Kinect launches in NZ

Microsoft's long-awaited motion sensing gaming device, Kinect for Xbox 360, finally launched today.

The fanfare at Sale St bar in Auckland last night did not quite live up to the US launch in Times Square, where people played Kinect on huge screens, but media turned out to see Kinect games being played nonetheless.

Kinect is a sensor that uses infrared technology to track the user's motion without needing any kind of controller except for their own body.

Kinect's Asia-Pacific manager, Steve Blackburn, said the response to the US launch of the device had been “phenomenal”, and that Microsoft had upped their global sales target from three million to five by the end of the year.

He was not particularly concerned by some media reports that Kinect seemed like a beta device.

“Of course we're not releasing an unfinished product,” Blackburn said. “The ones people have been testing are works in progress, but when you try the retail version it's really good.”

He said the launch games were very impressive, particularly Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and Dance Central.

Blackburn could not say what kind of games might be coming for Kinect in the future, because Microsoft's main focus had been on making sure the launch hardware and software was working well.

However game developers were coming up with new and interesting ways of using Kinect's technology, and there would be games for hardcore gamers as well as “new gamers, or new non-gamers”, he said.

“We've found that Kinect really takes away that barrier and allows people who don't play games to use it,” Blackburn said.

The one major feature missing from the New Zealand version of Kinect, that the US version currently has, is voice recognition. While New Zealanders can currently use their Kinect device as a microphone in place of a headset, they cannot make voice commands.

Voice recognition would be coming to New Zealand in early 2011, Blackburn said. Pet simulator Kinectimals will utilise voice technology, and users will also be able to use voice commands on the Xbox dashboard or for functions like pausing and rewinding when watching DVDs.

Blackburn said that Xbox 360 was the “number one” console in New Zealand in terms of sales, and he expected to see Xbox sales boosted by the launch of Kinect.

“It really is a revolutionary technology,” he said.

The Kinect sensor retails for $229 and comes with Kinect Adventures. The package can also be bought with the Xbox 360 console at either $499 with 4GB of storage space, or $599 with the 250GB console.

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Siobhan Keogh

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