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Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Damn you Natal! I think this rules me out...

The big announcements of last year (in gaming terms) were two different solutions for competing with Nintendo on the motion sensing/”casual gamer” front, with PlayStation Move (for PS3, obviously) and Project Natal (developed for the 360 and shown in the video above). Both are interesting, but Natal is potentially revolutionary. There have been some early reports which are fairly sceptical about whether or not it can really live up to a lot of Microsoft’s claims, but whether or not it does, it is an exciting new idea to play games without holding any kind of controller at all.

However, I have just read a report on Natal from TechFlash which suggests that you need a pretty big living room to use the damn thing. They write:
“To be precise, you'll want to clear an area extending at least 4 meters (a little more than 13 feet) away from the television. That's the back edge of the space to be taken into account by the Natal sensors. In terms of width and height, the field of vision naturally expands as it moves from the Natal device to that back edge, ending up a little more than 4 meters wide and 2.7 meters high (about 8 feet, 10 inches).”

Now I have a pretty big living room and I don’t know if I can clear this much space. Kotaku made the good point that Natal may not be usable in most Japanese homes (although I suppose none of those have an Xbox in anyway) and I’m not sure UK homes will fare much better. The video above shows huge American living rooms with loads of clear space to play around in.

It is still early days; with Natal not out until the end of the year. Hopefully this information is not completely solid. Of course, many Natal videos have shown people standing in front of the TV and interacting with it up close, so maybe people are worrying over nothing and these spacial measurements are just the amount of space Natal can register. However, if it is people are going to have to think carefully about whether they can fit Natal in their homes at all.

Update I spoke to the head of a Brighton-based developer this afternoon (who I probably shouldn't name, because it was just an informal chat and not an interview!) and he said that although his studio have Natal development kits to play with, they won't be making any games for it. This, he said, is due to the fact that Natal is too laggy and you have to sacrifice graphics in order to make it work. He said that if this were not the case he would want to integrate Natal features (head-tracking was the example he gave) into future games, but that as things stand he believes Natal (and Move) will be limited to first party support and cheap, Wii-style shovelware (probably provided by Ubisoft and probably called things like "Family Avatar Summer Sports Games").

Is Natal going to be D.O.A later this year? Wii Motionplus has already shown how an optional motion add-on can be ignored by developers (Red Steel 2, out this Friday, is only the second game, since it came out last June, to require it). I still await both Natal and Move with interest, but I am not getting my hopes up for anything too radical.

Update 2! According to IGN, Microsoft have already moved to play down this thing about the amount of room you need to use Natal, here is the article.

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