Former Microsoft studio manager Scot Bayless predicts that Project Natal is doomed to failure because Microsoft refused to integrate the motion-sensing device into the Xbox 360.
Scot Bayless is an industry veteran with an impressive rap sheet. He broke into the business more than 20 years ago as a programmer on the SSI classic Curse of the Azure Bonds and since then has moved up to hold executive positions at Electronic Arts, Midway, Capcom and Sega of America, where he was a senior producer when the 32X add-on for the Sega Genesis was released. In other words, he probably has a certain amount of insight into how things work (and don't work) in the videogame industry, and he doesn't appear too overly optimistic about the chances of Project Natal.
"When I met with Microsoft in 2008 to look at Natal I asked, 'When will you integrate this into the 360?'" Bayless said in the latest issue of Retro Gamer magazine. "Their response was, 'We're probably going to wait and see on that.' To which I said, 'Then you're going to fail.'"
"Plays like this always fragment and the disincentive to developers is powerful," he added. "When I'm spending tens of millions on a game, the last thing I want to do is lose 90 per cent of my market."
Bayless' pessimism could be deepened if rumors about Natal's pricing turn out to be true: Early predictions had the motion controller pegged at around $50 but a more recent report claimed it will actually list for $149 as a stand-alone device, or $299 bundled with an Xbox 360 Arcade. Either way, it's a lot of scratch for what is essentially a novelty controller; I'd rather spend the money on a proper Elite bundle and take my chances with good old-fashioned button-mashing.
UPDATE: I received an email from Scot Bayless saying that his comments about Project Natal had been taken out of context in the NowGamer report. The original Retro Gamer article was about the 32X and his point "was about how difficult it is to succeed with console peripherals, not about the intrinsic merits of Natal."
Bayless also clarified that despite the tone of the quote, he's not by any means a disgruntled former employee. He left Microsoft in 2002, six years before the Natal meeting, under good circumstances.
"My comment was actually offered as constructive feedback. I was very impressed by the potential of Natal, but my experience at Sega taught me that splintering your target market with peripherals is an extremely risky proposition at best," he said. "Most console peripherals don't succeed. A path to either bundling or integration for Natal technology, however, could be transformative."