Before Microsoft announced its Kinect pricing plans for the US market, I had the chance to chat with McLean about his vision for Kinect.
I asked McLean who he thought Kinect was for:
“When we think about who we’re talking to we think we have two customers to satisfy,” said McLean. “There’s our existing install base of one million people and for them there’ll be standalone Kinect devices that we’ll put in the market. We’ll also put bundles in the market, including Kinect, to talk to that new audience that may not have partook in videogaming in the past but may want to move in because Kinect is more accessible.
“Then I see a potential blending. Look at a core game like Forza being controlled by Kinect. With that I could play Forza 3 with my mother-in-law who’s never picked up a controller and finds the whole thing intimidating. But if she could come in and start doing this [motions to hold a steering wheel]then she could play a game. So I think there’s a new audience we can start talking to.”
I asked whether it was a risk launching a console accessory whose launch lineup of games don’t appeal to people who already own the console:
“No, I don’t think it’s a risk because I see there are a number of different audiences,” said McLean. “I’m not sure that somebody who plays Halo is going to say ‘I don’t see anything in that area that I have an interest in playing.’ There may be some people like that, but at the same time there are going to plenty of those people saying ‘Wow, this is pretty new and it looks interesting and there are some things I want to play.’
“I think we’re in the beginning of a very, very long journey. In regards to that [existing, core audience]I think the key thing we saw [at E3]was what we saw from LucasArts and what we saw from Forza. They are two areas that typically talk to that core audience that we’ve started to blend the Kinect experience into.
“We’re at the start of this journey, and we’re only going to see more and more of that. We’ve got 40 or 50 titles coming before June next year, so we’ll absolutely see more from the publishers who are developing content for it. The launch lineup? Yeah you’re right, it’s very much targeted to that casual audience. But I don’t think the publishers or Microsoft are going to be satisfied with just stopping there.”
I asked McLean whether he thought the launch lineup – full of mini-game collections, casual sports and dancing titles – was too similar to what we’ve seen on Wii and will see on Move in September:
“I think they’re completely different experiences, and it’s up to us to prove that,” said McLean. “That’s the bet we’ve made and we’re pretty convinced it’s the right one.
“We can argue about who’s got the best technology – we would win that argument, actually – but I’d prefer to argue about what the experience is like. The challenge for us is to take ourselves out of the argument and think about the people who have never picked up a videogame before, and ask them ‘Right, do you want to pick up your Sony Move with 18 buttons or whatever it is, pick up your Nintendo Wiimote – which was an innovative product a number of years ago, no disrespect, I think they broadened the market for everyone – or do you just want to walk up to the screen?’
“We want to talk to absolutely everybody. Credit where credit is due, Nintendo really broadened the audience. They made videogaming far more accessible and brought a rich new entertainment functionality into the category. We’re just taking it… not even a step… we’ve just leapfrogged all that and taken it to something completely different. Anybody who can walk up to a screen can now have a gaming experience.”
Finally, I wondered whether, in terms of pricing, Microsoft would offer Kinect as a “loss leader” or whether it would follow the company’s traditional accessory pricing model:
“That’s a good question, I don’t know yet,” said McLean. “At the end of the day, Kinect is an accessory, it’s not a console. So would I want to use Kinect as a loss leader? I don’t think so. We’re still thinking about the pricing, and right now we simply have no pricing to announce.”
Australian retailers have speculated that Kinect would be priced at approximately $AU200, placing it $50 above what you need to get one player up and running on PlayStation Move (with the two controllers and camera) but lower than what you’d pay to get two players, er… Moving. It’s also significantly cheaper than what you’ll pay for a new Guitar Hero or Rock Band full instrument bundle later this year, but more than what you’d get last year’s models for now.
The US pricing of $US150, which includes the Kinect accessory and Kinect Adventures game, probably translates to around $AU250 if we use the typical software comparison as a guide (Xbox games are $US60 RRP versus roughly $AU100 RRP). The new US console bundle pricing of $US300, which includes a 4GB Arcade console, Kinect accessory and Kinect Adventures game, would translate to $AU500 using the above guide. But that would make it more expensive than the 250GB Xbox 360 Slim console, and it seems unlikely Microsoft would want that.
When asked about local Kinect pricing this morning, an Xbox Australia spokesperson told me that they hoped to be able to announce them in the next few days.
How do you think Kinect stacks up against Wii and Move? And what are you prepared to pay for both Microsoft and Sony’s motion control devices?