Natal is Real

I’ve seen peo­ple say that Natal is a hoax, that it doesn’t or can’t work. Sor­ry, it is for real. The demos at E3 were not smoke and mir­rors. Many devel­op­ers have seen and test­ed it, and the accu­ra­cy with which Natal tracks your move­ments is uncan­ny. I look for­ward us get­ting our devk­it.

But Natal will not be the nir­vana of gam­ing . There are at least two big, obvi­ous prob­lems with it.

1. No one is going to play a game for long while per­form­ing full arm or full body motions. This is not a joke about gamer physique.

The great thing about the lit­tle con­troller in my hands is this: All I need to do is make a lit­tle motion with my thumb, press a but­ton, or pull a trig­ger. Then I watch as my (vir­tu­al) self does hero­ic, amaz­ing, phys­i­cal­ly chal­leng­ing stuff. Min­i­mal phys­i­cal effort on my part, a lit­tle skill in terms of tim­ing and coor­di­na­tion, and then I get the max­i­mum visu­al and expe­ri­en­tial reward.

2. I don’t know about you, but in my lit­tle San Fran­cis­co apart­ment, I don’t have a 10′ x 10′ open area in front of the tele­vi­sion. I cer­tain­ly don’t have a safe bor­der even beyond that with­out fur­ni­ture to run into.

There was a talk at GDC this year about our assump­tions of how and where we play video games (the phys­i­cal space), but this takes the cake. Of course, I do think it will be amus­ing for the QA depart­ment to be set up in a gym­na­si­um.

So, Natal will be a great par­ty and fam­i­ly game tool. And as the Wii has proven, that could be huge sell­er. But in core gam­ing mar­ket, it’s not a game chang­er, as the Wii may also have proven. Mul­ti­chan­nel voice recog­ni­tion may be great. It leads us to bet­ter inter­ac­tion with our arti­fi­cial cre­ations, or at least a deep­er ver­sion of Endwar’s voice com­mand sys­tem. And I have hopes for some inter­est­ing uses for Natal: minigames and non-core game­play. After that, I’m not sure.

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