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 increasingly undeniable failure wasn’t, you realised, attributable to technical issues, nor to “peripheral fatigue” or wrong-headed pricing strategies. It was a question of divided priorities. In tabling this fancy, crowd-pleasing piece of kit, Microsoft had been courting Nintendo’s market share. But even as it cosied up to the casuals, the company was wary of alienating the pad-and-headset traditionalists who had borne its Xbox business to profitability.

Accordingly, Microsoft continued to promote Natal as an optional feature. The thing about optional technology, of course, is that consumers can’t be relied upon to possess it. And technology the consumer may not own isn’t technology a third-party publisher wants to bet the farm on.

No we certainly aren't exaggerating. Best stock up on tinned food.

No we certainly aren't exaggerating. Best stock up on tinned food.

Whenever a genuinely good, substantial game did arrive, you were in ecstasies. You praised the title from the gutters to the rooftops, on every forum worth mentioning and most that aren’t, hailing its every point of note as a Second Coming in miniature, decanting your finest reservoirs of scorn for those who begged to differ. Then you completed it, shelved it, and the sad, wretched spiral to total disillusionment resumed.

Project Natal’s uptake hit a glass ceiling in mid-2012 (Ubisoft quietly flushed its Splinter Cell remake down the toilet in the spring). Looking back, most major game industry commentators opined that the device was doomed from the start. “Project Fatal” was a favourite phrase.

You barely noticed when your girlfriend dumped you. Your entire psyche, your very soul has become inextricably entangled with the fortunes of Project Natal. Your days are spent brooding over the two-bit motion-sensing releases on the Marketplace.

It smells of slow death in here, malaria, nightmares. Fortified with vodka, you settle back into your habitual, palsied hunch at the computer screen. You check your RSS feed. One headline holds your attention, much as it has held the attention of every gamer on the planet.

“Microsoft unveils Xbox Trii: motion-sensing as standard”

The horror. The horror. World ends, official.

(Let the flamewars begin. For a more optimistic take on Project Natal, check Adam’s hands-on.)

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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