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Microsoft Rings In Kinect's Official Launch Amid Celebration, Questions Alike
Microsoft Rings In Kinect's Official Launch Amid Celebration, Questions Alike Exclusive
November 4, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

November 4, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander
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    27 comments
More: Console/PC, Exclusive



For Microsoft, the launch of its controller-free Kinect motion sensing device is much more than placing a new peripheral onto the console market -- from marketing to buzz, the company's looking at Kinect's launch as if it were an entirely new platform.

Yesterday, in the lead-up to today's release, Microsoft virtually took over New York's Times Square, one of the nation's most recognizable city blocks.

This morning, key members of the company's Xbox team, like product director Aaron Greenberg and Xbox Live program manager Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb were on Wall Street to ring the NASDAQ's opening bell.

Microsoft president of Interactive Entertainment Business Don Mattrick has promised the Xbox brand's biggest launch ever in terms of unit sales, and the company yesterday upped its holiday forecast from 3 to 5 million units, clearly aiming for the same kind of explosive mainstream response Nintendo's Wii achieved when it revolutionized traditional controls by adding motion.

There's been plenty of cautious skepticism from the core consumer gaming press about the device, however. Although Kinect is receiving major publisher support, with a 17-title launch lineup, Kotaku observes that its initial aim is so broad "Kinect fails to do any one thing excellently," and suggests the imitation of Wii-like racers and sport titles is "shameless."

Critical consensus also seems to hold that the device recognizes input much less than perfectly; in a review with a headline claiming Kinect "sacrifices the controller on the altar of accuracy," PC World called the tech "incomplete and frequently crude, with all the promise of something amazing, but only partial delivery."

A Joystiq reviewer found Kinect had trouble recognizing his face when he had his glasses on, and he also felt the device requires an unreasonable amount of living room space to play games. The site's sum verdict was harsh: "For all the talk of revolutionizing the Xbox 360 experience and making gaming more natural/ accessible, it's bordering on absurd how broken Kinect is when it comes to something as simple as working in your home."

But most critics conceded the appeal that body control could hold for casual players -- Kinect "isn't for me, it's for my wife," said the PC World reviewer. And to play Devil's advocate, it's worth remembering that the launch of the Wii was met with many similar complaints about accuracy and doubts about whether it could appeal to an audience of any significant size.

Of course, Nintendo's console went on to shock the gaming landscape and permanently transformed the audience. And Microsoft recently spoke to Gamasutra about how reaching Xbox Live's 25 million-strong community with interactive multimedia content like movies and sports is as pivotal to its Kinect strategy as games. Thus only Kinect's performance on the market and the reaction that's sure to follow this season can reliably speak to Microsoft's success with the device.

The company's not pulling any punches on the marketing front, backing Kinect with "the largest, most integrated marketing initiative in Xbox history, bigger than [the system's] launch." The company hasn't confirmed its marketing spend, but some reports have placed it as high as $500 million.

Microsoft's all-day Times Square gala yesterday, running from 8:00 AM to a midnight launch, was just the culmination, a venue for the company to host demos, celebrity appearances and even a "massive, choreographed dance routine," to use the company's own description.

Actor Mark Wahlberg was on hand to help promote Kinect and to announce the company's big donation of Kinect units to America's Boys & Girls Clubs, before dancers claimed the city streets with singers Ne-Yo and Lady Sovereign in a "surprise tribute" to the device.

The hype's helping: Retailers worldwide have reported shortages and have placed limitations on pre-orders with an eye toward having enough stock to meet demand. Kinect sells as a standalone unit for $150, including the game Kinect Adventures, as well as part of a 4GB Xbox 360-Kinect bundle for $299 and a 250GB bundle for $399, which both also include the game.


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Comments


Prash Nelson-Smythe
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It's interesting to hear about this marketing circus surrounding Kinect. The launch seems to have some key differences to that of the Wii.



1. Wii came bundled with its killer app. From all accounts, Kinect Adventures is more filler.



2. Microsoft have made a big spectacle and promoted the device in every way except for actually getting normal people to use it. The Wii was put into people's hands at every opportunity before launch.



To me this all suggests that we will at least see the hype-spike sales pattern for Kinect that you see for most hardcore hype-driven games. Longer term sales will depend on word-of-mouth, which will depend only on the quality of the experience. I'm interested to try this but don't know if I will ever get the opportunity.

Jonathan Gilmore
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Not true, MS had demo units placed in a lot of locations for people to try it out. They also brought it to PAX. I can't recall what Nintendo doing with the Wii, but MS did reach out to the public to try it out.

Victor Reynolds
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they also had a public beta...and gave many units away for free.

Prash Nelson-Smythe
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Yeh I take that back then. But it is hard to track the extent of that sort of thing. Also, it varies a lot in different countries (UK here).

Tim Atton
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am i not normal? this is me in August trying it out at Alton Towers

http://www.kinect.me/?locale=en-GB&dpID=44007032

http://www.kinect.me/?locale=en-GB&dpID=44007029

Bob Philhower
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Is that marketing spend number reasonable? $500 million to market an expected 5 million units goes to $100 per unit or 2/3 revenue. Sounds excessive to me given the Wii's pitiful attach rate.

Camilo R
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The $500 million is probably overarching and will be expensed in years rather than a one-time expense. MS probably expects Kinect to keep selling so that it'll overshadow the expenses in time.

Francis Page
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Don't forget they also make money with every game sold.

Leon T
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The Wii had a pitiful attach rate? I think Microsoft is wise to try to increase the LTD software sales considering the Wii has sold so much more.

Lifetime-to-date



DS 42,942,258

Wii 30,292,231

Xbox 360 21,840,075

PlayStation 3 13,472,196





Microsoft is ahead on software this year but not by much at all so if they can create some evergreen titles or just sell more family titles they can sell a lot more software.



Year-to-date



DS 4,215,500

Xbox 360 3,209,089

Wii 3,157,900

PlayStation 3 2,343,500

gus one
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Ordered mine today - I love being a victim of hype. Been umming and arring about a Wii for the last year but what was stopping me was that its got crap graphics, old tech and only getting older and at 230 with a Wii board is still expensive. So got a new shiny 360 250gb and Kinect for 300 instead. It's for downstairs so the kids and family can play on it. So I don't really care if it lags a bit since I am not buying it for a hardcore gaming experience. I save that for the PC and PS3 in my games rooms err I mean office.

David Wesley
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Microsoft has publicly acknowledged that Kinect was inspired by the Wii, and as such, Kotaku's criticism that "the imitation of Wii-like racers and sport titles is 'shameless'" is really unjustified. Name a single genre in which titles are truly unique. FPS, RPG, platformers, and even puzzle games all borrow heavily from each other.



The Kotaku review also notes that "Some games, such as Dance Central and Kinectimals, are polished and seldom show cracks. Others suffer." Which goes back to Prash's earlier point about the need to include a "killer app." Clearly, Dance Central and Kinectimals have the potential to be killer apps for specific segments, but they may not have sufficiently broad appeal. Still, many casual users are going to make their final judgment based on initial impressions.

Jonathan Gilmore
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The gaming press has been particularly harsh on Kinect since last year's E3. Based on the early reviews there has been a wide disparity of reactions, with some reviewers calling it revolutionary and some, like Joystiq, essentially calling it broken.

David Wesley
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The same was certainly true for the launch of the Wii. The business press was far more optimistic about the ultimate success the Wii than most game reviewers, who couldn't see past the dated graphics and goofy name.

gus one
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I thought these reveiws were pretty fair.



http://www.techradar.com/reviews/gaming ... 010/review



and here



http://reviews.cnet.co.uk/game-controll ... -50000560/



Yes. It's not for hardcore gamers.... yet. Personally my kids are going to go mad when they see it (aged 6 and 4). Why have an old dated Wii when then can have high definition gaming.

David Wesley
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Kinect has the potential to appeal to hardcore gamers, but developers first must see beyond the "no controller vs. controller" mentality and break down the walls separating the different types of gaming experiences.



The best experiences will involve a combination of traditional and controller-free gaming. I mentioned in another post the idea of using a wand type interface such as the Wii Remote or Move in combination with Kinect for Star Wars type games. A similar approach could be taken with almost any game that uses a first person perspective.

Marcus Miller
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Kinect seemed to be surrounded in controversy from its development to launch. Why did the PS3 Move seem to escape unscathed?

Jonathan Gilmore
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The Move is a much more conventional device. People, including the gaming press, had essentially been trained by the Wii to accept wand-based motion control. Not everyone likes it, but at this point everyone accepts it.



The Kinect is in a position much more like the Wii was at launch. I remember people thinking the Wii would be Nintendo's last console, people ridiculing the name. I also remember lots of predictors thinking the Wii would flop at retail. Kinect bucks convention, even within the motion gaming sphere, and so it has met a lot of resistance from traditional gamers, including the gaming press.



But, Kinect has caught a lot more of the popular imagination than the Move did, which I think is the end goal of MS. Whether it has any traction is anybody's guess, but it is certainly going to make a big splash, initially.

Amir Sharar
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Because the Kinect was too different.



I agree, the Move requires 8 feet distance for optimal play (as it uses a camera as well) and yet we see far less complaints in regards to the space requirements. Secondly, the Move also seems to share in the "cookie cutter" game lineup that mimics many successful Wii titles. In some regards there were double standards.



At the same time, the Move refined the Wii controls to be more accurate and precise, whereas the the Kinect (much like the original Wii remote) sacrifices these qualities in order to be sold at mass market prices.



The key thing to remember is that most of the criticisms came from traditional gamers, the same ones who were wrong about the Wii and wrong about most major industry trends.

Chris Howe
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Are you kidding? Maybe because the Move combines existing EyeToy tech with the form factor of the Wiimote. There's nothing innovative about it, therefore nothing risky, and to me at least nothing interesting.

Adam Bishop
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One thing the huge marketing push has confirmed for me is that I'd rather be playing my PS3 than my 360. I can't go into the Xbox dashboard without being bombarded with Kinect ads that I have zero interest in seeing. Makes me glad Sony hasn't done anything similarly overbearing with the Move.

Jacob Pederson
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The perfect motion control system would contain BOTH the Kinect's 3d camera AND the PS3's 1:1 motion sensing wand. Heck, throw in some 3d glasses and we could finally be at the point where I can reach for, pick up, and rotate/inspect an in game item with 1:1 accuracy. That would be nuts awesome.



Both system's could easily take that next step, the 360 by adding a wand; the ps3 by adding a 3d camera.

David Hughes
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I totally agree with you. In fact, Ben Kuchera over at Ars Technica finished his review by issuing a prediction that just such a controller will come out by this time next year.



There's talk of 'hybrid' titles that use Kinect and the standard 360 controller, but that's going to be far more limited than getting a Move-type controller interfaced with the Kinect. Considering that MS just bought another 3D camera tracking company to fend off competition to Kinect tech, I think it's more likely that MS adds a wand than Sony adding a truly 3D camera.



I have so many games to catch up on, though, that I'm more than content to sit on the sidelines when it comes to both the Move and the Kinect.

Petter Solberg
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I wouldn't mind using a thin, light glove with sensors or something for the sake of accuracy, but I actually don't feel those wands work naturally in motion control. I mean, if you're controlling a magic wand or a sword (or any item with a similar shape) in the game, then it's perfect; for all other things, it feels awkward. Like throwing a bowling ball for instance

Leon T
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Kinect has the chance to sell a lot just by being so different. It will only do great if people find it fun. I don't see how a dance game can be a killer app when dance games are already selling great on the Wii.



You can't forget that it will get drowned in the many dance games already coming out. Including a MJ dance game that may sell like crazy to his fan base.



I guess it could motivate the current userbase to pick up Kinect. Just like move will mostly be sold to the current PS3 userbase. That is not really the goal Microsoft has set for it though.

Petter Solberg
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what makes you think that people won't try more than one dancing game, especially if the controls are so different? I don't recall how many fps and rpg games I've bought since I've started playing and a lot of them have managed to be successful, even without necessarily being very innovative and different

Leon T
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I never said people would try just one dance game. In fact I was talking about two dance games in my reply. The Just Dance games are already pretty popular. Then there is michael jackson the experience hitting this month along many other dance games hitting the Wii.



As I said I think it will sell fine to current xbox users. I don't think another dance game is going to be a killer app to someone who does not own a 360 though.

Petter Solberg
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Wii Sports a Killer app? I actually wasn't particularly impressed with Wii Sports, and was quite disappointed that it didn't actually track movements 1:1 (I think Move deserve more credit for being able to do some of the things Wii failed to achieve). This is not to say that I didn't enjoy it at all. But I think the Wii deserve credit for popularizing motion controls, not for inventing them.



Ever since E3 2009 people saying that the Kinect is just MS's attempt to steal the Wii fanbase from Nintendo. If that is all MS is trying to do, then why couldn't they simply make something like the PS Move (which is more similar to Wii, but slightly more advanced)? I just don't buy the argument that MS is only trying to please casual gamers (and please, can't we once and for all get rid of that generalising term), this seems like a long term investment and a genuine desire to try something new, fresh and interesting, and I think we just need to give it a bit to be stable enough to be able to carry so-called 'core' games


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