Considering Microsoft's past few E3 conferences have focused almost exclusively on titles designed to appeal to the wider market, like Kinect Sports, Dance Central and Sesame Street, and their earlier Xbox One reveal event seemed to revolve almost exclusively around TV, it was somewhat surprising that last night's conference, at massive games show E3, barely mentioned their upgraded motion controlled sensor at all. Instead, Microsoft elected to keep the more family friendly titles out of their main show, relegating them to pre- and post-show reveals - but the delay was certainly worth the wait, as the company lifted the lid on a new entry in our favourite zoo creation/management series, Zoo Tycoon.
Although little's been revealed about the gameplay so far, judging by the trailer, it seems Kinect will be a central part of how you interact with both your Zoo and your animals in the game - with a dismembered hand reaching out into the screen, a giant tree plopping out of nowhere, and the ability to chuck an apple to your eager creatures with the flick of a wrist, most of what we've seen so far would appear to be entirely gesture controlled - although we're hopeful there'll be controller support as well. While the game on the PC focused as much on the strategy of running the zoo as it did on fussing the animals, asking you to make sure the animals were happy in their enclosures, and that the visitors had a good time while they were wandering around by placing benches, refreshment stands, and enough toilets in all the right places, the teaser trailer we've included below only shows off one of our favourite parts of the game - playing with the animals.
From the studio that bought us the awesome Kinect virtual pet title Kinectimals, it's perhaps to be expected that the trailer has more than a similar vibe to it - after all, if there's one thing Frontier Developments know how to do, it's cute animals. But while Kinectimals let you befriend a number of big cat cubs (and later bears) as you explored a mysterious island, playing all sorts of motion-controlled mini-games with your furry friend as you went, there's more to a Zoo Tycoon game than a few cute mini games (as charming as they may be) - which is where Frontier's other previous experience comes in handy. As the creators of both Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 and Thrillville - two rather different takes on the theme park management game - they certainly have the experience in the genre to suggest this won't end up turning into just another virtual pet game. In fact, putting our trailer detective hat on for a second - Zoo Tycoon 2 had a sort of similar looking mode in which you could be a zoo keeper, clearing up piles of elephant excrement, feeding some lions and brushing down your zebras instead of hiring a computer-controlled zoo keeper to do it for you - it was a good way of saving money in the early stages of the game, and what the trailer shows off is perhaps an extension of this.
While details are pretty scarce at the moment, with no release date hinted at whatsoever, we'll be keeping a close eye on this one, while hoping that Zoo Tycoon on the 360/Xbox One isn't too much of a departure from the much loved PC series. As the description for the game mentions the words "creating", "customising" and "building", we're not about to start worrying just yet. In the meantime why not check out the trailer below, and feel your heart melt at the cheerfully cute baby elephant: