Siobhan Keogh 's Opinion

Siobhan Keogh is the NZ Herald's gaming blogger.

Siobhan Keogh: Is motion gaming dead?

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Have the wheels fallen off motion gaming? Siobhan Keogh investigates.
Has motion gaming done it's dash?
Has motion gaming done it's dash?

Has motion gaming's time been and gone?

The Wii seemed like something of a revolution, at the time. Its low price point and appeal to people who wouldn't ordinarily play video games meant it was a roaring success, and essentially invented or evolved whole new genres of games.

Fitness games and dancing games advanced especially quickly - while Dance Dance Revolution was incredibly popular, people obviously liked being able to play dance games in their own homes, without having to roll out a special mat.

Sony then tried to build on the success of the Wii by rolling out its own motion gaming device, called PlayStation Move. To be fair, it was in a lot of ways a better product than the Wii - the Move wands were more accurate than the Wiimotes by a long shot - but it was way, way too late. The Wii had a lock on that corner of the market.

Until Kinect came along, that is. When Kinect first launched, I loved it. I'd never seen anything like it before - Sony had given it a go with the abysmal EyeToy, but most motion gaming devices required you to physically hold something in your hands.

It seemed then that motion control had come a long way. Kinect had its issues - as every new product does - but it was truly innovative. Parents, especially, started snapping up Xbox 360s for their kids, and Xbox had one of its best years.

But now it seems like motion gaming has stalled. With the release of the new generation of console hardware came a new generation of motion sensors, but at some point people start to expect the new generation to be a marked improvement on the first one.

And, in my experience, it's not - especially in the case of Kinect.

Before the launch of the Xbox One, gamers were promised the Kinect would have a host of new features. It can detect your heartrate, Microsoft claimed, and can work with more people. Tracking and voice detection are improved, and you don't have to be standing so far back for Kinect to see you.

Those claims are true, but in a lot of ways the difference is pretty marginal. Unless you have a large, spacious living room, you're probably going to be too close to the Kinect sensor. This becomes pretty irritating, as in most games that use Kinect your points are tallied based on how well you can replicate moves - and if Kinect can't see you, it thinks you're bad at the game and penalises you.

And having used Xbox Fitness several times now, I can tell you that the heartrate monitoring is wildly inaccurate. The game only seemed to detect my heartrate when I was doing a cooldown, and then would claim that it was totally off the charts. I'm doing stretches and my BPM is 180? Uh, how did I not die during actual activity?

Then there's the fact that voice commands only work for Kiwis if you mess with settings, and most games don't really allow for more than two people anyway.

But even if motion gaming didn't continue to be plagued with little problems, there's one really big problem the big three console makers have to contend with: motion gaming was always a bit of a gimmick, and it's one that seems to be fading. And game developers are well-aware: there's a serious dearth of games that leverage motion controls on any of the three platforms.

There's Wii Fit U, of course, plus Xbox Fitness, the upcoming Kinect Sports Rivals, and a tech demo called PlayRoom for the Playstation 4 Eye. But the landscape is otherwise pretty sparse, and the people who got pumped for the first Wii or the first edition of Kinect probably don't see why they'd need to upgrade.

While I think voice detection has a place in gaming - and some games like Dead Rising 3 have used it quite well - I'm no longer convinced that motion does too.

People who are interested in gamifying their fitness have a lot of options these days, especially in the form of smartphone apps, and it'll take some great advance in technology to get them spending money again.

* Do you like motion gaming? Post your comments below.

Siobhan Keogh

Siobhan Keogh is the NZ Herald's gaming blogger.

Siobhan Keogh has been playing video games for almost as long as she's been able to read. Her passion for games started with Sonic the Hedgehog and Alex Kidd in Miracle World, grew when she discovered the Final Fantasy series as a teenager, and became near-obsessive when she worked as games editor for PC World magazine. She'll play almost every kind of game there is, from shooters to strategies to adventure games to Peggle, on any platform she can get her hands on. Her love of games isn't limited to the screen - she also plays both board and card games on the tabletop. When she's not gaming, she's tweeting lame jokes about games on Twitter. Occasionally she takes a breather from that and talks about running and fitness instead.

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