Total Fail at the Kinect Galleries

Update 3rd Sept: Shortly after I made this post, I got a nice email from someone running the Kinect Galleries campaign telling me they took the problems very seriously and were working to make sure they didn’t happen again – from the comments on this post, it sounds like that’s happened! I also went to the galleries again, this time with an appointment, and found the staff to be much more helpful.

As for the Kinect itself, it’s certainly fun – just like an arcade game or the old PS2 Eyetoy games – but I experienced some worrying problems with navigating menus and the response time in games. At £130, I am not convinced that it’s great value for money given that you can buy a Wii bundle for the same price; time will tell though.


Yesterday, I went down to Covent Garden to check out the new Apple Store there (the largest in the world). About 300 people were queuing to pick up the iPhone 4, which is pretty astonishing given that it’s been out for a month now, but non-iPhone buyers could bypass the queue and go straight inside.

As we walked in to cheers and high-fives from a receiving line of Apple employees (who were mostly there to keep up the spirits of the iPhone queuers), we saw three floors of Apple products, all displayed with exceeding taste and set out in perfect proportion. MacBooks and iPads were set up just so, and if the crowds weren’t there, I think it’d be a very nice environment to test and buy Apple stuff. If you weren’t sure what you wanted, scores of staff were circulating in distinctive bright blue shirts were there to help.

The Covent Garden Apple Store, then, isn’t really much different from any other Apple Store in the rest of the world – it’s just bigger, and will print a proportionately bigger pile of cash.

Microsoft (Kinect)

On the way to Bloomsbury Square Garden, we passed by a nondescript building on Russell Street bearing some ‘KINECT GALLERIES’ banners. They didn’t look particularly Xbox 360-like, so I wasn’t sure if they had anything to do with the Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect addon, but a nice man at the door asked if we wanted to have a go on the new Kinect experience, so that confirmed things (for anyone walking right by him, at least).

Inside, we were drawn into a pretty large gallery space, all white bare walls with the occasional big screen TV and poster declaring how we do so much stuff with our bodies (e.g. our big toe holds half of our weight when walking, apparently). I didn’t immediately see any tell-tale signs of Kinect consoles around, so we walked down a long, long, long corridor to emerge into a strange basement divided up into three fake living rooms.


In each living room was a genuine Xbox Kinect setup – finally, what we were looking for! A couple of the rooms had one or two people having a go on various Kinect demos, like dancing or Kinect Sports, with various friends/parents/partners observing at a distance. We hung around a couple of the setups for five minutes, trying to catch the eye of the Kinect staffers, but they were busy chatting amongst themselves and surfing Wikipedia, and were definitely ignoring us (as seen below).


Eventually one of the demo rooms became free and I spent 30 seconds trying to navigate the menus of a dance game. A young staffer rapidly zoomed over and asked me if I’d made a booking; since this was the first time anyone had ever mentioned bookings, I said no. She told me that unfortunately people could only play if they had booked, and while they obviously had a no-show on this demo room, the next people might turn up soon, so I couldn’t play. Not even for a minute. But if I went upstairs reception, maybe I could make a booking there?

So we went all the way back along the long corridor, went upstairs, went to the reception that we’d walked past on the way in (not that there was anything or anyone telling us to stop by it) and unsuccessfully waited a couple of minutes for someone to become free to talk to us. In any case, I saw that the entire day was booked up, so the whole visit was pointless.

When we left, feeling pretty annoyed about Kinect and everything to do with it, we politely told the door guy about our troubles. He suggested that we try a go on the public demo unit in the main gallery; we told him that it didn’t look very public to us, and in any case it was very occupied by a couple of families. Oh well.

There are so many things wrong with the ‘KINECT GALLERIES’ experience that it’s pointless to mention them all. Microsoft clearly has no idea how to run a good show, they clearly have no-one who particularly cares (since it’d be easy to send in a mystery shopper or just spring a surprise visit) and god knows that the Kinect needs a good show.

The fact is, our experience was just fucking awful. I don’t swear on this blog a lot, but there you go – it was that bad. Sure, I’ve seen worse campaigns, but probably not ones that cost this much or are so important. You wonder if they even realised they’d opened up almost at the same time as the multimillion pound Apple Store right around the corner; an unfair comparison, I know, but an inevitable one.

I was given a postcard inviting me to ‘Come and play or book a place online’ for the KINECT GALLERIES on the way out, but I feel sufficiently pissed off at the whole experience that I’m not sure whether I want to go. Good one, Microsoft – and I say this as someone who likes the 360.

(Actually, I just checked out the Facebook page for booking a place online, and it is equally awful since it requires you to have or sign up for a Windows/Xbox Live ID before you get to do or see anything useful.)

9 Replies to “Total Fail at the Kinect Galleries”

  1. This really surprises me. Like you say, Microsoft need to pull off a good show here, especially when there are still questions about how well Kinect actually works. Does it work sitting down, does it flip out if a dog walks into the frame?

    I went to a public demo of Kinect at a Macy’s in Atlanta a few weeks back and had the total opposite experience. Sure, it wasn’t a nice gallery space that they’d spent lots of their marketing budget on, but the staff were polite, well trained and helpful.

    Shame you didn’t get to try it out. On the whole, I was very impressed with the technology but taken aback by the lack of innovative game design. Reminded me of the Playstation Eye when that first came out.

  2. Yup, appalling customer service from Microsoft, as usual. It’s amazing to me that they only bothered to give you a card about booking as you were LEAVING.

  3. Marc: Exactly – the weird thing is that even if they had set up everything perfectly, they’d get maybe 100 or 200 people per day. That’s a maximum of 6000 per month, or 36000 per six months. Compare that to a mall where you get really pack in the audiences. Seems very wasteful.

    Debbie: I just think the whole thing was very poorly done. Obviously Microsoft had contracted the roadshow out – and not bothered to check whether the job was done properly.

  4. If I were you I’d have argued with the Wikipedia-surfing Microsft guys and told them you’re an influential game blogger and are going to write a negative review on your blog. If they still didn’t budge I’d take their names and email addresses and send them (and their boss) a link to this blog post.

    Come to think of it, you can still do that now 🙂 We just need the email addresses of the guys in the photo!

  5. I understand that you’re annoyed, but I have just been there and actually had a great experience.

    Booking online was pretty easy (although was via facebook, and makes you invite friends – understandably though for them, they want to reach as many people as possible), and I got the slot I wanted in 2 hours time.

    The building was easy to find, with lots of large posters advertising that this was for the xbox and inviting you in to have a go, or book online.

    We were met a the door, and taken to reception to get our pass (which has the code to see our videos afterwards), and as we were early, we were invited to the public demo area on the main floor. OK, in busier times you may have to wait (we were there on a Monday, so no waiting at all), but they do let you try out a good few games, and this area doesn’t require any booking at all.

    We were then taken down to the room we’d booked, and the console was ours for half an hour, with a really helpful girl telling us what games we could use and how they worked.
    Personally, we found the staff really friendly, and going out of their way to be helpful – e.g. the room next to ours was free, so they moved the booking after ours there so we could play for longer, which let us get a really good feel for it, and how it works.

    Overall, I actually think it was a great experience (and I say this as a non-gamer) – ok it may be busy at the weekends, but they do make it easy to book which means you get half an hour without feeling you have to move on and let other people play, or you can wait for the public demo area to be free – which requires no booking at all, and the staff are genuinely helpful and interested.

  6. Now that I’ve been there, I agree somewhat with Rachel – everyone was very nice and helpful. The instant we walked in, we were collared by someone and asked if we had a booking. No sign of Wikipedia either. Admittedly, we were asked about 5 times if we had a booking so Adrian, perhaps your post inspired someone to crack some whips.

    Still no excuse for the guy inviting you in and not explaining the whole booking thing but I’m glad that they’re improving.

    Marc, on your question about dogs interfering; we had a good attempt at trying to confuse it during the dance game by standing behind each other and giving me extra arms and legs – Kinect wasn’t having any of it and resolutely showed us as two different people. Much better than my old Eye Toy in that respect, which was constantly bamboozled by a light switch on the wall behind me.

  7. Yes I went here yesterday and had a great time – the staff were really friendly, and the lounges were turning over a lot of groups every half hour. Only downer was it wasnt long enough. And kinectimals is pants, lol. Bit unfair to show up without booking and get narked off that you can’t have a go? Although I agree, sounds like they could have been a bit clearer, maybe they were new? 🙂

  8. I went there…without a booking. I went straight to the desk and they explained that I had to book but I can play the public display one. Now…i don’t know how you missed the giant screen infront of you before you go to the basement. I walked right over there watch some other people playing connect and they asked who else wanted to play and I popped up there. They were helpful, kind and informing. After I played a driving game and lost to someone twice my age…45 or something they said I could book a private room to play and I should check out downstairs. It was downstairs where I too saw staff chatting to each other and not actively approaching people there. It was ok, because I had been informed by the staff upstairs that i could just see what the booths were like. Staff down there are simply expecting people to cone to them to ask which booth they should go into for there booking.

    I would just say you took a wrong turning and that lead to a bad experience. If you had go e to the public display you would have been pleased.

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