×

Microsoft’s Kinect makes a splash

Cirque du Soleil helps launch controller-less system

Project Natal, essentially Microsoft’s answer to Nintendo’s Wii, has a new name: Kinect.

Microsoft made a big splash with the controller-less system last summer when it introduced Project Natal at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.

The system uses a camera to monitor players’ movements to turn them into the controller that manipulates characters around the screen.

With Sony also pushing its own motion-control system, the Move, at this year’s E3, and Nintendo continuing to dominate sales with its Wii, Microsoft needs to make a big splash with announcements for Kinect this week.

It got a jump on its hardware rivals Sunday by presenting Kinect’s upcoming games and capabililties with a little help from dance troupe Cirque du Soleil.

Microsoft tends to lean toward the dramatic at times, and this unveiling was no different.

The show, which attempted to get the audince involved by making them wear interactive ponchos whose shoulder pads lit up during segments, was certainly a pricey affair, but whether it will wow anyone who had already seen Natal in action during its unveiling last year, is uncertain.

Popular on Variety

The 45-minute show, which will be repeated Monday night, plays more like an Olympic opening ceremony, where confusion often reigns over the main message.

For example, the show revolves around Cirque’s dancers portraying a manic crew of drum-banging cavemen who represent the past while Kinect symbolizes man’s advancements in the future.

“What is your name?” a boy dramatically asked a large white screen before the Kinect moniker soon materialized for the first time to a dramatic score.

Add to that ponchos worn by guests whose shoulder pads light up, an elephant with digital screens on its sides, a gorilla, a family perched on a couch hovering over the audience at one end of the basketball arena for most of the show, while other families are literally turned upside down while playing Kinect from a livingroom set built inside a large white cube that revolves, and you’ve got one bizarre series of events.

Yet much of the show was spent following a family of four demonstrating playing a series of games set to bow on Kinect, with Cirque’s performers interpreting the movements perched on giant boulders leading up to their livingroom.

Most were essentially a series of mini-games already offered on the Wii. But then came the more notable titles that started peaking the crowd’s interest: a “Star Wars” title that enables the player to wield a light saber on screen by mimicking holding one. In a yoga game, a player must mimick the movements of a digital double — a direct attempt to compete with Nintendo’s successful sports biz like the Wii Fit software and Balance Board. Another offering lets Kinect owners adopt a tiger that they can pet and teach tricks, opening the doors to a slew of animals gamers could similarly own and care for on screen.

Yet another game revolved around learning dance moves to pop tunes — essentially “Guitar Hero” with choreogaphy.

Names were not disclosed for the games during the presentation.

Microsoft can go too far trying to impress at times. Cirque du Soleil provide a mixed bag of a performance with its past and present often clashing. Its dancers, on occasion, also looked bored while wiggling around on the boulders trying to keep up with the distractingly cheesy movements and facial expressions made by the faux family on display.

The plastic ponchos were used only once to impressive effect, while making their wearers hot during the rest of the presentation and lengthy wait leading up to it. Meanwhile, the Kinetic name wasn’t even pushed outside of its one-time reference, raising questions whether it was actually the official new name or not.

But Microsoft does have something impressive with Kinetic and can finally compete in areas where Nintendo has dominated. It doesn’t have to oversell what it’s created. Now if only Microsoft can focus on one simple message.

More Digital

  • 100 Thieves

    Esports Organization 100 Thieves Unveils New Facility in Los Angeles

    As of Wednesday, popular esports organization 100 Thieves has an official home in Los Angeles. The group unveiled its new 15,000 square-foot facility, officially named the 100 Thieves Cash App Compound, in a media preview with some of its biggest personalities and investor Scooter Braun on hand. Also in attendance was Jack Dorsey, the CEO [...]

  • Amazon Music

    Amazon Music Tops 55 Million Users, Still Playing Catch-Up to Spotify and Apple

    Amazon is famously reluctant to release specific numbers about its users, so it’s notable that the e-retailing giant announced that it has surpassed 55 million customers worldwide for Amazon Music. The company didn’t reveal how many of those users are on its various pricing tiers, but said subscriptions to Amazon Music Unlimited grew by more [...]

  • The Crown Season 3 Oliva Colman

    Record Intl. Growth Sees Netflix Beat Q4 Earnings Forecast

    Fast growth in international markets, contrasting with only sluggish subscriber gains in North America, was a major factor behind streaming giant Netflix’s better than forecast growth in the last quarter of 2019. The company is set on keeping up that international momentum. Globally Netflix added 8.76 million new customers in the three months to December [...]

  • TikTok - LA lobby

    TikTok Opens New L.A. Office in Culver City

    TikTok, in a signal of the short-form video app’s growing clout and entertainment ambitions, announced the company’s Los Angeles operations have moved into a new 120,000-square-foot office in Culver City, Calif. TikTok’s new office space occupies five floors at the C3 campus at 5800 Bristol Parkway in Culver City. According to the company, the space [...]

  • SiriusXM president and CCO Scott Greenstein

    SiriusXM's Scott Greenstein Named Music Visionary of the Year by UJA-Federation

    SiriusXM president and chief content officer Scott Greenstein will be honored by the UJA-Federation of New York as its Music Visionary of the Year on June 4 in New York City. The award recognizes exceptional professional accomplishments and commitment to philanthropy. Previous recipients have included Sony Music Group CEO Rob Stringer, Republic Records co-founders Avery [...]

  • Anjelah Johnson'The Curse of La Llorona'

    HA Comedy Festival Sets Lineup, HBO Max Comedy Special

    The newly launched HA comedy festival backed by WarnerMedia and New Cadence Productions has set its dates, talent lineup and plans for a special to air on HBO Max. The festival, to be held Feb. 21-23 in San Antonio, Texas, is designed as a showcase for Latinx comedians. It’s part of a first-look development pact [...]

  • Marvel-Strike-Force-FoxNext

    Disney Sells FoxNext Games Unit to Scopely

    Disney has sold off FoxNext Games, the studio it obtained through the purchase of 20th Century Fox, to mobile-games developer Scopely. Terms of the pact were not disclosed. Under the terms of the pact, Scopely is acquiring FoxNext Games Los Angeles, the game studio behind hit game “Marvel Strike Force,” and San Jose-based Cold Iron [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content