Project Natal: what’s the worst that can happen?

Flash-forward to the grim, unholy darkness of a post-Natal world. Possibly.

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, January 14, 2010

Natal’s sizeable launch line-up was stuffed with established franchises. Warner Bros’s Natal Kombat and EA’s Natal for Speed were underwhelming, skin-deep, big-name knock-offs beset with glitches, but the first party offerings hauled in the slack. Cream of the crop? Super Iwata Slapper, a Rare title in which players roam a vast, open-ended city happy-slapping members of Nintendo’s executive board (according to Youtube, over a million user clips were uploaded in the month following the game’s release). Ubisoft brought up the rear with a dozen passable mini-games, including a new Ravin’ Rabbids title, and promised great things to come in the form of a motion-sensitive Splinter Cell remake.

It was, you texted to sceptical 360-owing acquaintances, a mixed assortment, but then launch line-ups tend to be. Casting a last, lingering glance at the Natal unit before turning in for the night, you felt the rich, all-pervading glow of the justified consumer – the same righteous satisfaction that flooded your veins when a PSP first came to life in your hands, the jubilation you experienced on winning your first bout of Wii Tennis. Oh dear. Hindsight makes fools of us all.

Super Iwata Slapper in action. I've got patent pending on that.

Super Iwata Slapper in action. I've got patent pending on that.

Demand predictably reached fever pitch over Christmas, but new releases were scarce in January. No biggie, you thought. January’s always been a graveyard period. Your mates, tickled but not quite won over by the joys of Super Iwata Slapper, shrugged their shoulders and went back to their humdrum old controller-based first-person shooters and sports games.

The worm of doubt began to wriggle when you took a long hard look at Microsoft’s dedicated Natal Live Marketplace channel, launched alongside the device itself. It wasn’t just that the games on offer were, by and large, tech demos – they were also overpriced tech demos, with the cheapest demanding no less than 1200 MSP for its questionable thrills.

Now a proficient Natal user, you began to notice some definite technical shortcomings. Slight input lag and the occasional mis-registering of movements in cluttered surroundings were the main issues, thwarting your assaults on the upper echelons of the scoreboards.

At the same time, it dawned on you that Natal accessories – mostly 20 quid a pop – were disturbingly over-represented at local retail outlets. These accessories included a latex glove sprinkled with infrared-receptive dots, purporting to boost Natal’s performance by “a clear 10%”, and a plastic gun type thing for Activision’s misguided family-friendly Disney cross-over, Call of Goofy.

10 Responses to “Project Natal: what’s the worst that can happen?”

  1. Johnny Anonymous says:

    Wow. You really need a life.

  2. ECM says:

    While this is hyperbolic, it pretty much sounds exactly what is going to happen w/ this device.

  3. Brush says:

    Enough of the Natal and red ring nonsense, when is your interview with Naughty Dog coming out….you know…the one about what %age of the PS3′s power is being used in their next game (i hear it’s going to be 15%)

    • Edwin says:

      Heh, all in good time old son. First I need to write up that editorial on how Halo causes dysentery.

  4. Brush says:

    In all seriousness Edwin…

    Am i going to open a copy of Edge over the next few months, to be confronted with an article on the ways in which Natal will fail, accompanied by a picture of a red ringed 360.

    No..i’m not.

    As a multiplatform site it’s surprising to me to see an article where you’ve assumed the character of the worlds biggest Sony fan to write it…was it a great stretch to get into that mindset? I would hope so, but fear not, because you’re arguments are as sharp as only those basking in the glow of the cell can muster (splinter cell – ouch)

    Which is a shame…level playing field and all that…article next week on how Sony wand will crash and burn accompanied by a YLOD picture? (and perhaps one of Anne Robinson, uber Milf). I suspect that’s lined up to show me the error of my critisicms….surely..

    • Edwin says:

      Er, well I suppose the first thing I’d say to that is that this is all a bit of a joke. An extreme joke, perhaps, but a joke nonetheless. I seriously doubt Activision’s working on a title named Call of Goofy, for instance, though I’d be delighted if they were. Secondly, I think if you de-exaggerate the piece a few notches you’re left with a not-implausible account of what Natal may face post-launch. Microsoft probably *will* have troubles getting publishers to release games for the interface as long as it remains optional – unless, of course, the entire market goes nuts over it Wii-style, which I doubt.

      If you’re worried we’re going too hard on Natal, I suggest you read Adam’s super-positive hands-on from E3. As for our Sony wand coverage – I’d love to go to town on the thing, but only when it seems newsworthy and resources allow. Will start stockpiling Anne Robinson snapshots :)

  5. Brush says:

    Do so asap… is a good place to start.

    As much as MS may/will crash and burn with Natal (they’re making such a big deal of it, PR disaster of the century may be on the way). Some of the suggestions, when you de exaggerate, fall a few miles wide.

    ”Microsoft probably *will* have troubles getting publishers to release games for the interface as long as it remains optional”

    This for example…there is no discussion to be had regarding Natal being ‘compulsory’…they’ll not be saying ‘sorry Mr Kotick, but Call Of Goofy can’t be released because it doesn’t use Natal’ — There’s just nothing there, and would you extrapolate an argument this far away from sense if it were Sony? That’s a pretty crazy question, but…dial it back a bit, and i’m probably closer to the mark.

    We all have our favourites, and hey, i probably just made you less impartial by having a moan.

  6. Edwin says:

    Ah, I wasn’t being clear in my comment there. When I said Natal would be an optional feature I meant for the consumer, not the developer/publisher – Microsoft isn’t (or so it tells us) planning to bundle them with every 360 sold, though I’d be very surprised if it didn’t have a custom SKU or two up its sleeve. And if 360 users can’t be relied upon to own the unit, where’s the commercial sense in producing Natal-intensive or Natal-only games? (Again, ruling out for the moment the prospect of Natal becoming a Wii-level market event in its own right.) Games which merely *support* Natal-based play e.g. as an optional control scheme should be in the clear though…

    Would it help my case for being an impartial critic if I said that I find Sony’s wand deeply, deeply unimpressive, that I’m struggling to see it as anything other than the “me-too” mentality at work? Even if it’s a wobbly idea, Natal is far more intriguing. “You are the controller”, hmmm. Got a nice ring to it :)

  7. Brush says:

    Absolutely helps :OP

    now just publish an article as such (the robinson, the ylod, maybe a pic of ken k in a noose?) and this will be one satisfied 360 maniac

    evening up the ‘shoe in the nuts’ articles is only fair.

  8. Choupolo says:

    Could happen… as likely as Kikizo resurrecting the babes section with an Ann Robinson feature I guess. I’m certainly reluctant to click the link provided my Brush above. :P


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