Video Games

Goodbye Xbox, hello Kinect.

Xbox 360 was built to be the most profitable console Microsoft could make. Its been a long road for Microsoft to get to where they are now with Xbox 360, they invested millions, if not billions into the Xbox brand. All the great first party games, peripherals, and all the massive marketing they’ve done over the course of 10 years they’ve been in the business.

Last saturday, Microsoft launched Kinect, a motion sensor peripheral that I don’t think Microsoft is going to just give up on. Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen a lot of peripheral flops due to consumer acceptance, knowledge, and developer support. With kinect, Microsoft has created something I would like to call “stealth marketing” which will be a subject I will be covering this entire article.

You see, Japan is STILL not “sold” on the Xbox brand. I mean, it took Microsoft 2 to 4 years before Xbox was selling like hotcakes. It was the Xbox 360 that got them [the japanese] noticing the console. Large in part to the RPG market. During launch, you would see no lines for Xbox 360, until Microsoft decided “#@^& it, just drop the freakin’ price.” And then the RPG market was exploding for the Xbox 360 – third party developers started bringing out high-quality RPG’s on Xbox 360 starting with Lost Odyssey, to Tales of Vesperia, to the entire Fable series. Mass Effect was the breaking point for the Xbox division. In fact, it was the game that got the Xbox brand on the map. Here’s the problem, even with all this effort, Xbox 360 still have not sold the entire Japanese culture. I say this with confidence because I have been seeing a decline in the diversity of the types of games I see for the Japanese market. A friend of mine who is a writer for Xbox Evolved put it in the best possible way:

I think a lot of it’s problems are just the fact that is an american company competeting against two japanese companies on their home turf.

I mean, why else would Microsoft want to create Kinect? Why else would they want to take a huge risk and create a peripheral? Its because the diversity of the Xbox brand is actually on a decline EVEN though that the Xbox 360 is selling well. I don’t think Microsoft is just looking to install Xbox in your living room. I think Microsoft wants to expand the reach of Xbox 360 to a new market, which is a market that Wii has already touched for close to 5 years now.

Now, lets look at the history of Nintendo, shall we? In 2001 Nintendo broke the tradition of a new console launch. This tradition involves naming their consoles after their successor or use the company’s brand to sell the product. Nintendo 64 is the last console to do this until Nintendo DS. GameCube was a complete re-brand after the fiasco with Nintendo 64 – where Nintendo has gotten a lot of controversy with how they do business for the console’s mature market – or the lack thereof. The developer support was good early on, but declined to a level where its unbearable. Even then, GameCube was perceived as the “kiddy” console with the general gaming market. This is something Microsoft had to work with in the original Xbox – “bulky” console, “x” is bad in Japan, and so on. It was a PR nightmare for them until they released halo as the mascot of the console. Ya know, the face of Xbox. It went on to sell more than 10 million units on Xbox, and continued to put new record levels with later successors. Now, Wii on the other hand has gotten world-wide attention due to two things: Innovation, and the company’s new ‘open-ness’ factor with regards to their developer support. They even went as far as nipping the whole “Seal of Quality” trademark. Still, even then, Nintendo faces its own problems with the launch of Wii. While developer support is strong, the company ignores the hardcore market. This means not too many cool games are on the system. What I mean is, there isn’t a single game that identifies Nintendo to the hardcore market like Halo does for Microsoft, like Metal Gear for Sony, like God of War for Sony, like Gears of War does for Microsoft.

If GameCube’s and Wii’s trend is any indication, I think its inevitable that Microsoft would have to work on a complete console re-brand for their next console. By releasing Kinect, Microsoft has a better chance of world-wide acceptance of the technology, than they would when they in-fact release a new console with the new technology – that’s the whole point of the Kinect launch – consumer acceptance. Market acceptance.

See, its been a slow start for Kinect even with all the massive marketing they’ve done over the last year alone. Kinect sold 1 million in just 10 days (yes, I call that slow), while Move on the other hand sold 2.5 million in the first month, and the allocation of units were sold out by the month’s end. Sony by now would have 3 million units of Move controllers sold already. By december’s end, I predict a 2.5 million sold for Kinect.

The point that I am making here is that I don’t think Kinect is an ordinary peripheral, I think it also serves both as a learning tool for Microsoft, and a merketing ploy for a new Xbox console. I can smell a new microsoft console from a mile away with Kinect. In fact, I think Kinect is the re-brand that Microsoft wanted and needed. Notice how, all the news articles across the internet are calling the peripheral “Kinect” instead of “Xbox Kinect” that Microsoft has advertised in some promotional Ads, and Ad campaigns? Look at the far difference between the two overlays. So, when E32012 comes around, expect an announcement from Microsoft that a new console is being made, and the console’s name is Kinect. “Ladies and gentlemen, Microsoft Kinect!” And the technology that’s in the current Kinect will carry over to the new console as an on-board technology, obviously with major upgrades to the technology. And to keep the backward-compatibility intact, I think the current Xbox 360 controllers will be compatible with the new unit.

Kinect is getting a lot of developer support so it makes sense that Kinect would be the name of the next console. Besides, the Microsoft brand is dying off, so they need a stronger, better name for the new console. Now would be the perfect time to get started on a brand new name – Kinect may be it.

I don’t know about you, but that’s stealth marketing if I ever saw one. If this is what Microsoft is doing, then I expect a shakeup in the industry. Many technologies get transferred from one console to the other, but most of them aren’t as big as Kinect.

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