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Kinect pricing, new 360 SKU, bundles revealed

11:00 AM on 07.20.2010 // Nick Chester

Following plenty of speculation after its E3 reveal, Microsoft is finally confirming the pricing of Kinect, as well as game and console bundles it will launch on November 4.

Already own an Xbox 360? Microsoft will be shipping a Kinect sensor bundled with its first-party title, Kinect Adventures, for $149.99. A new user? For $299.99, you'll be able to pick up Kinect, Kinect Adventures, and an Xbox 360 with 4 GB of internal storage. The standalone 4 GB console -- the same form factor as the 250 GB model that launched last month, only with a matte black finish -- will be available for purchase on August 3 for $199.99.

First-party software is being priced for value-minded consumers; the first batch of Kinect titles -- Kinect Sports, Kinectimals, and Kinect Joy Ride -- will all retail for $49.99. Harmonix's Dance Central -- published by MTV Games and distributed by Microsoft -- will also sell for $49.99.

Yesterday, I had a chance to speak with Microsoft's Aaron Greenberg about the announcements; hit the jump for more details, and answers to some questions you might have.

Kinect Adventures for everyone, whether you like it or not

Following E3, many retailers (including Microsoft's own online store) had listed Kinect at $149.99; Microsoft dismissed the pricing as purely speculative. Turns out, the retail listings were only half right. When Kinect launches this fall, consumers will have to spend at least $149.99 to get the controller-less experience in their living rooms; Microsoft currently has no plans to offer the Kinect sensor as a standalone peripheral.

"Our focus really was making sure, out of the box, that consumers have a great experience," Greenberg tells me. "And so, we felt like including a full retail game in that offer was the right way to go to market."

According to Greenberg, giving consumers a Kinect sensor without the software "wouldn't be the type of experience we really wanted you to have as the first impression." With that said, he did confirm that the sensor will launch with "how-to" and "how it works" software to introduce people to what Kinect can do. And on November 4, the Xbox 360 will be updated with a new Dashboard that can be navigated with your hands and voice via Kinect, as shown at E3.

And what of the redesigned Dashboard screens that hit the Internet last week?

"I haven't actually seen them," he admits. "But the Dashboard that exists today, we're always adding and making adjustments to, but essentially the design and the way you navigate won't change for people that are using the controller today."

Why not announce pricing at E3?

At June's E3 event, Microsoft took the time to reveal to the world its new branding and software for its motion-sensing device... and that's exactly why it didn't bring up pricing, Greenberg tells me. He says that with so much news to deliver at the event, it was key to focus on the experience, letting people use and see its 15 launch titles.

"There were a lot of moving parts," he says, referring to the flood of information Microsoft had to reveal, "but we feel like even doing this now here in July, well in advance of the November launch, gives consumers plenty of time to plan their holiday purchases or pre-order or whatever their needs may be."

Waiting for the competition to make the first move?

Sony, on the other hand, was pretty frank at E3 with the strategy for its motion controller, Move, announcing price points and bundles. So was Microsoft waiting for its competition to show its hand? While that seems like a likely tactic, that's wasn't the intention, says Greenberg.

"Yeah, I mean, I guess there's some competitive advantages to letting someone else go first," he admits, "but that wasn't really our driver. If you think about [us] relative to what Sony's done, they had already unveiled their games, their name. A lot of the stuff that we announced at E3, they had done earlier. So we felt like we had a lot of news to share at E3, and that was the right time to kind of focus on the experiences, and this whole new category of controller-free games and entertainment. And now to kind of follow it up with pricing, that kind of works out well."

Regarding pricing compared to competition: "We're in a very envious position"

Of course, Greenberg is also quick to point out that Microsoft feels that Kinect is a better value proposition than Sony's Move, saying that, "Relative to the competition, we feel like we're in a very envious position." The key, he seems to say, is the lack of a need for multiple controllers.

"If you think about the console bundle as a standalone, what you have to keep in mind is, when you get the console and the sensor and the game, when you add another player to that experience you don't have to buy another wand, another controller, another Nunchuk," he explains. "It's all included in the experience."

For $299.99, "you're really getting everything you need all at one price." Sony will be offering its own bundle this holiday, a $399.99 package that comes with a PlayStation 3, the Move title Sports Champions, a single Move wand controller, and the PlayStation Eye camera (required for Move).

"If you add a second player to that, that puts them, I think, at roughly $510. So we feel like we're at $100 to $200 less relative to Move," he says, doing some on-the-fly math. But he feels that the Kinect experience stands out because it's so different, so new. "But frankly, we feel like what we're doing is so unique, and the response to consumers has been unlike anything we have ever seen before."

(Note: Greenberg's Kinect vs. Move math is only accurate if you include the Move "Navigation" controllers. The PS3 console bundled with the Move controller and Sports Champions costs $399.99; to add a second simultaneous player, consumers will have to purchase a second Move wand, priced at $49.99. Add two more "Navigation" controllers -- sold separately, and not required for all titles -- and you're tacking on roughly another $60.)

Marketing Kinect won't stop with the Bieber

"It's a non-traditional product, and we've definitely taken a non-traditional approach," says Greenberg.

"This is the first time where we feel we have a product that appeals to young or old, male or female, whether you've played a game before or not," Greenberg tells me. "And to reach that scale of broad audience, you really have to go in a variety of different places, in a variety of different ways."

One example: Even teenybopper sensation Justin Bieber is being used as a vehicle to promote the product. The floppy-haired teen recently opened one of his concerts with video footage of him and his entourage playing a number of Kinect titles. Whether the crowd went wild upon seeing Kinect Adventures, or if teenage girls will just scream at anything Bieber-related, is unclear. Kinect has also been featured on a number of network television shows, including a spot on The CW's Smallville back when it was still known as "Project Natal."

Try before you buy, globally

"We realize this is an experience that you can't just see and believe; you actually have to experience it," Greenberg says.

Microsoft is currently touring the United States with Kinect titles, allowing consumers to get a taste of the sensor in action. Plans for a global tour are also in place, with Greenberg confirming that Kinect will be playable at gamescom in Germany this August.

Kinect first-party titles not inferior to full-priced titles, despite lower pricing

"We realized that these products are talking to, for us, an entirely new audience -- a more value-focused consumer," Greenberg says of the $49.99 price point for first-party Kinect titles. The distinction, he says, is not in the quality of the titles; the lower price isn't an admission that the games aren't necessarily full-featured traditional products.

"I think you'll find that these games have the level of modes and depth and detail -- the multiplayer experiences, the Live integration -- that you see in our other retail games," he says. "The difference is, these games are built from the ground up designed to be used with the Kinect sensor, allowing you to play controller-free."

"The price point for us is just a strategy for us as we're talking about consumers," he explains. "It has nothing to do with the quality of the games."

Where are the "core" Kinect experiences? Be patient… they're "coming soon, that's for sure"

The launch software is decidedly "casual" in nature, but Greenberg says that Kinect experiences for "core" gamers are certainly on the horizon.

"All of the top developers, core developers from around the world, have development kits and Kinect sensors," he says. "We know from talking with them that they are working on a lot of really unique and compelling new games and new experiences, but they're taking their time. And we think it's important to allow them to market."

"While the launch lineup very much scales a broad variety of genres and experiences, we think you'll see more core games coming out," he adds, "and they'll be coming soon, that's for sure."

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Nick Chester, Former Editor-in-Chief (2011)
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