Microsoft's "revolutionary" new motion controller, the Kinect camera, will be released at stores around the country as the clock strikes midnight tonight. Thanks to a huge marketing campaign, the launch will be a huge event all over, and Microsoft will get big first-day sales and great PR shots, but will this hype be sustained? We humans have this thing we call "over-compensating." And when it comes to Kinect, that certainly looks like what Microsoft is doing.
This is a marketing campaign like we've never seen for a video game product. It's historic. In addition to the traditional TV spots and online media domination, Kinect has been on the talk show circuit. It went on Oprah and Ellen. Kinect demo stations are being set up in malls, at unconventional spot Macy's, and even in Burger King.
Microsoft has actually thrown a waterfall of money to promote this product. It's more money than the company has ever spent to advertise any Xbox product ever.
But when we look at the substance of Kinect, we don't see much.
I mean, sure it's cool. But many of us remember what Microsoft promised last year when it first showed off the technology. "This isn't just an Xbox 360 peripheral. It's more like a brand new video game console," the company boasted. "It will revolutionize the way everyone thinks about the fundamentals of gaming." High, lofty PR speak, there. And of course, it hasn't lived up to that hype.
Many are now just calling it a snazzy new version of Sony's early-2000s EyeToy. It's a $150 novelty device. Headlining games include mini-game compilations, fitness coaches, and a virtual pet simulator. If you've played a video game in the last 10 years, you know these aren't exactly revolutionary moves for the industry.
Nevertheless, Microsoft's money-induced marketing blitzkrieg has paid off. Kinect is already sold out on Amazon.com and BestBuy.com, and the thing should fly off the store shelves tomorrow, especially in the dozens of GameStop and Best Buy stores having Kinect midnight launch events. The company has managed to make people excited about this, and that is certainly not a feat to be overlooked.
As such, all the headlines tomorrow will say that Kinect's launch was a huge success. And it will be. But will that mean Microsoft launched a hugely successful product, or just that its marketing team did a good job?
Kinect has a fundamental flaw, and it's that developers NEED to develop games for Kinect. Unlike the Wii and PlayStation Move, it's not exactly feasible for a developer to create an, I guess, "normal" video game and then add in special controls for Kinect.
When the PlayStation Move launched, it also came out alongside a bunch of uninspired mini-game compilations. But...Sony also updated its back titles like Heavy Rain and MAG - very complex, sophisticated games - to be compatible with the new controller. So Move had high-concept, in-depth games right at launch. Kinect won't. And we don't even know if it ever really will.
Microsoft is putting all its marbles into Kinect. Instead of launching a new console, which until this generation would have been the norm (the Xbox 360 launched five years ago), it's releasing Kinect. This is the only thing that can rejuvenate the console.
Microsoft has nothing but amazing things to say about the prospects of Kinect, and while it's nice to have a good attitude, reality needs to set in at some point as well. $150 is a lot to pay for what most people will look at as just a special controller.