Once upon a time, Microsoft dreamed of a world in which every entertainment center featured a Kinect. Actually, they wanted the Kinect to be the star of your home entertainment experience. They thought everyone would happily abandon their remotes and use a combination of movements and voice commands to control their living room media.
In retrospect, that was a pretty elaborate fantasy.
The Kinect received a lukewarm reception when it launched for the Xbox 360. It was seen as Microsoft’s attempt to capitalize on the success of the Nintendo Wii’s motion controls. To that end, all anyone could seem to focus on was the fact that there weren’t many Kinect games worth playing.
Some consumers found a different way to look at the Kinect. Within weeks of the device’s release, videos started to appear showing people using the Kinect as everything from a sign language translator to a VR motion controller. It soon became clear that while the Kinect’s games were a disappointment, the technology fueling the device certainly was not.
To their credit, Microsoft tried to change the direction of the device. They wanted it to be an essential component of the Xbox One. The idea was that every Xbox One would require a Kinect to fully function. Once everyone was using the device, Microsoft could start treating it as a Minority Report-like motion device that allowed users to have unprecedented control over their consoles and televisions.
That didn’t happen. Users were not nearly as confident in the Kinect as Microsoft was, and they certainly weren’t happy to see how the device raised the cost of the Xbox One. The market spoke, and Microsoft listened. By the time the Xbox One S rolled around, the Kinect had gone from “essential” to “novelty.”
So what should Microsoft do with the Kinect as it relates to the release of their mysterious Project Scorpio console? While the company has indicated the system will support the Kinect, there’s still some question as to how much the system should rely on the device.
As sad as it is to say, Microsoft must view the Kinect as a liability to Scorpio’s potential success. There was a time when the company could have used the Kinect as a major selling point for the Xbox brand, but they botched their opportunity by trying to force the device on consumers instead of showing them practical examples of how useful the device could be.
As it stands, the Kinect is a toxic brand name. Gamers think of it either as a failed Wii clone or an elaborate gimmick. The best Microsoft can hope for is to one day implement the technology naturally into a future console in a way that doesn’t require a separate device or a raise in price.
Then again, that might be the biggest fantasy yet.