Kinect’s Pre-Launch Success?

The other day a friend of mine linked me to an article from Kotaku claiming that people were already lining up for the Kinect. My immediate response? Microsoft had to have paid these people off.

Amusingly enough, I was right. They’re lining up because they get 2 free games and a year of XBox live, “a $150 value absolutely FREE!” as they say in the infomercials. Of course the game in question are Kinect Sports (which should have been a pack-in), Joy Ride (which was supposed to be free before the Kinect came along), and the cost of a year of XBox Live just went up. But arguing over how scammy this “$150 value” is is beside the point. The point is that Microsoft’s overpriced ad campaign is insane. It appears they’re trying to present the Kinect as something that is already popular and destined to sell out, the successor to the Wii if you will, and thus whipping people into a “buy it now” frenzy before release. “People are already lining up for the Kinect?! Wow this is gonna be big! I better get one too or I’m going to want one later and won’t be able to find one!”

The thing is, it’s working. Today I swung by my local GameStop to grab a copy of Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage before the whole midnight nonsense started. Much to my surprise there was a family there, who had already paid off their Kinect in full, asking if they’d be giving away tickets for the Kinect launch. The employee said “No that shouldn’t be a problem, we don’t have more than 50 preorders”. Overhearing this I asked how many preorders they had. Their answer? About 40.

My local GameStop has approximately 40 preorders on the Kinect.

Thankfully Microsoft isn’t run by complete morons. Judging by that conversation, my GameStop has 50 Kinects which is enough to handle preorders and a couple walk-ins so arbitrary shortages are not part of Microsoft’s $500 million marketing strategy.

Still, this is a far cry from the eight we had for the Move.

There’s still time for everything to fall apart. Rumors are persisting that Microsoft is banning news sites from posting their Kinect reviews until post-launch. On one hand this could be taken as a bad sign. On the other hand, most of these reviewers are whiney, cynical, and don’t “get it” so a fair review is basically out of the question (this is half the reason why I’m getting a Kinect: to give it a fair review!). I think a little of column A, a little of column B is about right. The early reports I have heard claim the Kinect works but doesn’t work well and I could easily see it being really fun and the ultimate casual controller, but utterly worthless to the “hardcore” crowd and thus would receive poor reviews from journalists.

Getting back to what I was saying though, if the Kinect doesn’t work well enough then it could still become the biggest bomb in gaming history as thousands of Kinects are returned the day after Christmas. But that’s a big “IF”.  Otherwise it could be the success Microsoft wants it to be.

I’ll be there though so stay tuned for my report.

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