Kinect – Microsoft’s New Console
I am convinced that Kinect is essentially Microsoft’s new console. Forget about a new Xbox being announced at E3 this year or even next year. It won’t happen. You don’t introduce a major piece of hardware, whore the absolute crap out of it, and then essentially make it obsolete within a few months. That would be a ridiculous move by Microsoft, and I’m very confident they acknowledge and understand this. The company’s intentions with the new full-body motion-sensor were initially anything but clear, but in the proceeding months since its release, the commitment is obvious; Kinect is Microsoft’s third console.
You might be thinking, “Where does this guy come off saying that an add-on is a new console?” It’s a fair question, but easily answered. Microsoft has stated ever since the launch of the 360 that this console has the potential to last a full ten years. Gamers are starting to realize now that this generation is going to last well into the decade, but Sony and Microsoft have known that since probably the start of last decade. They’re established companies and they know exactly what they’re doing. If you need proof of that, go and take a look at the sales figures for Kinect. If those numbers don’t indicate a 1UP for the Xbox 360, I don’t know what does; it essentially breathed new life into a console that was already traveling fairly well.
In saying that, it’s not like the 360 was struggling in retail anyway. However, Microsoft seems to have been relatively concerned with the size of its install base, which is indicative of their commitment to the casual gamer market over the past 24 months; why would it focus on a casual demographic and Kinect if it’s confident its core install based was large enough to carry the console through the decade? The Summer of Arcade, for example, acted as a platform for the company to measure the console’s strength as an accessible arcade platform, with XBLA games being openly playable to a far broader demographic compared to the Halo’s and Mass Effect’s of the world. Subtle changes to the console’s dashboard over the past three years also indicate a change in market focus, especially when compared to the blade dashboard from the console’s early years. The new dashboard is clean, sleek and overly accessible, something Microsoft has slowly rolled out over a number of years, highlighting an attentive obsession with grabbing hold of a casual market Nintendo helped mold with the Wii.
Through a number of changes to the console (can you think of any past console that has gone through so much change, from both a hardware and OS perspective?), the Xbox 360 is a completely different product to the one that launched way back in 2005. If you get the chance, take a look at print or television advertisements for the Xbox 360 from 2005, and then compare them to ads from today; these days, the Kinect logo takes priority, even on ads for console bundles. The “Xbox 360” logo is almost always significantly smaller and less powerful, especially when compared to earlier marketing for the console, which is interesting. Is Microsoft trying to slowly phase out the Xbox 360 brand and increase the strength of the Kinect name? It would seem so.
However, I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing from a business perspective. From a gamer’s point of view, it’s definitely discouraging to see a rather lacking list of exclusives for the 360 in 2011, also factoring in Kinect-exclusives that are being planned (as intriguing as they sound). For Microsoft, they might not see the importance of introducing a new console any time soon considering the success of Kinect, the strength of its online platform in Xbox Live, and the seemingly never-ending addition of features that assist in molding the 360 into the definitive home entertainment system. Why does this have relevance? Because Kinect has proven its worth as a strong retail competitor in a gaming climate with three distinctively different consoles.
The industry has changed quite significantly from a few years ago. Sony hopes to build on its core install base, while Microsoft is attempting to completely reinvigorate its console market presence by introducing the Xbox 360 to new gamers, with the hope that these new gamers enter into an established and accessible gaming, online and community platform.
By Gaetano Prestia.
Do you think Microsoft is treating Kinect like a new console? What sort of life span do you see for the Xbox 360 from here on in? And do you think this commitment to a casual market is beneficial for the push into the latter half of the decade?