Mega Man Games Hacked To Allow On-The-Go Weapon Changes
Power Button At E3 2011 - Episode 5: Final Wrap-Up

Microsoft Believes That Your Kinect Experience Needs More Advertisements; Would You Like To Know More?

Would You Like To Know More?Despite how much marketing departments would disagree, people hate advertisements.  Nobody likes for their entertainment experience to come to a grinding halt so that corporations can hawk soft drinks, snack foods, summer blockbusters, and the other kinds of products that are plastered all over movies, television, and video games these days.  Nevertheless, Microsoft is going ahead with a new advertising platform for the Xbox 360 and Kinect that promises to make the advertising experience more annoying with interactive ads.  Microsoft is prepping the NUads platform that will allow Kinect users to talk to ads in order to request more information about the product in question.  Summed up in that one preceding sentence, NUads may sound harmless enough.  Going into detail, however, paints a more prying picture.  Here's how Chris Pereira of 1UP summarizes it:

Four examples of what's possible with voice-controlled NUads were shared. When watching an ad you can say, "Xbox Tweet" to share something about the ad you're watching on Twitter. "Xbox More" sends more information or a coupon to your email. "Xbox Near Me" sends you a text message with details on nearby retailers. "Xbox Schedule" send you a notification about an upcoming show you want to remember to watch. The one motion control element mentioned was the ability to vote for something through a gesture; the example cited was a Green Lantern movie commercial that asks who your favorite villain is or if you plan on seeing the movie.

That sounds like a very objective, restrained explanation.  I think we need some more flavorful commentary on how the average Xbox owner will react to this new platform.  David Houghton of GamesRadar paints a more realistic picture of the NUads experience:

Adverts are not games or films. People will not get excited about consuming them, no matter how "unique" your method of presentation is. "The magic of Kinect" can only stretch so far. Sorry Microsoft, you sweet, naive folks. No-one will think this is cool.  Where the hell are these adverts going to appear on my dashboard? That looks disturbingly like a dedicated splash page to me. Are ads going to have their own row of the dashboard?  If they are, you're aware that no-one is going to look at them, right? Adverts are not content. I cannot reiterate this enough. No-one is going to fire up their Xbox and say "Hey, I wonder what cool new ads are in the ad section today? Let's go in and check them out." No-one.

An automatic "Tweet this ad" function is really an automatic "Make everyone unfollow me" function. No-one is going to use it. And this is not "very unique" (And incidentally, there cannot be variable degrees of "unique". Just so you know). Viral marketing has existed for many years. I'm afraid though, this is not how you make it work. This is not how you make it work at all.  None of this "really, really cool", "unique" interactive stuff is actually unique at all. None of it cannot be done with basic web advertising. In fact none of it hasn't been done with basic web advertising a great many times.  Like most things Kinect, there is no functionality here that would not be quicker and easier if pressing a button or clicking a mouse.

Is anyone else getting a Starship Troopers kind of vibe off of this?  I feel like I'm being prompted with "Would you like to know more?".  Advertising companies and marketing departments get very excited about these kinds of things.  Remember Apple's triumphant crowing about iAds?  When was the last time that you gleefully clicked on an iAd as Apple promised we all would?  Nobody on the consumer end really wants this kind of functionality in their entertainment experience, and it's certainly not the kind of new feature that Kinect owners bought into when they purchased the peripheral.  NUads aren't expected to roll out until Spring 2012, so there's still time for the concept to be refined, but I think the best and most beneficial feature that Microsoft can add to the platform is the ability to turn the whole thing off and never be bothered with it again.