Editor's note: Andy gives a detailed explanation of what went wrong with Microsoft's Kinect pricing. At $150, will you be buying a Kinect this fall? -Brett
Tuesday morning, we finally got confirmation on pricing for Microsoft's Kinect peripheral for Xbox 360. Now, this shouldn't come as a surprise to people who noticed that GameStop had posted the $149.99 price on their website right around E3 time last month. However, Microsoft had been strangely quiet on confirming this price point until this week.
Here are the two ways you can obtain Kinect this fall:
For anyone who currently owns an Xbox 360: Kinect peripheral w/ Kinect Adventures – $149.99
For anyone without an Xbox 360: New Xbox 360 w/ 4GB memory storage and matte finish + Kinect peripheral w/ Kinect Adventures — $299.99
Basically, if you are a new Xbox 360 owner, you can grab both for a $50 discount off MSRP. Microsoft also announced that all first-party Kinect launch titles would be retailing for $49.95.
Now, after reading gaming community reactions to this, one would think that Microsoft had done the video game equivalent of leaving Cleveland to join the Miami Heat. The vast majority of commenters and posters on notable video game communities voiced their extreme displeasure at the price point for Kinect. Many labeled Kinect as a "rip-off" and made comparisons to Sega's ill-fated 32X add-on for the Genesis. One poster on NeoGAF called it "a disaster of Kin proportions." Even Microsoft's own community site, Major Nelson, wasn't immune to the backlash.
What went wrong? Just one year ago, Kinect (then called Project Natal) was the darling of both core gamers and the mainstream media. People were drinking the Kool-Aid of limitless possibilities for the device that promised hands-free gaming combined with a futuristic Minority Report-esque interface for viewing media content.
Two factors led us to this point.
First of all, the launch software simply is not compelling, at least to core game players. The best game Kinect has going for it is the Harmonix-developed dance game Dance Central, which appears to be quite good but may not appeal to Johnny McCallofDuty. The other software is widely viewed as nongamer content (think fitness titles and kids software) or glorified knock-offs of Wii mini-game collections.
Secondly, Microsoft bumbled the pricing information of the product. When first announced, many people estimated that Kinect would cost at least $199.99. Pricing seemed secondary to the wonder and amazement that such a product existed and could be obtained by the consumer.
In October 2009, Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter predicted the price of Kinect at $49.99 (!), with a worst-case scenario of $99.99. Gamers were thrilled. Not only was this device imminent, it would be affordable, too!
Flash forward to June 2010, when online retailers such as GameStop and Amazon listed the Kinect pre-order price at $149.99. Some people in the gaming community grumbled that this would be the final price, but most held out hope that Microsoft would change the pricing back to at least $99.99 when they made an official announcement. Microsoft did no such thing.
If it's one thing people don't like, it's the feeling that they've been duped on pricing, even if the rumored price was never confirmed by the manufacturer.
Contrast this with the public response to iPad pricing prior to launch. Popular opinion before Apple launched the iPad was that it would be priced around the $800-$1000 mark. The Wall Street Journal published speculation in early January 2010 that the device would cost upwards of $1000. When Apple finally announced the product with a starting price point of $499, critics lauded it as being "affordable," and public perception was very positive.
Some conspiracy theorists feel that Apple "leaked" this misinformation to the WSJ to manufacture this positive perception. Whether or not this was engineered by Apple or occurred organically, the fact remains that it worked. IPad pricing is a virtual nonissue in terms of Internet debate fodder. Microsoft would have done well to have learned from this.
Would I have liked Kinect to be priced at $99.99? Sure. Paying less is always good. Does $149.99 turn me off from purchasing it? At the end of the day, I don't think it does. I'm still in love with Dance Central, and the $200 total cost to play it is no worse than shelling out that much for a Rock Band 3 bundle.
The main concern prospective buyers should have with Kinect is with the apparent dearth of quality software titles, at least for solo players. If you're a core gamer who has no interest in dancing, you don't have much reason to buy the Kinect at launch, unless you want a slightly-clumsy-yet-cool way to navigate media on your Xbox.
If you're a casual social gamer or want something kid-friendly, then you have a more compelling decision to make this fall. I firmly believe that total hands-free gaming is a lot more intuitive and exciting than having to deal with a peripheral, at least in a social gaming setting. It's a much more fluid experience to just move people in front of the TV rather than having to deal with calibrating and passing around multiple controllers. It's also a better experience for nongamers to avoid having learn how to use any controller in the first place, no matter how simple that controller is.
Either way, I still believe Microsoft has a promising product here with Kinect. The idea of hands-free interfaces is a mighty compelling one to me, and I'll most likely buy a Kinect at launch if only to support the initiative — and because I'm a shameless early-adopting gadget freak.
Most people, however, would be best served with a "wait and see" approach to Kinect.
Originally published on mydaywillcome.com.