Out with the old, in with the new. In the case of Microsoft, an employee has confirmed Microsoft’s decision to cease production of the Kinect accessory on October 25th. It will no longer be part of any bundle with the XBox One and One X. While retail stores can continue to sell their remaining stock, no new Kinect shipments will be delivered. Microsoft promises to continue support for the Kinect for existing users, but it remains unclear if that applies for the Windows Developer Toolkit for the Kinect as well. Plans about the Kinect’s replacement have not been made either.
The Kinect was not a complete failure in terms of sales, selling about 35 million units worldwide either in a bundle with the main system or as a separate accessory. Back when it was introduced in 2010, it rode the trend of motion gaming by using infrared and color mapping. By perceiving depth perception and movement from those, it created an unorthodox gaming experience. Games such as Just Dance 3, released in 2011, and Your Shape Fitness Evolved, released one year earlier, took advantage of the Kinect’s capabilities, offering players to stay healthy while having fun. The Kinect also featured voice commands, allowing players to remotely speak to their system without touching the controller. However, both features came with their own set of issues that widely discredited the Kinect to longtime XBox owners. For instance, motion controls run the risk of putting players in harm’s way by performing nauseating maneuvers or by not registering the player’s movements at all (i.e. Sonic Free Riders, released in 2012). Later systems required the Kinect to be turned on at all times, which was a large point of contention in the Xbox One launch. Despite those flaws, the Kinect paved its way into future Microsoft products, such as their laptops (providing facial recognition for unlocking computers) and Mixed Reality headphones (taking advantage of motion capture to display VR games).
While many Kinect games are hit or miss for many, the biggest draw to them is the development kit that Microsoft released to developers. This allowed for people to create numerous applications for the device, even if they are not related to games. In fact, the Kinect opened new doors in how it could be used for motion capture and voice and facial recognition. Developers had access to a commercially available tool that allowed them to perform these functionalities without having to build one from scratch. They were able to create applications in therapy, robotics, interpretations, and scanners, things that weren’t the original intention of the Kinect. With the discontinuation of the Kinect, developers who were using the Kinect are hard pressed to find tools that make designing application with vocal and motion tools easier. This also takes away 7 years of established knowledge on Kinect development. Thus, the Kinect is still a relevant creative platform for people to use, despite the backlash it receives from one side. While this may be the end of the line for the Kinect to Microsoft, people will continue to use it for other purposes besides gaming, until something else outclasses the Kinect’s use.