Developers divided on Natalâ??s prospects

Developers divided on Natalâ??s prospects

By Rob Crossley

January 14th 2010 at 3:36PM

While some studios see it as a game changer, others call Natal a risk

This week’s Develop Jury Service has seen conflicting views from the development community, with both praise and concerns expressed on the potential of Natal.

And while the praise was glowing, with some developers claiming that Natal will create new genres, others remain confused on what to expect from the motion- and voice-tracking peripheral.

“If I'm honest, Microsoft have confused me a little with Natal,” said Proper Games’ Andrew Smith.

“Microsoft is looking to hop on the Wii bandwagon with what they think is the next step in easily-accessed games bringing simple, fun, arcadey titles to a new audience.

“While this is laudable, I'm just not convinced that people can enjoy the same range and fidelity of games as they do on the Wii without at least some physical connection to the experience.”

Smith added that Natal provides a “risky opportunity for developers on a machine that's actually pretty expensive to develop for”, claiming that studios will have little choice but make games exclusively for Microsoft’s device – possibly another risk in an age of multiplatform releases.

“It's not even like it'll benefit as the Wii did from the PS2/Wii crossover potential,” he added. “Yet another risk in an already iffy-seeming prospect.”

Emmeline Dobson, a freelance game designer who’s worked with studios such as Kuju and The Creative Assembly, said that Microsoft needs to focus on “the real needs of a non-traditional audience”, as opposed to make core titles for its installed base.

“I do not think that Natal will be enhancing core game genres soon, as players go to shooters, action games and racers for mechanics that deliver on fast reflexes and mental agility,” she said, “and movement control is a step backwards from the reponse offered by our familiar joypads.”

Meanwhile Adrian Hirst, managing director at indie studio Weaseltron, said that the key to Natal’s success will be a game which leads the way.

“Whether Natal becomes a real game-changer – evolving the Xbox 360 into a new software platform – or simply remains an amusement, will relate heavily on its ability to find its 'killer app'” he said.

Go here to read this week’s Develop Jury