Connecting with Kinect via Kinect Fun Labs

Connecting with Kinect via Kinect Fun Labs

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 30th Mar 2012

Kinect Fun Labs

As the 2012 Gaming Season finally begins to open up, games journalists the world over are pulling out their figurative crystal balls and giving them a good polish as they prepare to begin writing the traditional retrospective looking-back pieces that will put the defining view upon last year's gaming season. We are already seeing some of these pieces appear online now that there has been sufficient time to quantify all of the events and decisions by the major players in the industry that took place in 2011, measuring how that all relates to both the previous seasons and the individual predictions for how the events might relate to the season yet to come. Naturally there are certain devices that appear high on the radar; Apple's iPad and Microsoft's Kinect for Xbox 360 being two of them.

While the iPad largely exceeded expectations and managed to carve its own solid niche in the mobile gaming sphere, Microsoft's entry in motion-sensing gaming controllers -- the Xbox 360 Kinect -- ended up presenting both high and low scores across the board and, depending upon how you looked at it, was both a smashing success and a crashing failure.

The sales success that the device enjoyed upon launch obtained for it the official Guinness World Record as the Fastest-Selling Consumer Electronics Device ever, charting an impressive sales record of an average of 133,333 units per day for a total of 8 million units in its first 60 days, on sale from 4th November 2010 to 3rd January 2011 -- sales figures that easily outstrip both the iPhone and the iPad for the equivalent periods after launch. Those impressive numbers make it hard to understand how the Kinect could show such poor statistics for sales and use in markets like Japan, where it sold less than 44,000 units in total for the month of December 2010.

The slow release of titles that leverage what the Kinect can offer are thought to be at least partly behind the lower-than-anticipated sales in Japan, and the low activity in use statistics throughout the first half of 2011 is easily explained by the paucity of titles for the adult and serious gamer segments of the population. The marked success in attracting adult gamers to the controller through the inclusion of Kinect support in games like Forza Motorsport 4, Mass Effect 3, and Kinect Star Wars, and the announcement of titles like Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and the widely anticipated console conversion of the smash PC game Minecraft join an established line of games meant to draw an audience for child-gamers like Kinect Sports 2, Disneyland Adventures and Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster, in order to round-out the system's appeal.

Considering that the device was initially launched in 2010 -- due in part to the reality that the lion's share of the games, apps, and arcade titles that showcase its special abilities as well as what it has to offer Xbox gamers actually occurred in 2011 -- it is understandable that its significant impact upon the motion-sensing controller market is only now being freshly felt and judged. There is no question that the Kinect sensor has had a significant impact, or that games studios are now fully accepting and embracing the device, creating games that make use of the Kinect exclusively rather than simply adding minimal support for it in their titles.

Thanks to its strong and well-established track record of consistency in support and performance improvements from Microsoft, we are finally seeing high-quality titles that are exclusive to Kinect -- which is a development that had to happen to ensure that the Kinect controller system becomes an active element in Xbox gaming, and not the footnote that devices like the Wii's balance board or the game-specific special controllers like those of the music rhythm genre that have now fallen out of favor with gamers. Clearly Kinect is here to stay.

When Microsoft opened its Press Conference at last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) it did so with a very strong focus upon a new suite of apps (really a base app and a suite of add-ins) called The Kinect Fun Labs, which presents as a serious effort to focus gamer attention upon what the Kinect can do. The suite of apps that orbit around Kinect Fun Labs are actually created by a number of different game studios (though are published by Microsoft Game Studios, naturally) who have accepted the challenge issued by Microsoft to showcase the capabilities of the new motion-sensing controller system, and they have done so with considerable success!