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

Reluctantly, regretfully, you made the comparison with the Wii’s on-going peripheral-milking debacle. But a fanboy’s enthusiasm, like the chlamydia virus, dies hard.

“So what if the tech isn’t quite the witch-doctor’s miracle brew we were told it would be,” you thought. “So what if a few clueless dabblers are suckered into dropping another £40-50 on novelty add-ons and functionality that should have been there in the first place. I’m the core market, the informed buyer. I can see through the inevitable consumer-gouging bullshit.”

You took solace in your dog-eared list of upcoming hot Natal releases – Pete Molyneux’s repeatedly delayed Milo and Kate, a port of Frontier’s LostWinds, Fight Night Round 5, the Splinter Cell remake. You looked to Xbox Live Arcade’s legions of indie developers to fill the breach. “Every advance needs to find its legs,” you told yourself. “Somewhere out there, somebody is working on a game that will blow this new market wide open.”

The face of evil.

The face of evil.

A few months drifted uneventfully past. To the terror of your girlfriend, you began dictating urgent remonstrative letters to Robbie Bach in your sleep. Colleagues watched nervously as you fidgeted over your computer during lunch breaks, F5-ing trademark listings and inveighing against Sony Gem advocates on neogaf.

The hardware itself proved to be a modest sales success, albeit no Wii-killer, finding its way into one million Xbox 360 households worldwide by its first birthday. But development setbacks became de riguer where Natal was concerned. Ubisoft postponed Splinter Cell to Q2 2012, then just to 2012. EA downgraded Fight Night Round 5 from the status of fully “Natalised” release to one which simply offered an alternative Natal control scheme. An alternative control scheme which sucked, as it transpired.

The rush of initial releases had been faddish, third party commitment to Natal skin-deep. After testing the waters across early 2010, most publishers busied themselves with the Xbox 360′s more-than-lucrative gun-toting fratboy audience, occasionally tossing some scrap of a feature in Natal’s direction to keep the platform holder happy.

Microsoft, of course, continued to push Natal strongly. Milo and Kate, when it finally appeared, was a revolution, prompting a resurgence in core gamer interest. But in the absence of third party cavalry, it was a temporary reprieve.

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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