E3 2011: Microsoft sells Kinect to hard-core gamers


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A year after launching its motion- and voice-sensing device with a focus on dancing and fuzzy animals, Microsoft Corp. is marketing Kinect to hard-core gamers.

At its E3 press conference Monday, Microsoft showed off a number of upcoming action and adventure titles aimed at avid young male players that take advantage of Kinect’s unique features. They included Electronics Arts’ Mass Effect 3, in which players can verbally issue commands to computer-controlled colleagues; Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier, in which players can put together unique guns and fire them by moving their hands; and LucasArts’ Kinect Star Wars, in which players can live out their dreams of using the Force like Luke Skywalker.


There were a few Kinect games for more casual players, such as one featuring Sesame Street characters and a sequel to last year’s hit Dance Central. But most featured guns, knives and light sabers.

Microsoft’s focus was part of a broader trend at the show: After a few years of going after non-traditional players such as women, older adults and young children, video game companies are refocusing on their core audience of young males. ‘Casual’ gamers cut back spending last year, leading to a huge drop in sales for Nintendo’s Wii and Activision’s now-defunct Guitar Hero brand, and shifted their attention to less expensive or free games for Facebook and smartphones.

As a result, companies such as Microsoft are looking for young men -- who still eagerly buy new installments of hot series like Call of Duty, Uncharted, and Halo -- to spend more money.

“We skimped a little on the core [audience] with Kinect last year,” Xbox president of global marketing Michael Delman said in an interview. “We expect to see their usage go way up.”

-- Ben Fritz


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