Microsoft hosted two launch events over the last couple of days for the upcoming Kinect motion sensor add-on for the Xbox 360. Oddly, Atomic was invited to the lifestyle and consumer launch, which was... odd, to say the least. However, it did open a terrifying window on how a gaming giant presents its business to the rest of the consumer landscape.
David Wildgoose over at Kotaku Aus said it best during E3 - the Kinect is not for us. It's very obviously a low-end consumer device, not for the hardcore gaming set at all. Nonetheless Microsoft is pulling out all the stops to convince the public that this is a great gaming revolution, making gaming both simpler and more accessible than ever before.
And that's fine. The Kinect's not going to impact on our enjoyment of Halo: Reach, or stop us from griefing greenhorns in Red Dead Redemption's Free Roam (it's a victimless crime!). But what we do take serious exception to is the way Microsoft is promoting the Kinect, and what it says about their attitude to a market that, frankly, has delivered them profit piled on profit and a massive amount of console market share.
"Gaming's not just for sweaty thirty year olds in Metallica t-shirts," quipped Microsoft's regional entertainment tzar at yesterday's lifestyle event, David McLean. The audience of fashion editors and lifestyle doyens yukked it up appreciatively, but we couldn't believe our ears. That's it? That's what you're reducing a huge percentage of your audience to now - a one-liner gag to make the cheap-seats feel it's okay to waddle about in front of their television sets?
And it didn't end there - the presentation featured constant allusions to basement dwelling nerds and impenetrable control schemes. Which is fine if Microsoft's courting vacuous fashionistas now, but does the company have to do it at our expense?
It's a doubly galling revelation. For one, it takes the scales from one's eyes in regards to how Microsoft regards the gaming audience, and secondly it seems to give a flying middle finger to our community's ongoing effort to improve game ratings and censorship. There's a huge movement desperately trying to educate government and society at large that gamers are, in a very real sense, everyone; while Microsoft at least gets the age thing right, reducing gamers to the image of barely socialised troglodytes doesn't do anyone any favours.
Aside from the general lack of respect, there was some content at yesterday's event. Foxtel and Xbox LIVE integration is looking really tight, Microsoft talked up Windows Mobile 7 and it's gaming integration, and - to be honest - the underlying technology in the Kinect is really quite interesting, and vastly improved from its incarnation at E3. And we scored good interviews with folks from Bungie and Lionhead Studios - so keep an eye out for our next podcast for that.
But our major take away from the day is simply a bitter taste in the mouth at being the butt of a stupid joke to make the style-set giggle.