It’s been a while since I posted on the blog. It wasn’t for lack of desire, but it seems that fitness games for the Xbox have just dried up. I’d played and reviewed pretty much every active game on the Kinect; the “top 10″ list you see on this site hasn’t really changed because those old games pretty much remain the best of the best out there for working out (although I may be adding one more–Power Rangers Super Samurai–shortly). There’s a good chance that game developers are deliberately holding off on producing more games, knowing that the Xbox 360 has only a few months of life left before the newly announced Xbox One arrives.
The Xbox One is an interesting choice by Microsoft. Rather than evolving the Xbox into a next-generation gaming machine, it seems that they’re more interested in evolving it as a set-top box to control your TV, music, and entertainment, where gaming is only one feature. The Kinect will be built in to every unit, but instead of just a gaming device, it’ll allow you to control your TV.
Sounds good in theory. Microsoft has long ago taken over the corporate office. They tried to do the same with our mobile phones, and are now attempting to do the same with our living rooms.
The biggest problem I see isn’t in the idea, but in Microsoft’s continued problems with executing. Windows 8 was a valiant attempt to compete with Apple and Google in the mobile space, but their interface was mind-blowingly perplexing–I consider myself a pretty good computer and user interface expert, and even I was clueless on how to navigate the thing.
When I sit down with an Apple TV, or a TiVO, or even a Roku, I can figure the interface pretty quickly without thinking too hard about it. But as I’ve written many times on this blog, it seems that every game developer out there tries to develop its own navigation paradigm using Kinect, and they’re all equally bad. Similarly, when I try to play voice-activated games on the Kinect, I find myself shouting at the top of my lungs at the TV and never really getting anything done. And in both cases, forget about it if you have a group of people in the room.
They might surprise me and Xbox One might have the most intuitive motion and voice controls ever. I really hope they do, as that’s been the most frustrating thing about the Xbox 360 and the Kinect.
As far as what the Xbox One means for fitness gaming, that’ll be an interesting one to watch. The fact that every unit is going to have a Kinect built in will surely increase awareness and adoption of motion control gaming.The new Kinect will be much improved–it’ll be more accurate than the current Kinect (with a 1080p wide-angle camera) and able to process 2 gigabytes of data per second in scanning the room. It’ll supposedly be able to track up to 6 people at once (although good luck fitting them all into your living room). And I hear the new Xbox One controller will also be able to perform heart rate tracking, which could be pretty cool.
On the other hand, the new emphasis on the Xbox as an “entertainment system” for the living room might detract from adoption, especially from people who are used to having their Xbox in the family room, basement, or rec room. It’s kind of ironic they’re going in this direction, as more and more I find myself watching “TV” on my tablet and away from the living room couch. Another things that doesn’t bode well for the success of the Xbox One (or the PS4, for that matter) is that the systems will not be backwards compatible with older generation games.
Still, Majesco has already announced “Zumba Fitness World Party” for Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii, and Wii U coming in October, clearly hoping to strike lightning again after monster sales of Zumba Fitness Party, Zumba Fitness Core, and Zumba Fitness Rush. Of course, time will tell if that franchise isn’t getting a little dated. I’m sure at E3 in June we’ll see other product announcements, and we’ll see how many new Kinect games there are.
So, the lines are being drawn for a new console war, with the PS4 clearly going after hardcore gamers, and the Xbox One opting to focus on multimedia first and gaming second. We’ll know a year from now who made the right choice.