Pete Parsons, Jordan Weisman, Paul Thelen and Ed Fries at TechNW today.

The gaming panel today at the WTIA’s TechNW conference featured some well-known names from the industry talking about a wide variety of trends and technologies: Bungie‘s Pete Parsons, veteran game designer Jordan Weisman, and Big Fish Games CEO Paul Thelen, moderated by former Microsoft games chief Ed Fries.

One audience question toward the end, from Kevin Pedraja, sparked a particularly interesting discussion between Weisman and Parsons: Are motion controllers such as Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Kinect, Sony’s PlayStation Move and the Nintendo Wii-mote and Wii U GamePad a passing fad or destined to be a more permanent fixture in the game industry.

One thing they seemed to agree upon: We haven’t yet seen a true killer app for these technologies. Here’s what they had to say …

Parsons: I think it’s still emerging as a technology. I think there’s a lot of interesting opportunities with motion control in the virtual space. My kids play Kinect games every single week. Whether they have the killer app or not, I don’t know, but I think there’s a ton of interesting stuff there that people are going to start hitting on. I don’t personally think it’s going away.

Weisman: I’ll pull the “I’m old” card and say it’s a cycle again. We played with green screen input, camera inputs to games 20 years ago and had successful titles. What we found then is what they found recently. It’s a relatively narrow window of games that are really truly enhanced by that, and the ones that are truly enhanced are a big improvement, but it doesn’t fan out to be a huge spectrum. That doesn’t mean that next week someone won’t come up with a whole new category that is enabled or truly enhanced by it, but so far it’s remained in that pretty narrow space of dance, sports.

Parsons: Even the less obvious stuff — just walking into your living room and having the game universe recognize you and say something cool. It’s not just about what’s the great dance or bowling experience.

Fries: But the coming fad is all around augmented reality, virtual reality, goggles, Google glasses, superimposing a virtual world onto a real world. Now Jordan will tell us virtual reality was really hot 20 years ago.

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  • Laura Bangerter

    I think for parents the motion controllers are a big selling point. It makes parents feel better about their kids playing a game, when they know they won’t be sedentary while playing.

    • olanmills

      Why should a parent need to “feel better about their kids playing a game”?

      This type of thinking, where you segment video games as something entirely different from other kinds of games and toys bothers me. Sedentary activites are good for you too. Games of all kinds can be great, whether we’re talking Xbox, or chess. If all your kid wants to do is playing with Lego or read a book in her room for six hours straight, you still need to encourage her to go outside and do different things. Likewise, I don’t think it’s good for kids to be sitting around, or jumping around, as the case may be, and playing video games all of the time, whether it’s with Kinect or a standard controller.

      You shouldn’t need a justification to allow your kids to play games or watch TV. “Oh it’s okay because it’s educational!” or “It gets him to move around.” That’s insulting to creators, as if their games and shows and toys aren’t worth anything without some tertiary benefit.

      Instead, kids just need involved family and friends, and a healthy variety of things to do.

      Motion control should be used if it makes a type of gameplay more fun or more practical, not just because it might have a side benefit of getting a kid to move.

  • Guest

    We’d like to reserve judgment on Kinect until Xbox 3 debuts next year. We believe that the already-substantial lineup of innovative gaming experiences will be bolstered by Xbox 3’s competitive price point and integration with other services such as SmartGlass (a smartphone and tablet interface for a “second screen”) and of course the additional goodies that Microsoft is withholding until E3 2013. (Note the key digit “3” occurring twice in the event name, which we believe is a sign that the console’s name will be simply “Xbox 3” and will be styled as “Xbox ε.”)

    We are not affiliated with Microsoft: no payment of any kind was granted to us from Microsoft, any subsidiary, or any agency representing Microsoft in exchange for this posting. This posting is purely speculative, although the editors of GeekWire are encouraged to treat it as news so that we can help get Xbox 3’s Wikipedia entry reinstated with reliable sources.

  • guest

    Whether it’s a fad or not in gaming, the potential for the technology more broadly is obvious and inevitable. Unfortunately MS doesn’t appear to be doing nearly as much as they should to assist with that. Much of the initial Kinect momentum seems to have dissipated due to lack of new games that would harness the full power of the technology, the huge delay in making an SDK available for Windows, and effectively zero embedding of the technology in W8, which should have showcased it. And we haven’t even seen anything from their purchase of a smaller camera sensor company. Imagine the possibilities if today’s Kinect, or a substantial subset, could be miniaturized to the point where it could be integrated into TVs, monitors, laptops, tablets, or even smartphones.

  • Jack Torres-Onisto

    It’s the future. Voice automation is what we are striving for. Kinect works very well when I’m alone but when my friends are over it doesn’t perform quite as well.

  • Lenny Ibizzarre

    Child of Eden is the Kinect killer app, an experience that was sci-fi a few years ago.

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