• Microsoft Goes All-in on Kinect

        Microsoft's press conference this E3 may have seemed like a whole lot of nothing; an endless parade of expected sequels and uninteresting casual games, but it tells quite a lot about their plans for the future.

        The fifth year of a generation has always been pivotal, but the increased fidelity of HD gaming has brought with it an unexpected longevity of growth that has left many guessing as to when the console cycle will begin anew. Nintendo, who ably leveraged control over high-end visuals, have fallen deep into their year-five slump, and all accounts are pointing to new hardware. Sony, on the other hand has continued to see growth, albeit slowing, and MS has been selling even more units, thanks in part to the Kinect and the newly streamlined (and more reliable) Xbox 360 units. Sony is not ignoring the need for new hardware, but are instead focusing on their new handheld, the PlayStation Vita, but Microsoft's next move has been a mystery.

        That's because Microsoft doesn't have a next move. When Unreal presented their cutting edge "Samaritan" demo as a plea to console developers for a high-end spec, many assumed this was just a coy way of avoiding the issue of hardware under development. It turns out this may have been a genuine persuasive effort that has fallen on deaf ears.

        Microsoft began their conference with a series of high-profile sequels, beginning with Modern Warfare 3, and including the newest Mass Effect and Ghost Recon titles, the latter two of which emphasized Kinect features. Gears of War served to close the hardcore gaming portion of the show, which then continued for almost an hour with nothing but Kinect titles.

        The stream of casual-minded games was almost endless. Particularly disappointing was the news that the new Fable title would be a Kinect-oriented rail shooter, and that Double Fine's latest is a Sesame Street game. Nearly the entire presentation focused on Kinect software and "becoming the controller." Microsoft has indeed had quite a bit of success with Kinect and they're smart to keep games coming, but the rapid decline of the Wii should serve as a warning about the longevity of gimmicks.

        The most revealing part of their conference came at the very end, with the requisite reveal of their next blockbuster sequel. Before dimming the lights to unveil the latest Halo, Don Mattrick declared it "the dawn of a new trilogy for Xbox 360." If Microsoft is truly planning to keep the series rolling for three new games on the 260, it seems unlikely they are planning for new hardware before 2015. That seems like quite a wait, and it wouldn't surprise me if that changes once their competitors step up, but it seems to indicate that Microsoft has a lot of confidence in their ability to keep the current gen going.

        In a way, they could be right; Nintendo effectively kept the same hardware going for two generations by repackaging it with a new controller, and Microsoft's efforts are only slightly more transparent. But if Microsoft wants to be the new Nintendo, who will be the new Microsoft?
        Comments 15 Comments
        1. YellerDog's Avatar
          YellerDog -
          I, for one, cannot wait for Microsoft Office 2012's Kinect-enabled features!
        1. Josh's Avatar
          Josh -
          The collective nerd rage over this is awesome. I can watch movies without a remote now. You mad, bro?
        1. Frogacuda's Avatar
          Frogacuda -
          I have no problem with the Kinect, whatsoever. I'm just commenting on how Kinect seems to be MS's plan to carry the system for the next few years. More of a nerd-observation than nerd rage.
        1. YellerDog's Avatar
          YellerDog -
        1. Frogacuda's Avatar
          Frogacuda -
          Yeah, we really need to fix this template something awful. I hate it so much.
        1. Diff-chan's Avatar
          Diff-chan -
          The Xbox 360 is pretty lame now. I'll keep using it because it has an awesome stockpile of great games but I can't say I am honestly excited about anything coming out for the platform. That's pretty disappointing.

          And yea, buying a Kinect is not in my plans.
        1. YellerDog's Avatar
          YellerDog -
          XBLA stuff might re-sell me a 360 sometime this year, I'd consider a Kinect bundle.

          Mostly for the pony-brushing sims.
        1. Josh's Avatar
          Josh -
          Quote Originally Posted by Frogacuda View Post
          More of a nerd-observation than nerd rage.
          I wasn't just talking about you. It's everywhere.
        1. Bacon McShig's Avatar
          Bacon McShig -
          I don't really get the push. However many millions Kinect has sold, it's still a small fraction of the number of people that don't have it, and that will never change.

          If MS really wanted the thing to have huge market penetration, they could have taken that same $500 million they spent to market it and just sent every existing 360 owner one for free. It would have cost them less and they'd have a 100% install rate.
        1. bahn's Avatar
          bahn -
          There's an Xbox 260 coming out? Lol...
        1. Hero's Avatar
          Hero -
          but the rapid decline of the Wii should serve as a warning about the longevity of gimmicks.
          Nah - I think the lesson is in the support of said "gimmicks." The moment Wii lost momentum was when Nintendo lost its message. Year 1 was all about Blue Ocean and expanding the audience. Then they drifted from that and set their sights back on (vainly) appealing to Teh Hardcorzor.

          You would think the GameCube, N64, GBA, DS, et al would've taught them some good lessons. If the 3DS is any indicator, none of those lessons stuck.
        1. Josh's Avatar
          Josh -
          I think the lesson they learned is "make money, fuck you"
        1. Chux's Avatar
          Chux -
          This is why, from PCWORLD in March.
          It looks like Kinect's officially a record-setter, grabbing Guinness' attention long enough to snag the title 'fastest selling consumer electronics device'. According to Microsoft, their controller-free Xbox 360 motion-sensing camera has sold a whopping 10 million units since it launched in early November last year.

          Read that again: 10 million units. We're talking iPhone- and iPad-beating launch (and comparable sustained) sales here.

          To be clear, that's units sold, not sold-through. The distinction's ever-important, since it refers to Kinect sensors shipped to stores by Microsoft, but not necessarily plucked off store shelves by customers. The numbers are probably close, though, and I'm told Kinect sales through the holidays were pretty close to the company's undisclosed sell-through figures.

          Guinness's independent hand adds serious oomph to the press statement. The records-keeper notes Kinect sold through an average of 133,333 units per day (since November 4) and rallied an astonishing 8 million units during its initial two months on sale, through the holidays.

          Let's get Guinness on the record. Gaz Deaves, Editor of the Guinness World Records 2011 Gamer's Edition, writes "The sales figures here speak for themselves" and confirms that "no other consumer electronics device sold faster within a 60-day time span," calling it "an incredible achievement considering the strength of the sector." By "strength" he means the downturn in overall 2010 video game revenue.

          Microsoft adds that it sold more than 10 million standalone Kinect games worldwide to date. If that sounds like an odd match for units sold to you, it does me as well. It implies Microsoft's selling games and sensors at a 1:1 rate. Maybe I'm missing something
          They sold a shit ton of hardware fast and no games. We all knew this, but there is a source for you.
        1. MechDeus's Avatar
          MechDeus -
          Quote Originally Posted by Hero View Post
          The moment Wii lost momentum was when Nintendo lost its message. Year 1 was all about Blue Ocean and expanding the audience. Then they drifted from that and set their sights back on (vainly) appealing to Teh Hardcorzor.
          I'd ask what you're talking about but I'm pretty sure you don't know.

          The moment the Wii lost momentum was the moment it primarily appealed to non-gamers. The audience that largely bought the system were people that - by their very nature - did not care about normal videogames or wish to purchase them. These same people also don't care about sequels or buying new "non-gamer" games all the time; each title like that which does really well is generally pulling in a different section of the demographic.

          The same phenomenon occurred with Rock Band: tons of people that don't normally play videogames bought the full set of instruments with the original game, and then promptly gave no shits whatsoever about yearly $50 sequels. They play it a few times for parties and that's it.

          The games on their handhelds and their consoles share something in common, which is that Nintendo's own games dominate the sales charts and everyone else does poorly. The DS, GBA, and so on always remained in the public eye because they were largely the only portable in town, so third-parties continued to release big name games for them throughout their lifespan. Nintendo's consoles since the SNES, however, have all followed the same pattern: start off big, get carried by Nintendo's first-party games, then Nintendo gets distracted by all the money they're making and they churn out Mario Party sequels for easy cash while the system quickly drifts into obscurity for the last few years of its life.

          If Nintendo has a lesson to learn here, it hardly matters. Their business design has meant they can consistently earn tons of money while openly not giving a single fuck about their fanbase. Sure, every once in a while they say they'll try to boost third-party support or admit that third-parties do terrible on their systems, but the issue never actually gets rectified. They're a backwards-thinking company; they design their product around themselves and then wonder why no one else bothers to chip in*, and as long as they continue that method they will always trail off in maintaining a console presence.

          But why should they bother, when they make so much money by not caring?

          *Besides Capcom, who would release games on ATMs and dialysis machines if they could.
        1. Mzo's Avatar
          Mzo -
          LOL it's so true about Capcom, I fucking love them. I'm still in shock that they never managed to put up something for the Virtual Boy.
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