Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kinect the Dots

Kinect allows you to feed Wiimotes to virtual children?
Will the Kinect sales surge fade before I run out of puns? You can but hope...

While there have been some weird (Kinect is racist because it doesn't see dark-skinned people) and disturbing (Kinect is eavesdropping on you and broadcasting your private conversations!) news reports about the Kinect, generally the early buzz is positive. Early reports had Kinects selling out at and, while even some brick-and-mortar locations sold out in the first morning of availability.

Of course, the cynical marketer in me wonders how much of that is Microsoft manipulating things by not shipping a whole lot of Kinects right away. You can always say you haven't ramped up manufacturing as rapidly as you had hoped... and it sure is nice to have reports of product shortages popping up in the media, creating more demand. Besides, Christmas shopping hasn't begun in earnest yet... plenty of time to stock the stores before Black Friday hits.

Still, interest in Kinect is high, as a survey by Black found that interest in Kinect as a holiday gift was exceeded only by the iPad. Microsoft has upped its forecast for Kinect sales, expecting to move 5 million of them over the holidays.

A British survey had somewhat different results for Kinect. While the iPad was still the number one item on holiday shoppers' minds, the Kinect only hit 5%. Apparently it's because the Kinect requires 6 clear feet of space for full functionality, and perhaps many places in the UK don't have that kind of space around where the console lives.

I'm glad to see Kinect demand high, though I wonder how much of that is being eaten from Wii sales rather than just reaching the current Xbox audience. The real test will be in 2011, once the initial "cool new device" enthusiasm dims. Will Kinect become an important part of the Xbox experience, penetrating the installed base? Will Kinect become a big enough sub-market that developers will spend extra time and money supporting it? Will Kinect drive more Xbox 360 sales at a time in its life cycle when it could sure use a boost? Numbers coming in next spring will tell us a lot more.

Microsoft needs to evangelize the Kinect hard among developers if it expects these kinds of things to happen. Developers will only support it if it's relatively easy to do, and they believe that supporting Kinect will provide an ample return on their investment. Microsoft needs to sell a lot of Kinects to make that happen. I think one of the key factors is whether or not Microsoft can get Kinect adopted for uses other than games. Can Kinect become a cool high-tech home feature by controlling more than just an Xbox game? Microsoft, get busy and answer that one.

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