What You Need to Know About the XBox 360, the Kinect, and a Review of All Kinect Games

A NEW WAY TO GAME! IS THE XBOX 360 KINECT THE RIGHT NEXT GADGET FOR YOU?

There are a plethora of game systems and games out there. Why should you consider the xBox 360 and the new Kinect? What will the Kinect do for you? Some have claimed it will change your life, will it do that? What games are available for the Kinect and do they really work well enough to justify the cost, the time, and the trouble? Is there enough variety to suit your needs?

This article will give the positives and negatives of the xBox 360 and the new Kinect. What can be accomplished with this system and why consider getting a Kinect for yourself and your family? How well does it work?

Let’s start with a little bit of history xBox 360 for you. If you will go way back in your mind and remember that the xBox 360 is a sixth generation video game by Microsoft. This group of games was known as the 128-bit era game consoles. The xBox was actually released November 2001. However, the xBox 360 is the second video game console produced by Microsoft (the first was the xBox). It now competes well with the Sony’s PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii, as part of the seventh generation of video game consoles, the xBox 360 was the first of that creative age introducing HD and 1080p into the game playing mix in November 2005.

The xBox 360 was officially unveiled on television. The announcement was on MTV in 2005. Coming up to more modern time the xBox 360 was known as the xBox 360 S, but now we just call it the xBox 360. The consoles have been redesigned, as well as the hardware, and that innovation was officially announced in June 2010. And word is that Microsoft has announced, covertly, that if they ever (and with their current popularity I’m sure they will) come out with another console as a successor to the xBox 360 S it will be simply called xBox 720. The initial rumors are very intriguing.

The second edition of the xBox 360, which included 4 GB of storage, was a prelude to the current box. The xBox 360 Elite came out middle of 2010. But with the avalanche of new games being designed and released it pressured Microsoft to upgrade their hardware.

Isn’t that always the case with hardware and software? It goes like this: Software becomes more complicated and needs faster processors, larger computers and capacity. And so the hardware designers and manufacturers have to race to keep up. It’s the same with the gaming genre. Try playing Halo Reach on your old xBox. It’s not happening.

Thus in August of 2010 Microsoft announced that they had a mega model, a 250 GB stand-alone hard drive for use with the xBox 360 S models, and that would be priced initially at $129.99.

The features of each of these models and core systems are interesting, but it is beyond the scope of this review. The remarkable features, capabilities and the capacities of the devices improved with each progressive model. Microsoft became one of the big guns in the gaming console market and will remain there with this system.

This past Christmas buying season of 2010, the xBox 360 was bundled for better consumer purchasing power, which, among others, featured the Limited Edition, as well as some of the more popular games such as the Halo Reach, Call of Duty Black Ops, and other special features including wireless remotes controllers and head-sets.

The online service is called xBox Live. This is a worldwide service that allows users to play with and against other online players or download purchased content, experience new games and it also offers movies, game trailers, game demos that can be played for a short trial period encouraging the user to then go on to purchase the full game.

There are xBox Live arcade games, images, dashboard themes as well. Through xBox Live, a person can discover new undiscovered content. There are Gold Memberships, which allows you to purchase Microsoft Points to use for downloads avatars and add-ons or additions to your current games. Those prepaid cards come in 400, 800, 1600, 4000, and 6000 point denominations for an equivalent amount of money.

I will reveal some interesting details about the negative attributes of the xBox and xBox 360. It may be a surprise to a newbie, thinking that there were not any negatives. But there are…or were.

It seems that the console can be subject to a number of technical problems. Users have reported concerns over its reliability and alarming failure rate in the older models. That led Microsoft to extend the xBox 360 S warranty to three years for hardware failure problems. Users were getting the dreaded red ring of death and a message announcing general hardware failure.

Microsoft unquestionably did not want to leave their customers hanging and helpless. It attempted to modify the consoles to improve its reliability. The unit was subsequently put together much better and inside the unit there is not as much movement in the main (mother) board during the heat expansion and now the unit has better ability to dissipate heat.

With the release of this redesigned xBox 360 the warranty on the newer models does not include the three year extended warranty for general hardware failure. The word from the experienced gaming community is that the xBox 360 is a very reliable machine and the user complaints and failures of the past have not surfaced.

The new xBox 360s are very reliable. Overall, I rate the xBox 360 5-Stars. It is now the standard in the current industry. They are the leader and the other companies are trying to keep up.

Now we enter into the realm of the new and eye-popping Kinect. This is an amazing addition to our adventures in creative and all-consuming, mind-and-body gaming. It is a controller-free input device and a big step up in the entertainment experience for the xBox 360.

It was initially announced June of 2009. Sadly, it was not released until November 2010. This amazing sensor device enables the user to control and interact with the games of the xBox 360 without a physical game controller. This is similar to the Wii, but the user is not limited to holding and pointing a controller and Nunchuk. The amazing Kinect uses body gestures, spoken commands, and objects and images. It’s the EYE that works the magic! The Kinect is compatible with all 360 models. The Kinect…connects to new models with the custom “Kinector.” The old consoles used a USB adapter.

Along with the new games, the Kinect is called the new xBox experience (NXE). Along with the NXE there are many new features that users can install into their gaming world. There are games from disks loaded onto the hard drive and then played with reduced load time and less disk drive noise. That is comforting, but each time the game is played the disk must remain in the system in order to run it.

There are also a cool bunch of digitized avatars that can be used for multiple activities, such as sharing photos and playing arcade games.

The xBox 360 and the Kinect were so popular during the Christmas season that it sold out in many stores as well as the major online sites. The demand exceeded the supply. Since the Christmas rush has past you have the opportunity to get discounted prices and lots of selection and availability.

I looked in the retail and online outlets and have compiled an updated list for current supplies of all available and announced games. There are a growing number of supplies, but here I will give you the most up-to-date list of games available for the Kinect.

• To begin with the fitness game called Your Shape Fitness Evolved. It contains workouts in a martial arts class lead by a celebrity trainer. Big names that work on the Biggest Loser show.

• There is Kinect Sports, These are world-class sports. Kinect Sports includes a bowling alley, soccer pitch or track-and-field arena. Kinect puts in the game as the VIP player and somehow lets you be the controller. It apparently also includes soccer, volleyball, ping-pong, and even more games they tell me.

• Get your groove on with Dance Central™. This is exclusive for the Kinect and is the first real dance game experience that will be fun, social and for everyone!

• The very cute and much advertised game is Kinectimals. This is great fun for children of all ages. You get to play with an animal on your xBox 360 screen. The TV advertisements show an irresistible tiger. I thought there would be many more animals, but I guess the furry tiger does it all. That’s cool. The Bengal tiger cub will bring back an dream of being in the circus or of your trip to the zoo. The Kinect lets that furry tiger become your best friend. See now you don’t need that indoor pet after all.

• Listen to this, If you really want to get the Ultimate Experience then get the Kinectimals Limited Edition Bundle with King Cheetah Plush. It is the entire package.

• Motion Sports, Play for Real, this looks like a game that you do sports motions and keep moving; great aerobic exercise. It has a wide range of sports, like it says you can zoom down slopes of a Super G slalom, score a mind-blowing penalty shot, duck-and-run your way to a game-winning touchdown or throw punches at the champ.” I don’t know about all that, but it look like some really exciting exercise.

• Kinect Joyride is a fun ride in a car, but I do not think it is a “stolen” car, but it is a Joyride. Kinect Joy Ride, the first controller-free racing game that combines wild kart racing with full-body controlling possible only with Kinect for Xbox 360.

• Sonic Free Riders is more action. It has speed and a finish line. This one takes your whole body to control a variety of hoverboards and bikes. This one may NOT be easy to pick up and play and be the hero. It matches family and friends in multiplayer modes. Each racer can have their own unique rules.

• And then the game that we all need to get is the Ultimate Workout, Biggest Loser style. You will work out with Bob and Jillian, the best workout coaches ever. The Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout will maximize your healthy diet. It boasts 50 new, healthy recipes. You can also track your caloric intake. This “game” is for real and will even give you real-time feedback that says you’ll see immediate results.

• Can you dance? You will! DanceMasters lets you dance with nothing to constrain your movement and freedom. Different modes: Dance Mode, Lesson Mode, Status Mode, Xbox Live. There is even downloadable content. Next step is Dancing with the Stars for you!.

• Zumba Fitness Kinect. Everyone loves a Zumba! This game is for up to four players. Family or online players compete to get the highest workout group score or individual in Zumba Attack! Action, Dancing, and great fun.

• EA Sports, Active 2.0. It’s in the Game! Build muscle, track your heart rate. There seems to be an unlimited customizable workout option with more than 70 games.

• Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One. The wand and real magic! You get an arsenal of formidable spells to defeat Death Eaters and enemies to all good Harry Potter stand-ins. Fight Voldemort’s Death Eaters, Snatchers and Dementors.

• Deca Sports Freedom. This features ten athletic games to life: Tennis, you can even twing the bowstrings then play. Ten different events: tennis, boxing, archery, paintball, beach volleyball, dodgeball, kendo, mogul skiing, snowboard cross and figure skating. They really pack it in.

• Game Party: In Motion. This is a family-friendly collection of 16 arcade type games. The list is long: Darts, Hoop Shoot, Rootbeer Tapper, Table Hockey and 12 more. Multi player action and support available online and meet up to 16 players. Design and use your avatar and Facebook cross functionality. Now that is really covering all the bases.

• Fighters Uncaged, looks like a major adventure in fighting and the cover is really great. You can upgrade your fighter. The game and the Kinect lets you use your fists, knees, legs, elbows and even head. Take THAT mangy opponent!

• The next is Adrenaline Misfits. This is for single players or two players. The race includes 7 fantasy worlds and 7 monsters that need defeated. The soon-to-be-conquered course are like Snowy Mountains, stormy deserts, glacier lands, limestone caves, and volcanoes. This one also hooks up to xBox Live.

• And then another called Child of Eden. Graphics and sound combine to stimulate the senses. It is a physical, sensory experience.

• Star Wars Kinect is on the list but is not scheduled to be released for a year.

• Brunswick Pro Bowling, It is bowling for everyone, however kids have options which let them compete with the pros.

• Michael Jackson and the Experience. Put yourself into the game and be one of the stars in your own Michael Jackson video. This one looks awesome, if it includes “Thriller”! Dancers and Michael’s Dance School take your performance to the next level. For beginners and experienced performers.

The price of the game seems to range from about $34 to others that are priced around $60. And for $40 you can even get a Kinect Mount that puts the sensor at just exactly the right position.

Now as far are reviewing the Kinect and the games: The public’s experience is still new and since the Kinect has only been sold for less than two months, with the accompanying games the whole system is still novel and shiny new.

But it seems to this reviewer and others in the industry, that this is a brand-new paradigm in games and indoor exercise and it will shape the industry’s future. The Kinect is changing the industry.

The xBox 360 and the Kinect are now in stock currently at Amazon and many other retailers and there are also very nice bundles to get the xBox 360 plus the Kinect as well as other hardware and games. It is very nice to get a bundle. It saves money in the long run – in the short run also. The Kinect also has some very nice price discounts.

James, my gaming colleague, is still stirred by his xBox 360 and he is an expert gamer. James says his xBox 360 experience, as well as the many games that he has played notes that the new Xbox 360 250GB is faster than other systems he’s tried. The graphics are better and he noticed more advanced corporeal levels.

The War on Used Games

As we prepare for the coming wave of next generation systems, we should be anticipating improvements on all the good things we associate with the current crop of systems. Moving forward we expect: better graphics, faster processors, more engaging games, you get the idea. But not everything that we’re anticipating will be a progressive movement for gaming. At least, as far as Sony and Microsoft are concerned, you can wave goodbye to playing used games on their systems. Although these are just rumors at this point, it wouldn’t be surprising if they came to fruition. It’s very plausible, especially when taking into consideration that several game publishers have already fired shots at the used game market.

Most notable is Electronic Arts(EA), who became the first publisher to institute the practice of charging gamers, who bought used games, a fee to access codes that come with the game. To elaborate, Downloadable Content(DLC) codes are included with new copies of a particular game and only with those codes, can that content be accessed. EA expanded its project to include playing used games online. Gamers would now have to pay $10, in addition to the cost of the used game that they purchased, in order to have access to the online components of their game. Ubisoft has since followed suit, requiring an online pass for its games as well. You can identify the games which require an online pass as they bare the,”Uplay Passport”, logo on the box.

Ubisoft decided they’d take things a step further and implement Digital Rights Management, a practice more often associated with DVD or CD anti-piracy efforts. Assassins Creed 2 was the first game to be effected by this practice. In order to play the PC version of Assassins Creed 2, gamers are required to create an account with Ubisoft and remain logged into that account in order to play the game. This means that if you lose your internet connection, the game will automatically pause and try to reestablish the connection. However, if you’re unfortunate enough to be unable to reconnect to the internet you’ll have to continue from your last saved game; losing any progress you may have made since then. This will be the case for all of Ubisoft’s PC titles, regardless of one playing single-player or multi-player. While Digital Rights Management has been used to combat DVD and CD piracy for quite some time now, this will mark the first time it’s been used for a video game. In light of Ubisoft’s implementation of DRM, Matthew Humphries of Geek.com, cautions that it’s feasible that eventually even console games will require online registration in order to play them.

So what’s the reason for all of this? According to According to Denis Dyack, the head of Silicon Knights, the sale of used games is cannibalizing the profit of the primary game market. He also claims that the used game market is somehow causing the price of new games to rise. His proposed solution is to move away from physical disks and embrace digital distribution. Essentially he’d like to see services like Steam or EA’s Origin replace traditional hard copies. There are even rumors that the X-Box 720 will embrace the exclusive use of digital downloads and not use disks at all. Whether Microsoft will actually follow through with that plan remains to be seen.

One could argue that Sony has already laid the ground work for preventing used games from functioning on their future system. At the very least, they’ve already made quite an effort to make used games significantly less desirable. Kath Brice, of Gamesindustry.biz, reported that the latest SOCOM game for PSP, SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 3, will require customers who purchase a used copy to pay an addition $20 dollars to receive a code for online play.

I’d like to see some quantifiable evidence to support the claim that used games are in fact hurting the sales of new games at all. Without some actual facts, it sounds to me like a whole lot to do about nothing. Case in point, within 24 hours Modern Warfare 3 sold 6.5 million copies, grossing $400 million dollars in sales. Correct me if I’m wrong but you haven’t heard Infinity Ward complaining about the used game market and it affecting their bottom line. That’s likely because they’re too busy counting their money earned by creating games that people actually want to play. Imagine that. Maybe the problem isn’t that used games have a negative impact on the sale of new games but, the problem is instead that game developers need to make better games that gamers are willing to pay full price for.

In my opinion, not every game is worth $60 simply because it’s the suggested retail price. Looking at things objectively, not every game is created equally, therefore not every game is worthy of costing $60. Whether it’s because that particular game failed to meet expectations and live up to the hype or because it lacks any sort of replay value. It’s ludicrous to argue that gamers should pay top dollar for every game especially when they all too often turn out to be horrible disappointments, like Ninja Gadian 3, or they’re riddled with glitches like Skyrim.

I suspect that the War on Used Games is nothing more than a money grab by developers, upset that they’re unable to cash in on a very lucrative market. To put it in dollars and cents, in 2009 GameStop reported nearly $2.5 million dollars in revenue from the sale of used consoles and used games. And not one red cent of that profit reaches the pockets of game publishers. Greed as the motivating factor for the declaration of War on Used Games is transparent. Especially when you consider that when GameStop began separating their revenue from new games and used games in their financial statements, EA thereafter instituted their $10 dollar fee for used games.

In the absence of empirical evidence, I’ll have to settle for anecdotal. I’ll use myself as an example. I’m planning to purchase a used copy of Ninja Gaidan 2. I’ve never been a huge fan of the series. I didn’t play the first one because I didn’t have an Xbox and at the time it was an Xbox exclusive. And I never played the original version. Needless to say, I was never clamoring to play Ninja Gaidan 2. However the innovation in the second incarnation of the game, which allows you to disembowel your enemies, is enough of a novelty that I’d like to play through it at some point. I can buy it now, used, for about 10 dollars. If it was only being sold at full price I would more than likely pass on playing it altogether or maybe rent it. My point is that game developers are not losing money because of used games; you can’t miss money you weren’t going to receive anyway. They’re simply not getting money they weren’t going to get to begin with.

Unless you have a significant amount of disposable income and a considerable amount of free time, you’re probably like me and you prioritize which games you plan to purchase and how much you’re willing to pay for them. You decide which games are must haves and which games you’d like to play but are willing to wait for a price drop before getting them. Then there are the games which you’re interested in, but they tend to fall through the cracks because they’re not all that high on your radar and you’ll maybe pick them up several months later, or even years after their release, if you ever pick them up at all.

I find it ironic that the looming death of the used game market could likely spell the demise of GameStop who, ironically, push their customers to pre-order new games and purchase them at full price. One would think that game publishers would be appreciative about this service and not detest GameStop and treat used games with such scorn. Pre-orders not only help promote their games but they function as a forecast of potential sales as well. Even Dave Thier, a contributor for Forbes Online, who describes GameStop as, “a parasitic bloodsucker that doesn’t do much besides mark up discs and sit in the mall”, recognizes the folly of passing the burden of the used game market onto the consumer.

I’ve only once pre-ordered a game myself. At the behest of J. Agamemnon, I pre-ordered Battlefield 3, which is ironically a property of EA. I paid full price for this game and was happy to do so. In large part because I was granted access to several weapons and maps that I would have had to wait to download had I not pre-ordered it. I propose that instead of punishing gamers for wanting to save their hard earned cash, the gaming industry needs to learn to incentivize gamers into wanting to pony up to that $60 dollar price tag.

I titled this article The War on Used Games in an effort to be tongue-in-cheek and poke fun at how whenever the government declares war on drugs or terror or whatever it may be, they only succeed in exacerbating the problem. It should come as no surprise seeing as how the government tends to take the most asinine approach possible trying to “solve” problems. The end result is always the same; precious time and resources are wasted, and the issue is that much worse than it was before they intervened. If the gaming industry does indeed go down this path; they’ll only hurt themselves in the long run, fail to share in the revenue they so greedily covet and worst of all, hurt their customers, who keep the gaming industry abreast with currency.

It’s very ironic and actually very fitting that it’s EA who are spearheading the effort to attack the used game market when they themselves are one of the largest beneficiaries of used games. Chipsworld MD Don McCabe, told GamesIndustry.biz that EA has what he referred to as a “franchise software house” in that they “upgrade their titles; FIFA, Madden; all of these are effectively the same title upgraded each year. And people trade in last year’s for this year’s.” He went onto say that those titles are the ones which are most often traded in. Shutting down the used games market effectively destroys a tried and true method in which fans of EA’s franchises keep up-to-date with each of EA’s annual releases. Aside from nostalgia, what would be the point of holding onto FIFA 11, when FIFA 12 is right around the corner?

Don McCabe, an executive at Chipsworld, explains that, “consumers won’t prosper under this new system, as copies of the game will lose their resale value”. He goes on to say that retailers will “just readjust [the price] bearing in mind you have to buy the voucher.” The CEO of SwapGame cautions that “customers who trade in for cash or credit do so to acquire new games they could otherwise not afford.” This means that ultimately it will be the publisher who ends up losing money because when retailers adjust their prices to reflect the increase in cost for used games, the resale value of the game will drop and new games are less likely to be purchased.

I’m a fan of several EA franchises, I enjoy Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed and I’m a die hard Sony PlayStation enthusiast. As their customer, I’m outraged and offended by their current practices. I fear for what future methods they may use to further stifle or even kill the used game market. That said, I’m hopeful that these companies will be receptive to the outcry of their customers and adhere to our wants. I implore them to discontinue punishing their customers in an effort to capture what they perceive as missed profits. They risk not only alienating their customers but they risk finding themselves with significantly fewer customers and substantially less profit. And at the end of the day, that’s really the bottom line.