Microsoft’s motion-sensitive Kinect platform was revolutionary when it launched, and it’s still impressive to see it in action now, if you don’t have one sitting in your living room 24/7.
But the announcements about how Kinect will be used on the Xbox One make for strange reading for many gamers, even for those who cannot put their finger on what is unsettling about Microsoft’s plans.
In short, widespread reports claimed that, in order for the Xbox One to function, the Kinect sensor would need to be attached and ‘always on’.
This followed previous reports that the console would need to be attached to a functioning internet connection in order to avoid locking users out.
Due to Kinect’s method of ‘seeing’ the user in order to allow them to act as the controller, this raised significant security concerns – not necessarily directed against Microsoft themselves, but against the risk of hackers spying on individuals in their own home.
A camera with an internet connection – which is what a web-enabled Kinect sensor effectively is – could give hackers the equivalent of remote-access CCTV directly into gamers’ homes, if an exploit were found.
Even if not, some individuals were not willing to give that kind of capability to Microsoft either, which seems fair enough to me.
The clinching factor in the whole thing is that, each time the gamer community voices these concerns, Microsoft announce a turnaround on the feature in question.
Gone is the demand for an always-on internet connection – although your account may still be frozen if you are considered to have abused other players or otherwise acted inappropriately.
Gone is the demand for the Kinect sensor to be on at all times – although the kit is still reportedly bundled with the new console, and will probably be set up in many homes even without thinking.
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s opponents are launching their own next-generation models as part of a fairly stretched-out refresh cycle for the gaming industry.
The Nintendo Wii-U has proved, so far, to be the most complicated of the new consoles, which is odd coming off the back of one of the most intuitive, easy-access consumer electronics devices of all time.
But it is Sony’s PlayStation 4 that is probably the most hotly awaited – not counting those who want the Xbox One to launch just to see how badly it performs in stores.
The PS4 has enviable pedigree, coming in the footsteps of the all-time greatest console (at least in terms of sales and longevity) the PS2, and I will be watching closely to see if it can live up to its grandfather’s legacy, or whether Microsoft can pull off a miracle and gain widespread support for the Xbox One.