution. However, even with the massive success that was the Nintendo Wii, Microsoft held strong, not bowing down to such mass market competition with a new control device or "Xbox Sports."
However, when Microsoft released the Kinect for Xbox, I was a little shocked, and felt a little betrayed. Here was my favorite hardware maker, delving into the casual game market. It's hard to blame them. The Wii was a massive success for Nintendo, despite the lack of any significant online presence nor a great bastion of third-party software. It was a hit with the casual crowd, and anyone from a small child to grandma or grandpa could pick it up. Certainly any executive or shareholder would demand such an innovation from Microsoft, and, unfortunately, they bowed with the Kinect. I'm not saying the Kinect is bad; in fact, I played with it myself a few months back, at a Christmas party. It was certianly a lot of fun; ducking under logs, steering a raft, and dancing to Dance Central with my friends was a great social experience. While I'd never purchase one myself, I do admit that it is a great piece of hardware for parties, and the like. However, with a new piece of hardware comes the need to market it, and shift resources away from other ventures in order to ensure its success. While the effects have really yet to be seen, I think any core game can see that Microsoft is no longer that hardcore company making great games like Fable. In fact, Fable 3 was a disaster in my opinion, with little to naught originality and a somewhat lackluster story. Looking at Sony, however, the Move, while arguably third in the motion control race, has great functionality and something great for all genres of games, like FPSs and adventure games. Sony has games like Uncharted, which are some of my all-time favorites, and has free online service. Even with the recent attacks I still have faith in Sony to deliver top-notch experieces for its core crowd, and they rewarded this loyalty in return with free copies of games such as InFamous and LittleBigPlanet.
While I'll continue to play both the Xbox 360 and PS3, my faith in Microsoft has been diminished a bit due in part to their shift away from the core gamer towards that of the casual, mom and pop audience. Right now the core audience only has Gears of War, and maybe the new Halo game from 343 Studios. Sony has Uncharted 3 and InFamous 2, IPs that are, forgive the 90s speech, hard to the core. I can only hope that Microsoft will realize in time that it is losing its core audience, and needs to bring them back, lest they lose to Sony in the upcoming console race.