Can Microsoft Kinect with the Wii folks?

The big M has finally unveiled the Xbox 360 motion controller system that was hinted at last year.  It’s called Kinect, and consists of a camera and microphone that you plug into an Xbox 360 console.  The camera picks up your motions, eliminating the need for a handheld controller, and the microphone recognizes your voice so you can speak commands at the menu.  Here’s a demo video:

How Nintendo-ish can you get?  And if there’s any other doubt that Microsoft has set its marketing sights squarely on E-for-everyone gamers, look at the 15 launch titles announced (courtesy of Kotaku):

Out of those 15, 4 are established exergame or fitness brands (Zumba, Biggest Loser, EAS Active, Your Shape), 2 more are dance games (Dance Central, Dance Masters), 3 more have “sports” in the titles, and Kinetic Adventures looks like an Active Life knockoff.  Throw in a Game Party, a Petz type game, a Mario Kart-ish game and a Sonic game, and there you have it:  a collection aimed squarely at the E-for-Everyone/gaming-for-health market.  Wow, I couldn’t have done better if I’d kidnapped Bill Gates and put him under hypnosis!  (After asking for his bank account number, that is.)

I would place my order today – if only I had a few hundred spare dollars lying around.  MS is keeping pricing close to the vest for now, but if the rampant rumors are accurate, the Kinect add-on will be around $150.  If you don’t already have an Xbox 360, the just-introduced slim version is $300.  Microsoft now needs to figure out just how to pry open the wallets of Wii owners or wannabe-owners, and even minus the Great Recession, that’s no easy task.

The Wii has been around for nearly 4 years (in human years, it would be on Medicare), it’s sold about 28 million units, so by now, everyone either has one or knows someone who does.  Like the iPod, the Wii became a roaring success due to creating “I want” and “I need” in markets where there never was any want or need before.  Before 2006, what game console were senior centers or physical therapists dying to own?  Who, besides hardcore DDR fans, made videos of themselves playing video games?  Wii is more than just a console, it’s a culture.

And it’s a culture that Xbox for the most part has not been a part of.  Until now, “Xbox” has been synonymous with hardcore, violent, complex gamer-games appealing to the young males who’ve mostly scoffed at Wii and active games.  That name with its scary-sounding X has become shorthand for all that’s “wrong” with video games; Obama likes to scold young people with it.  (Meanwhile, his daughters love their Wii.)

Can Microsoft overcome the negative image, switch gaming gears and make the softer side of Xbox appealing enough to make it this year’s must-have holiday gift?  Well, when I started a thread about Kinect on a fitness forum, it got less than a hundred views in 2 days, while threads about Wii games get hundreds of views in that time.

Kinect’s got a long way to go from E3 to Mr. and Mrs. America’s den.  I wish them luck.

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Posted on June 15, 2010, in Exergames in the news, Exergaming, Game previews, Just sayin' and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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