Are Microsoft Doing The Home Media Center Thing Right?

I just saw an article on Edge saying the Microsoft are testing a build of IE9 for the Xbox 360. This lead me to think, maybe Microsoft’s home media hub strategy is working quite well. The infiltrated our homes as a pure gaming device, not having spent much on making the console a media centre apart from video playback from (DVD and DivX) and music playback.

Keeping things simple at the start meant that the X-Box 360 was (and still is) substantially cheaper than it’s Rival the PS3, which meant it got higher market saturation. Now that they have built up a large install base they have started adding features like Streaming Video and now a browser.

Compare and contrast this with Sony’s strategy of releasing a super expensive console  with everything built into it, by gradually adding features Microsoft have sneakily put a media hub into the homes of gamers, and can now negotiate better deals with content providers as they have a large install base.

I own both a 360 and a PS3 and I’ll admit that the only thing I use the PS3 for it media playback (And playing Final Fantasy XIII, but that’s a different story, I initially bought the console because FF13 wasn’t going to coming out on the 360).

Now the X-Box Costs so little and Microsoft are even talking about releasing it as a subscription service ($99 for the console with a 24 month contract), it will probably live on past the release of the next version of the X-Box and continue making them money as a media hub for people who use it to consume media rather than just play games. Then when people upgrade they can take whatever media features they want with them, I doubt MS will reduce the feature set with the Next-Box 360 they’ve already got the licensing agreements, and a revenue stream.

I think it’s possible that Microsoft and Sony had a Tortoise/Hare race going with this generation of the console war, and it’s looking like Microsoft’s Tortoise strategy has has beaten Sony’s Hare brained plans…

Hide your First Born Kinect is Coming!

I got an email today from Microsoft warning me about the imminent release of Kinect… Apparently in order to play Kinect you have to dress in shades of green and not Cos-Play a Big Daddy from BioShock.

Colour me cynical but the artistic styling of the above image screams Wii Fit. It’s clear what Microsoft’s target audience for this is, the Wii is 4 years old and given that it’s essentially “Two Game Cubes duct taped together” the graphics technology behind the Wii is about 9 years out of date, and it wasn’t exactly cutting edge to start with given that Nintendo decided to go for affordability and “fun” over power when they released the Game Cube.

The X-Box 360 on the other hand is only 5 years old and was built for raw graphical power and ease of development so it can make prettier pictures then the Wii and do so much faster.

It’s no secret that Microsoft and Sony are after a bit of casual gaming pie, they have chosen two distinctly different ways of doing this though, Microsoft going the controller-less route which at first seems more intuitive, but it lacks feedback. It’s all good and well dancing in front of the TV like a Muppet, but you when you try to interact with the game you have to do so by way of mime, there are no buttons which I think is the biggest flaw in Kinect. Sony on the other hand has gone for essentially copying the Wii remote but in such a way that they don’t step on any Nintendo patents. The ridiculous coloured balls on the Sony Motion controllers have been a turn off to a lot of people I’ve spoke to, they don’t gel with the whole PS3 aesthetic, which is Big, Black and Powerful. It’s like having pink furry seat covers on a Humvee. They do have buttons though, which means that you can interact with the game/navigate menus without having to memorise  scripted dances.

Personally I’m sceptical of the whole motion sensing fad anyway, I have a Wii and a Wii balance board. And the only thing it ever gets used for is Wii Fit and recently playing super Mario Galaxy and New Super Mario Brothers; Neither of which really need motion control. I essentially use the Wii like a really sophisticated scale and as a Game Cube. I may be an old school gamer but when I play video games the only things I want to be moving are my thumbs and my index and middle fingers, the rest of me could be in a vegetative state for all I care, because that’s why I play games, to Veg out.

I know that lots of people use their wee as a party accessory, but to be honest in my experience it is only novel the first couple of times it comes out then it gets boring. Also I tend to have more than 4 people round for a “Party” and given the amount of space a bunch of Wii players takes up they become hard to ignore for the other 10-20 people there, thus the party ends and becomes a spectator sport, which isn’t very fun.

The point of this rant was that I’m sceptical about Kinect… I think I got a little lost down the road, but in short I think that Kinect is going to be one of those things that tons of people buy use for a month or so then it’s going to sit there gathering dust, just like most Wiis do, I have about the same amount of hope for the Play Station Move, but at least it has a lower cost of entry, you can buy the basic pack for £49.99 or so which is less than half the Kinect’s £129.99 price tag, sure you will have to buy more controllers and more nunchucks (I don’t actually know what Sony are calling them but that’s what they are a wireless rip off of the Wii Nunchuck) but to start with to test it out you have to pay less which I think will make a lot of difference, except for the fact that you have to actually have a PS3 or an X-Box to get either of them, which adds at least £200 to your purchase price…

This is going nowhere an turning into a rant. I will close with the most petty reason for my dislike of the Kinect, it’s name, it’s just rubbish, and pretty much every time I’ve typed it here I’ve had to correct it from Kinnect to Kinect…