Thursday, June 30, 2011

Introducing the Microsoft KinectBox!?

There is nothing more stirring than wild internet speculation about video games! And no fanbase is more rabid than Xbox gamers! BGR is reporting a trusted source has confirmed Microsoft will introduce its next console at E3 in 2012. I adamantly disagree.

If this new console confirmation is indeed true, I feel it is too soon. The Xbox 360 has at least two more years before its successor should be announced. Microsoft would come off as being pressured by Nintendo if an announcement is made at E3 next year. I suggest the new console be announced in 2013, with it on shelves Holiday 2014.

For the sake of the internet, let's indulge this "confirmation" for a moment. Xbox is hot. Kinect is HOTTER. But aren't we speaking about the same thing there? That depends. Does Microsoft want to capitalize on an ecosystem or a peripheral? The logical reply is to capitalize on BOTH in this highly successful predicament.

I expect the next Xbox generation to introduce beefier Kinect hardware. ( i.e., the original Project Natal hardware, or better.) It is up in the air whether or not Kinect 2.0 will be the new console, or just another peripheral you connect to the new console. The huge advantage of Kinect being the new console is immediate developer support. Developers would be able to produce AAA casual and core titles around a motion sensor that every new KinectBox owner will have.

There are a few gamers out there who believe the current Kinect sensor will continue into the next console generation. I do not think that is the best business decision. Why marry last gen tech with next gen capability? Doing so will only take you to a certain point, which hinders the entire platform along the way. 

Providing software upgrades for Kinect 1.0  to keep pace with new hardware is limiting as well. Kinect is a camera at heart. The components (silicon, chips, lenses, etc) are hardware and should receive an upgrade in the next console cycle as well.

With that said, if Microsoft feels its new console will need a shot of adrenaline in the midst of its future life cycle; why not follow the business plan Kinect used in this console generation? It seems to be working so far. That is a valid argument and I am eager to see how it all pans out!

Microsoft has captured the casual gamer mind-share with Kinect; so the successor to the brand will resonate with that group at retail. However, it is widely held that the company hasn't been able to kinect with core gamers. How can Microsoft do that? 

I think core gamers will rally around the KinectBox if our favorite core software titles are enhanced by motion controls - not changed by input omission or supplanted by voice magic. Only a hardware based controller designed for Kinect can offer that solution. Whatever that controller materializes into, it should/will be packed into the new KinectBox. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Why I Purchased a Used Kinect (With a Coupon!)

I finally purchased a Kinect sensor this weekend and I did so on my terms. I sought out to find a used sensor from Gamestop which, expectedly, wasn't too hard to do. There was an in-store coupon for a 50% increase on software trade-ins, as well. So I jumped in.

Many families purchased a Kinect at launch and returned it for some reason or another. If I were to assume why, I would say those families became aware of how similar it was to the Wii they currently own.

So, I questioned the sales rep as to why the sensor has been coming back. He replied many buyers felt it was a glorified Wii; or that it came bundled with a Xbox 360 at an attractive price point making Kinect worth a purchase/try. I guess we all know how that turned out.

Regardless, their loss is my eventual gain. Here are the reasons I purchased a used Kinect - with a coupon:

- Price. A used Kinect with one game cost $130. After software trade-ins, I paid $89 with the Kinect Adventures title.
Family. My wife and kids will enjoy Kinect today...Me? Maybe Holiday 2011.
Used Status. If I understand the market correctly, buying used does not directly contribute to the number of Kinect units sold for Microsoft. (Please correct me if I am wrong here.)
- Core Focus: The Microsoft press conference at E3 promised several core titles with Kinect functionality coming this Holiday. Hopefully, their promise is solid.
- Project K. A Kinect test unit will be needed once the first prototype controller is ready. Which should be available in late fall.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What Do We Have Here?

Is this an officially licensed, wireless Microsoft racing wheel revealed at E3 2011? Seems so. But lets look beyond the obvious. What piece of Xbox hardware could best benefit from this wireless design? Kinect perhaps? I believe so, and here is why. (And doesn't it look like two joined Project K handles?)

Microsoft has a conundrum it can't easily resolve with Kinect sales numbers. On one hand, MS has the hottest motion control sensor in the gaming market that makes YOU the controller. On the other hand, YOU are a Xbox gamer; and there is a high percentage YOU belong to a little faction called "Core Gamers".

The problem is core gamers aren't buying into Microsoft's controller-less motion system. The Kinect sensor is doing extremely well due to casual gamer adoption, not core gamer adoption. Don't agree with me? Just listen to the recent E3 presser and count the number of times you hear "core" during the Kinect section. Microsoft needs core gamers to churn the Kinect experience.

This steering wheel peripheral reveal does two things for Microsoft. 1) Fills a hole of the racing wheel dropped from current production. 2) Most importantly - Fills a hole for racing fans and Kinect. The wireless feature ensures that.

How does this wheel's existence allow Microsoft to sidestep the immediate question of "is this a Forza 4/JoyRide Kinect controller"? Easy. The company can truthfully answer "No. Its our new racing wheel that replaces the recently dropped from production version." You can expect a similar statement to keep Kinect's tagline "YOU are the controller" in place. Since the peripheral wasn't mentioned in the recent E3 presser at all; MS has quietly offered a controller to a lauded controller-less sensor. I hope you can see that.

It is becoming painfully obvious Microsoft will have to introduce a hardware-based control standard for Kinect. To do that, the Kinect tagline "You are the controller", will have to be forgotten. And rather than debase that $500 millon marketing investment; expect Microsoft to forget the tagline in the next version of Kinect, that will be built into the next Xbox, which will demand a hardware controller. The new tagline will read "You are STILL the controller!".