Just back from Microsoft's Natal Experience, or Kinect Experience as I guess we should call it now. It's the first time I've ever had to wear a poncho at a press event. The first thing we do is step through a hole in the wall – turns out we're stepping right into a family living room, complete with 2.4 children saying "hi". Once the home invasion is complete, it's on to a faux jungle warehouse. There's drumming, some acrobatics and people dressed as animals. We stand around for a good 45 mins, laughing at how ridiculous we all look. All those photo's of Tomonobu Itagaki in his leathers and beads, sweating cool? Not once the poncho's on. Wearing that – complete with glowing shoulder pads – we all become equal in this Kinect Kult.
There's a family on a sofa hanging from the ceiling, and once the awful voiceover begins ("perhaps the saviour of humanity is humanity itself") it drops to the floor and the child mounts an elephant... oh it goes on, there's some climbing up rocks while the kid plays Rare games and more waffle about the evolution of technology. Anyway, once that is finally out of the way, we get to see some games in action played by a family smiling for so long they begin to look like they're wearing rictus grins.
Part of the spectacle was impressive – the family rotating 360 degrees and still playing – but the tribal performance combined with a traditional living room didn't gel, and the gathered groups of journalists were beginning to get restless. It never helps when the name of your product leaks before the official unveiling, either.
None of the games on show were a surprise apart from perhaps the Star Wars title, which predictably got the whoops from the crowd. Sports mini-games were exactly as you'd expect although Kinetic Adventures, which included white water rafting and mine cart racing, looked the most fun. There was also a video chat application which drew uncomfortable comparisons with Chat Roulette and a photo app for sharing images with other users – all gesture based. There was dancing too, with a MTV's Dance Central and a Tai Chi take on the fitness genre.
When the crowd was asked to join in the dancing at the end everyone quickly moved to the exits – us Brits don't get down unless we're fueled by something stronger than imagination. The software shown so far was interesting, but until hands-on impressions begin to surface there's still all the usual questions – lag, official price, potential bundles etc. We're expecting more at Microsoft's proper E3 conference later today and will be on hand to report that as soon as possible. There's plenty of questions then, with hopefully some answers throughout the week, but as an unofficial opening for E3, the Kinect Experience certainly highlighted the spend and spectacle still required to get the industry talking about your product again.