Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What Do We Have Here?

Is this an officially licensed, wireless Microsoft racing wheel revealed at E3 2011? Seems so. But lets look beyond the obvious. What piece of Xbox hardware could best benefit from this wireless design? Kinect perhaps? I believe so, and here is why. (And doesn't it look like two joined Project K handles?)

Microsoft has a conundrum it can't easily resolve with Kinect sales numbers. On one hand, MS has the hottest motion control sensor in the gaming market that makes YOU the controller. On the other hand, YOU are a Xbox gamer; and there is a high percentage YOU belong to a little faction called "Core Gamers".

The problem is core gamers aren't buying into Microsoft's controller-less motion system. The Kinect sensor is doing extremely well due to casual gamer adoption, not core gamer adoption. Don't agree with me? Just listen to the recent E3 presser and count the number of times you hear "core" during the Kinect section. Microsoft needs core gamers to churn the Kinect experience.

This steering wheel peripheral reveal does two things for Microsoft. 1) Fills a hole of the racing wheel dropped from current production. 2) Most importantly - Fills a hole for racing fans and Kinect. The wireless feature ensures that.

How does this wheel's existence allow Microsoft to sidestep the immediate question of "is this a Forza 4/JoyRide Kinect controller"? Easy. The company can truthfully answer "No. Its our new racing wheel that replaces the recently dropped from production version." You can expect a similar statement to keep Kinect's tagline "YOU are the controller" in place. Since the peripheral wasn't mentioned in the recent E3 presser at all; MS has quietly offered a controller to a lauded controller-less sensor. I hope you can see that.

It is becoming painfully obvious Microsoft will have to introduce a hardware-based control standard for Kinect. To do that, the Kinect tagline "You are the controller", will have to be forgotten. And rather than debase that $500 millon marketing investment; expect Microsoft to forget the tagline in the next version of Kinect, that will be built into the next Xbox, which will demand a hardware controller. The new tagline will read "You are STILL the controller!".


  1. This is a pretty well thought out piece, and I agree with you on most fronts. I don't see Kinect being the main controller for many (or any) hardcore games, not because it's not good or anything, but it simply lacks the fine user control input such games would need. And I agree MS backed themselves against a wall here with their, you are the controller mantra. The controller above is one example of how kinect can be used in hardcore games, and some of the features shown off in ME3 and Forza 4 at E3 highlight some other interesting, and meaningful, ways kinect can be used to augment hardcore gameplay rather than replace the main controller.

  2. @~Da Juice..Thanks for replying. There will come a junction where MS will have to seriously consider allowing the full control core gamers are demanding with Kinect. I think once MS swallows that $500 million marketing pride, we will see a new hardware controller for the sensor.

  3. I'm a little confused where you're coming from here -- this isn't a Kinect accessory. It doesn't use the Kinect sensor. It's just a 360 controller. It's no more a "backdoor" for Kinect controllers than the existing 360 pad is.

    Core gamers aren't clamoring for hardware-based motion controls. Core gamers are, broadly, rejecting motion controls in favor of buttons and sticks. MS is already angling at that by focusing on voice controls and headtracking augmented by a standard pad.

  4. @typoink Lets clear up any confusion you may have. I agree, this isn't branded a Kinect accessory. Why would MS outright debased years of Kinect R&D in that action?

    Now, lets predict the obvious future for a sec. Lets say casual gamers aren't buying new Kinect titles at percentages that make stockholders happy. Who do you think MS will begin focusing more of its attention on? That's right, Core gamers...who churn software adoption.

    And I disagree with you on what core gamers are clamoring for. Just yesterday, I heard Josh Topolsky (from thisismynext.com) in a recent podcast blatantly say "He doesn't get kinect. He wants a hardware based controller to draw him in." We want this control option for Kinect! Thats more than obvious.

    Plus, I really don't want to move my character in a Kinect game by yelling/leaning FORWARD! LEFT! There is too much loss of precise control here.