Microsoft’s Spencer explains risk, possible future for Natal

Ever since Microsoft debuted Project Natal at E3 2009, there has been speculation over the device’s merit as a part of the future of videogames. Could Natal work as a legit controller or would it just be a sales gimmick used to draw in the casual audience? Will Natal be used to enhance existing genres as well as create new ones? No matter which direction Microsoft decided to go, Natal represents a big investment in a new frontier. That’s quite a risky endeavor for the Xbox manufacturer.

In an interview with Eurogamer, Microsoft’s Phil Spencer explains the risk his company is taking with Natal, “We’re trying something completely new where there’s no device in your hand. We’re trying to build a set of new games, new experiences that will have the same quality metrics of our past games, but really entice both existing 360 customers and new people. It’s a huge challenge, a huge investment and it’s fraught with risk.”

From that quote it sounds like Microsoft is aiming to create a whole new set of games for Natal and avoid using the new technology to infringe on existing properties. It’s understandable that fans of Xbox-exclusive franchises like Gears of War and Halo harbor fears of Natal interfering with the success of their beloved games, but that doesn’t sound like the direction that Microsoft is going in.

However, Spencer also makes a comparison between the future of Natal and Xbox Live, saying that Xbox 360 owners “should expect that over the years you’ll see Natal experiences show up on almost all of the games – similar to the way you do with Live today.” In other words, while Natal may start with its little niche in the Xbox 360 software library, it could expand to affect a good majority of Microsoft’s products. As frightening that may be for traditionalists, a notion like that is still a long way down the road and will depend greatly on the initial success of Natal. The project is still a great risk, but Microsoft will likely leave its existing franchises alone at first while figuring out how big a part of the future Natal actually is.