Project Natal – Opinion Piece
PROJECT NATAL – An opinion.
Back ages ago; before the big three console companies released their second-generation consoles, there was a lot of buzz about what they would do? Then back in the day (I’m 35 so I can legitimately use that phrase now) each of the consoles in the market, had their grooves, their bragging rights- Microsoft’s X-Box had its online LIVE feature and its grunt. Nintendo’s Game Cube had its ease of use and low cost. Sony’s Playstation 2 had their fan base, and game library.
This all changed when the various next-generation consoles were announced, confirmed and released. Sony took over the grunt moniker and revealed their online system would rival the 360. The 360 focussed its attention on its online feature LIVE and its integration into your normal home entertainment system. What did the Wii have? Lowest grunt of all three but. Motion control. Interesting. Weird I thought. I didn’t know if its would sell. My bet at the time that the PS3 would obliterate everything and the Wii would die because it was a dumb gimmick thus leaving the 360 in the middle surviving on its online gaming.
Man do I suck. One thing I do remember way back then was being told that the new X-Box could have a menu control system similar to what Tom Cruise had in Minority Report (minus the graphical interface and mentally challenged gnome like actor). I could navigate the menu by waiving my hands around. Who thought all that wanking might pay off one day. When the 360 came out I forgot about it completely. (The motion control not wanking).
Enough about wanking more about the Wii. Again, man I was wrong about the Wii.
The success of the Wii really impresses me as a clever example of marketing genius. People I know at work, play their kid’s Wii. The same people wouldn’t touch a PS3 or a 360 because they themselves “are too old for that game thing”. The fact that most people can wield a stick also means that they can adapt a lot better to the Wii’s interface. Deciphering the controller is easier. I understand the 360 remote, but my mum wouldn’t- but she could probably wave a stick about as good as anyone. So she is already a good way to being able to control a Wii game. The Wii branched out into a market of non-game players with the Wii Fit and people trying something different.
Via Project Natal Microsoft is trying to take it further. It appears they have had this technology in their back pocket for ages. Waiting to see how the motion control would be received has proven to be an apt marketing strategy. Looking at the project Natal video initially I was blown away. How cool is that? It’s like taking the Wii and taking it one step further. How clever is that? Taking your opposition’s main selling feature and improving it. It makes sense- look at how the Wii is obliterating both the 360 and the PS3 in sales.
On closer examination I have decided to take the role of the devils’ advocate, hoping to be proven wrong. SO here we go… Sure the way it plays out looks great and looks like a lot of fun. IF IT ACTAULLY WORKS. It is Microsoft for remember. They rushed the 360s out with buggered heat sinks resulting in the well-known “red ring of death”. Admittedly they did step up to the plate and were willing to repair them for free. As they should have (my 360 has had it twice). Is Natal as seamless as the video suggests? I don’t know. It’s a big play by Microsoft- probably the biggest “hardware add on” on an existing console ever… So they had to have gotten it right huh? Again this is Microsoft. You would have thought that they learnt from the disaster of the original XBOX marketing in Asia for the 360 launch… nope- games cinematics were in English. DOH!
Still my interest and excitement was tapped after seeing the video. All of the promo videos look awesome. Facial recognition, voice recognition, I don’t do Myspace but I understand that’s a big selling point. A friend’s wife, who HATES gaming, actually commented that she would enjoy the NATAL system after watching the video. This resulted in many hi 5s from the pair of us. So maybe this will get the 360 into the non-gamer market. Maybe. My only big concern will be the games themselves. The full body motion capturing is genius. But if I wanted to jump around like a tool in my own home- I’d buy a Wii and a Wii Fit. I want to sit on my ass like a tool, drink beer and shoot things online with my mates Wretch, McTarget, Panda and this mum nicknamed Ripley in Idaho- That’s why I got a 360. I’d probably buy the Natal system because it is cool but I’d also want to use a controller a lot too. Yet 360 owners bought their console for what it offered- easy to use online gaming and guaranteed icons of the gaming world like the Master Chief and his heir apparent Marcus Fenix. Sure Natal is cool but I don’t see myself on a Saturday afternoon after 7 beers jumping round my room to Gears 3 for a while without throwing up.
Microsoft obviously wants this to be the next bit thing in gaming and it has the potential to be just that. It probably will be the biggest thing in gaming history- if it pays off. Will big 360 companies like Epic or Budgie come to the party create Napal games? It might be cool but then again will they want to? I mean if they make a game that can interface with both then aren’t games that have both controller capacities going to cost be more? BOO! The Wii is generally cheaper than its high-end rivals and this has been a successful philosophy with Nintedo for a while. Project Natal is periphery hardware, so it’s going to cost some extra bank on an existing mid cost system. This may hamstring it. Microsoft is going to have their software balls into two baskets. One- for traditional gaming that the system was based on and two- the cool shit you see in the videos. All of the software for the Wii other than backwards compatibility- involves the wavy stick. They have all their software balls in one basket. Microsoft with two balls in two baskets might find themselves like a certain dead German dictator.
I’m deliberately taking the devil’s advocate point of view regarding Project Natal. I want it to work, I really, really do. Taking into consideration my betting on the next-generation console’s successes, then it’s more than likely that Project Natal will go gangbusters. That will make me happy. If this is true then I’ll be the first to say my fears were unfounded. I’ll probably love this and I might lose weight by jumping about as Marcus Fenix in Gears 3.
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