Today, Microsoft's innovative Kinect add-on for the Xbox 360 hits more than 30,000 stores across the Unites States. The motion-sensing technology in Kinect is an answer to the suddenly faltering Nintendo Wii, but Kinect goes far beyond what the Wii offers. In fact, consumer excitement around Kinect is so strong that Microsoft now conservatively estimates that it will sell more than 5 million Kinect add-ons this holiday season alone.
"Presales have exceeded expectations," Microsoft President Don Mattrick said. "People are coming to us and saying this is a must-have holiday item."
On the off chance you haven't heard of this thing in over two years of pre-release hype, Kinect is a hardware add-on for the Xbox 360 game console that provides motion-sensing and voice-command capabilities. Unlike similar but more primitive systems from Nintendo and Sony, Kinect doesn't require the user to hold a controller of any kind because it tracks your whole body—not just your hand.
Early reviews are overwhelmingly positive, and the Kinect is so popular that even David Pogue, the Apple-centric tech reviewer from the The New York Times has had to weigh in on the device at launch. In fact, the Kinect is so good that Pogue's children begged him to buy them one. Ah, the hilarity.
The Kinect works with a new generation of motion-aware games, including 17 launch titles, and Microsoft is wisely pricing these titles at $50, about $10 less than the typical Xbox 360 game. (Although Kinect games look much nicer than Wii titles, they tend to be more cartoonish and less realistic than typical Xbox 360 games.) The device can also be used to control the Xbox 360 dashboard and its music and video experiences, though these latter capabilities require an Xbox LIVE account. No problems there, as more than 25 million people—out of 45 million total Xbox 360 owners—have such accounts.
The Kinect is available for sale now, although those who didn't preorder one might have trouble finding them in stores. The Kinect is available as a standalone add-on for $150, or you can purchase it in a bundle with a 4G Xbox 360 S console for $300. Both come with a free Kinect game, Kinect Adventures, as well. The Kinect will be available in Europe on November 10 and in Asia on November 18.
My Kinect review will be available on the SuperSite for Windows by the end of the weekend.