Even today, Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensor for the Xbox consoles seems good in theory. In practice, it turned out to be a muddled mess without a clear direction. One man who was close to the device and Microsoft Studios is Peter Molyneux, he of Fable and Theme Park fame. In a new interview, the respected developer labelled Kinect a “trainwreck”.
Speaking to IGN, Molyneux said “you know, Kinect… I’ll be honest with you. It was a disaster.”
“It was a trainwreck,” he continued. “It started as this device which kind of could do everything itself. It didn’t take up any processor power, the field of view could encompass the whole room. The audio on it, which no one really talks about, was originally supposed to be multi-sensing, it could sense where you were.”
Molyneux was the creator of the Fable series through his Lionhead studio. Microsoft purchased the studio in 2006, but ultimately shuttered it last year. Molyneux had already ridden off into the sunset after departing Lionhead in 2012 to form his own concept developer 22cans.
Despite its obviously strong abilities, Kinect soon strayed away from its early promise. Molyneux says the device could not achieve its original goals and “ended up being none of those things,” he said, pointing to the poor range abilities of the device. “Its promise… was so enormous. In fact, it reminds me a little bit of VR at the moment,” he added.
Molyneux certainly has a point. My personal opinion on Kinect is that it was far ahead of its time. A sort of intermediate device that bridged the gap from normal console gaming to where we are heading now with virtual and mixed reality.
Learning from Kinect
Indeed, Microsoft’s current HoloLens arguably borrows a lot from Kinect. Molyneux believes it ultimately fell short of it massive potential, but it is worth noting that Microsoft was the only company trying such a bold concept.
Sure, we can point to the motion abilities of the Wii, which actually worked and resulted in a smash hit console. Sony’s attempts with its Move technology seemed to come with a lack of effort. The Japanese company appeared to be approaching the motion sensor market with a me-too attitude.
So, Wii hit it out of the park, but it was Kinect that was trying to change the game. As Molyneux points out, it never succeeded, but for a time there was a feeling it could. Of course, Microsoft’s decision to bundle it as a necessary component of the Xbox One at launch also caused harm.
Indeed, the Xbox One has never recovered from a sales perspective. The higher cost of the Kinect-packing Xbox One was a significant reason in Sony outselling the console with its PS4. Microsoft correctly decided to stop making consumers buy a Kinect when they bought the console.
Lastly, it should be noted that Microsoft has not discontinued Kinect. It can still be bought as an accessory for the Xbox One.