You're off to the store to buy a new video game system for your family. Perhaps you've set your mind on Kinect for Xbox 360, or maybe you have other plans when a perky sales clerk tries to convince you that Kinect is the only option. But is the newest and trendiest really your best bet? It depends on a lot of factors, so I've put together some reasons why Kinect for Xbox 360 may not be the best choice for your family. Still, since it's nice to keep things balanced, you should also read Six Reasons Why Your Family Needs Kinect.
For families who don't already own an Xbox 360, the investment in Kinect for Xbox 360 isn't small. Starting at $300 for a system with almost no hard drive space and ranging up to $400 for one with a 250GB hard drive, this isn't a small purchase. Factor in the cost of games, which typically start at $50 each, and you're shelling out a lot of cash up front. The Kinect sensor without an Xbox 360 (for families who already have one) is $150. Also, while you don't need a controller to use Kinect, don't fool yourself into thinking you won't be purchasing additional controllers. With the limited number of games designed just for Kinect and the tantalizing options available for Xbox 360, you'll want at least one more controller to keep around.
2. Space Constraints
Kinect for Xbox 360 requires (not just suggests) a play area of about 6 X 6 feet. Clear space. If you want to play with more than one player, you may find it requires at least 8 feet from the sensor to play area (plus room to actually move your feet). In other words, you comfortable want 8-10 feet from the Kinect sensor to the nearest obstacle. And you'll want 6-8 feet minimum side to side to give two people room to play. In addition, you'll want a room with some basic lighting control, as the camera is unhappy in extreme lighting conditions. And lastly, you'll want an area without a lot of traffic because Kinect recognizes people walking in and out of range. It's very magical, unless it interrupts your game.
3. Game Availability
Don't forget that Kinect for Xbox 360 is brand new. There are currently less than two dozen games designed to work with the sensor and some of them are really bad. This will change over time and there are plenty of games available for the Xbox, but if you've got young kids and are banking on the playability of Kinect, don't. There are some really fun games for kids, but right now, it's just a handful.
4. Family-Style Game Play
One of the things people love about the Wii is that families can play together. Due to the limitations of both space and sensor tracking, Kinect supports up to two players at any given time. Not so great for a family of four, or a household with more than two kids. Once again, Xbox 360 supports up to four players (Remember that extra controller you thought you didn't need? Tack on two more!), but players will need to know how to use the Xbox controller.
5. Kid Factor
All of the ads for Kinect show happy families jumping around their living rooms, cheering each other on from the couch in the background and playing in harmony. What they don't show you is what happens when Kinect signs out your 3-year-old, who is too busy twirling to look at the sensor for facial recognition, and signs you in because you're lurking in the background. Or, when one child is trying to play and the other keeps jumping in - and out - of the game. You don't see the drama that ensues when your 5-year old "CAN NOT" get past a certain place in the game, but you can't step in to help because the game is focused solely on him and won't recognize your attempts to join in. Kinect is kid-friendly in many ways and not in many others.
6. Safety First (or Last)
Families who are used to a Wii or who are looking at their first console purchase should keep in mind that the Xbox Live online system is much more advanced - and much less safe - than the online Wii interactions. And online game play, which is an option in many Xbox games, isn't always kid-friendly or safe. This isn't so much of a Kinect issue, but it comes with the Xbox 360 territory and shouldn't be overlooked. Parental controls are available to keep the Xbox a safer environment for your kids. Make sure to take the time to set them up.