Microsoft's heavily anticipated E3 show is a disaster. As always, I am more than willing to give the Natal - now officially named the "Kinect" - the benefit of the doubt. But everything I see so far leaves me with two simple words: Epic Fail. The name is a joke. The price, if early announcements by retailers are to be believed, is outrageous. Nearly all of the launch games are shameless ripoffs of Nintendo's Wii Sports and Wii Fit, and Ubisoft's Just Dance. Not one of these games is a hit.
Not one game has a hook. There's no immediate "wow" factor, nothing that immediately grabs your attention and makes you want to play. This is the essential trait to all classic video arcade games, and Nintendo's games have it in spades. Kinect only offers cheap knockoffs. It reeks of desperation and it shows.
If there are some real games for this Kinect, then Microsoft had better show them on Tuesday. And they had better allow attendees to play for themselves. Have you noticed that the on-stage demonstration was faked? Milli Vanilli for the year 2010. Microsoft spent how much on this thing? And they expect to sell it for a $150 - in addition to the Xbox 360?! They seriously expect us to pay that much?! This is the biggest laugh to come along since The Gong Show.
For a long while, I've expected to see Sony bow out of the video games market, due to their enormous losses with the Playstation 3, the disastrous PSP Go, and the overall collapsing of the hardcore gamer market (all those PS2 owners seem to have disappeared). And we still haven't brought up the outrageous production costs of modern game titles, which continue to skyrocket year after year without drawing in new customers. This is a doomed business model, and Nintendo was right all along to face that unpleasant fact.
But now, I'm beginning to wonder if Microsoft is also vulnerable. Just how much money has the company sunk into its Xbox enterprise over the years? How much has been thrown away on the Natal project? And how much money will be burned away if it fails at retail? We're in the worst economy since the Great Depression. No family is going to spend $400 to play Wii Sports.
What the Kinect needs are hits. It needs a killer app. What it offers is the worst video game lineup since...well, ever. Like I said, it's still too early to make the call. But this may be the worst. Heck, even the Atari Jaguar had Tempest 2000. Epic fail.