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Kinect: One Year Later

One year ago today, Microsoft introduced an add-on to the Xbox 360 that the company believed would change the way we game forever. Building on the motion gaming trend started by Nintendo’s Wii, the Kinect got rid of the controller altogether, allowing players to use their whole body while playing. To use Microsoft’s marketing phrase, “You are the controller.”

One year later, where has becoming the controller taken us? Let’s take a look.

Kinect launched to some skepticism in November 2010, but it quickly proved itself as a success among consumers. Ten days after the launch, Microsoft announced that it had already sold one million units of the new hardware and expected to sell five million before the end of the year.

Of the 11 Kinect launch titles, only Harmonix’s Dance Central stood out as a particularly strong critical hit, with a Metacritic of 82. Only two other titles (Kinect Sports and Kinectimals) scored above 70 on Metacritic, and several (Sonic Free Riders, Ubisoft’s MotionSports, and Konami’s Adrenalin Misfits) all landed at a 50 or lower. Immediately, gamers were faced with concerns of Kinect heading in the same direction as the Wii – unique and potentially powerful new technology choked by a flood of mediocre games taking advantage of the curious market.

These concerns did not slow hardware sales, though. Where Microsoft had predicted five million units sold by the end of the year, the company actually reached an astounding eight million within the first 60 days on shelves. Kinect became the de facto “hot new toy” of the holiday season, with mainstream word-of-mouth spreading and tons of Kinect YouTube videos popping up around Christmas.

Beyond the fairly packed launch month, Microsoft and third parties failed to take advantage of the growing Kinect buzz with a steady stream of titles. No Kinect titles were released in December 2010 or January 2011, and 15 releases were spread thinly across February through September. Nonetheless, sales continued, with the hardware passing 10 million sold in March alongside reports of 10 million total games sold.

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