Will the new Xbox 360 and Kinect attract non-gamers like me?

Will the new Xbox 360 and Kinect attract non-gamers like me?

Summary: Microsoft is out to get me to change my mind about becoming an Xbox user (not a gamer). After today, however, I still have to say I am still unconvinced.

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I just finished watching the live feed (and a bunch of live blogs) covering Microsoft's E3 press conference. I say "watched" loosely here because I am not a gamer and have no interest in becoming one. Console gaming bores me.  (So does 99 percent of what's on TV, but that's another post....)

Microsoft is out to get me to change my mind about becoming an Xbox user (not a gamer). After today, however, I still have to say I am still unconvinced.

You can't say it's because the Softies aren't really trying. Microsoft has been seeking ways for a while now to broaden the audience for its Xbox console.

The company has been pursuing partnerships with makers of casual gaming titles, attempting to prove that the Xbox isn't just for hard core, first-person-shooter, almost entirely male audiences any more. It's a family hub -- suitable for all ages, genders and family configurations, the Softies claim. Yes, Halo, Gears of War and Call of Duty are still Microsoft's biggest gaming draws, but there are other kinder and gentler titles mixed in among its demos, too.

On June 14, Microsoft introduced some new elements into its gaming line-up intended to broaden its appeal further. The company rolled out a new, sleeker, "whisper-quiet" Xbox 360 Slim model which will be for sale in retail stores here in the U.S. this week.

It also previewed the Kinect (formerly known as Natal) controller technology, that will free Xbox users from increasingly powerful and confusing gaming controllers with a "webcam-on-steroids" unit that recognizes gestures and voice. There will be 15 new titles, a handful of which will be bundled with Kinect once it is available on November 4. On the Kinect-enabled roster are a virtual animal petting zoo (Kinectimals) and a Your Shape fitness program, and a "So You Think You Can Dance" tutorial package known as Dance Central.  Microsoft also announced a partnership with ESPN, via which ESPN live and recorded content will be available for free to Xbox Live Gold subscribers. (As more than one male and female follower of mine tweeted, "Too bad I don't care about sports that much.")

The Xbox and Kinect aren't like the new Microsoft Kin phones, in that Microsoft isn't claiming they are aimed at a specific age demographic. So I can't claim I fall outside the customer base Microsoft wants to convince to go buy a console and a controller.

Bottom line is I just don't find the idea of watching a World Cup match in tandem with a Twitter or Facebook or Messenger friend of mine to be a "fun" activity. I am sure it is for some people. I'd actually rather go to a real game or even to a local pub and watch it alongside live human beings (as long as they don't have any real or virtual Vuvuzelas at their disposal).  If I'm going to run, give me a treadmill, at least; I don't want to jog in place in front of my Xbox. In other words, give me real life over virtual life. Every time.

For me, the most interesting thing about today's soft launch of Kinect and the new Xbox weren't the devices themselves. Instead, it felt to me as though today marked the start of an era where Microsoft is positioning its gaming console as a platform on the same level as the PC.

It was less than a decade ago that Chairman Bill Gates championed the concept that the PC -- not the TV -- would be the hub of the digital living room. If you asked CEO Steve Ballmer today what the living room hub should be, I'd be he'd say it's up to customers, who are free to choose whether they want to make it the Xbox, PC or TV. When you're counting up the "three screens" in Microsoft's three-screens-and-the-cloud vision, those screens are variable (gaming console, TV, PC, phone, other mobile device, etc.).

Anyway, back to the new Xbox and Kinect. Are there any non-gamers out there who are ready to take the plunge and become one of the Xbox/Kinect faithful as a result of what was announced today? (Or any users of other gaming platforms who are ready to defect?) Why/why not?

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Microsoft

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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34 comments
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  • I am

    I haven't owned a console since Sega Genesis, and I'm seriously considering getting a Kinect Xbox bundle in November. The In Shape excersize game looks fun as does the Kinect adventure game where you have to jump and duck through obstacle courses. Plus... love the gesture and voice control for Zune and Netflix. I wonder if that works for the Media Center Extender UI too.
    AdamzP
    • RE: Will the new Xbox 360 and Kinect attract non-gamers like me?

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      timaeus
  • RE: Will the new Xbox 360 and Kinect attract non-gamers like me?

    I wish the regular Xbox dashboard were controllable by Kinect, specifically Media Center [Extender]. How cool would that be?
    angarita calvo
    • RE: Will the new Xbox 360 and Kinect attract non-gamers like me?

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  • it's DOA!

    it will crash and burn because of licensig and security issues.<br>M$ should better start working on a Linux console.
    Linux Geek
  • RE: Will the new Xbox 360 and Kinect attract non-gamers like me?

    I'm looking forward to Kinect mainly for my kids aged under 10. Immersive experiences like the Kinectimals etc will be great experiences for them. So far, most games on my XBOX are for Dad only after they go to bed and they only use it for movies and photos etc. This extends the use of the console to them for interesting games and experiences.
    ipalangio@...
  • it will have a 50% hardware failure rate like all Xboxes

    and it was Steve Jobs, not Bill Gates, that had the 'digital hub' vision and made it happen. Gates is the guy that thought the internet was a fad, and the same guy that broke U.S. law and was convicted twice in Federal court; in other words, a common criminal.
    ShazAmerica
    • You haven't been watching Apple's latest antics, it seems...

      @ShazAmerica Apple is currently behaving a lot like a big company - see all the latest controversies. I think Apple has still good will behind them, but they are tempting fate.
      Roque Mocan
    • RE: Will the new Xbox 360 and Kinect attract non-gamers like me?

      @ShazAmerica

      Can't let the past die?
      rjohn05
  • RE: Will the new Xbox 360 and Kinect attract non-gamers like me?

    C'mon - you know as well as I do that as soon as you start, you won't be seen out of your house for weeks, and you'll survive on nothing but dry corn flakes straight out of the box. I've been there, man. I've been there.
    zwhittaker
  • I'm buying one

    I plan to get one for sure. This is the start of Microsoft's NUI vision. The ability to interact with the content I am watching looks pretty amazing. The potential is huge when you consider how MS can add more networks down the road.

    I plan to buy one for myself and for my mother so we can watch stuff together.
    rjohn05
  • What part of NON-GAMER people can't understand???

    Looking at everybody who posted earlier, you can easily see that they are gamers. If you are a gamer, then your vote is not valid for her question.

    From the reaction even from the G4 game experts, the answer to the question asked is NO. But I would say that the answer is PROBABLY NO. It would depend on what it can bring to the non gamer. So far there are no real (out) games for this platform and the demos didn't look that impressive for a gamer, much less for a non gamer.

    The success of the Wii platform was due to the availability of #1 Fun family games and #2 games that (by pure luck) were therapeutic to many adults.

    The biggest success of the Wii was getting inside of "retirement homes". Something that neither the X-Box or or the PS have achieved ... probably not even once.
    wackoae
    • RE: Will the new Xbox 360 and Kinect attract non-gamers like me?

      @wackoae Based on a woman's claim that:-

      "The company has been pursuing partnerships with makers of casual gaming titles, attempting to prove that the Xbox isn?t just for hard core, first-person-shooter, almost entirely male audiences any more."... means that the discussion isn't even worth the effort of a credible response.

      It's why women get stereotyped when it comes to technology. They don't understand it and throw out wide aimed, nonsensical statements like that. You'd almost believe that she already has a PS3 tucked away under a shelf with such narrow-minded waffle.

      I guess it's a good job Dyson took the right approach when hitting the womans technological target... "make it colourful and simple"... works every time. Stick to pushing the Dyson Mary, it's more suited to your tech level.
      LeeC
  • Xbox slim? does that mean it will have a red ellipse of death?

    In all seriousness I would wait a good long while to see just how this thing performs before plopping down cash on another possible clunker. MS is notorious- industry- wide for putting products to market that are not ready.
    Tigertank
    • RE: Will the new Xbox 360 and Kinect attract non-gamers like me?

      @Tigertank

      Get a life...
      emekachika@...
      • No that is a very good point.

        @emekachika@... 360 had a failure rate of 50%, and many of those were repeats. My 360 had to go back twice in the last year or so for RROD. And when putting down 300+ dollars, it had better function.
        Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
  • RE: Will the new Xbox 360 and Kinect attract non-gamers like me?

    MS are going the wrong way if they want to attract non-gamers - not in the consoles abilities but in its marketing. Pushing games at non-gamers is a dumb idea.

    However... I do know a few non-gamers who have 360s for their media-hub capabilities. Streaming, TV watching, movies, music - depending on your audio set-up, of course - are all done really very well.

    If MS were to push this angle as well as the possibility of using Natal/Kinect as a live camera in order to eat into Skype's videophone market, they could gain greater traction.

    Think it through. What a non-gamer wants from a box under the TV is for it to make TV better. What the AV enthusiast wants is a separates box which can integrate nicely with their carefully picked components.

    And what families want at Christmas is a way to bring their overseas friends/relatives' living room into their living room. It's pretty much made for Microsoft as a market because you're using the TV as, er, a window...
    RichBryant
  • I wonder about the economics

    Kinect has been in development forever, is it ever going to recoup? Or is this a status product done for prestige rather than profit. Like Bang.
    HollywoodDog
  • Will it connect to my PC with multiple large screens?

    If Kinect could be used to control my PC, which has multiple large panels (like in the movie "Minority Report"), then I'd buy it. I have an xBox, but mainly use it for NetFlix, music streaming, and to keep my nephews entertained.

    MJ Off-Topic Request:
    Please ask your Microsoft contacts about the new SeaMicro server with 512 cores and how well Windows Server will run on it. Is Microsoft well-positioned to take advantage of hardware changes like this, perhaps with Windows HPC Server, or will this be another lost opportunity? Here's a link about it:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/06/14/seamicro_sm10000_server/
    JohnMorgan3
  • RE: Will the new Xbox 360 and Kinect attract non-gamers like me?

    I hate games and consider them a thorough waste of temporal resource. But seeing this development, and its Cardio-vascular advantage I am definitely getting one.
    The single reason I am getting this is to get even with my kids, they are always beating me due to their dexterity with six or eight button wielding controllers, now we have a plain field, let the fun begin.
    eInfinity