Microsoft Predicts 5 Million Sales of Controller-Free Kinect System

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X-Box 360 peripheral system will be sold in Canada for the holiday season, but won’t understand Canadian English accents.

Microsoft reports it is predicting potential sales of 5 million of its new controller-less Kinect gaming systems over the upcoming holiday season, which would add $750 million to the company’s fourth quarter earnings.

Unfortunately, although voice commands will be understood by the unit’s voice recognition software include American English, British English, Japanese and Mexican Spanish, Canadian English speakers won’t be able to talk to their Xbox 360s until a later date. According to an interview with Microsoft by gaming magazine Eurogamer, the company plans to bring voice commands to Canada and other affected European countries in Spring of 2011.

The $150 Kinect unit went on sale at midnight in 30,000 stores across the United States. The device, which connects into the Microsoft Xbox gaming console, allows players to interact with games by only using gestures and voice commands.

This expansion by Microsoft into the motion-based gaming arena, going head to head with Sony’s Move and Nintendo’s Wii gaming systems, is an attempt to jump start the $60 billion world wide video game market; hit hard by the slow global economy.

Initially, Microsoft predicted in September that 3 million Kinect units would be sold this holiday season, but recently Don Mattrick – head of the company’s entertainment unit – increased their estimate to 5 million devices being sold due to presales increasing expectations. “People are coming to us and saying this is must-have holiday item,” said Mattrick.

However, like most high demand Christmas gifts over the years – demand for the Kinect may lead to shortages who would limit sales. Lines formed early at 5,000 stores that held special midnight promotions for the Kinect, with a total of 30,000 stores selling the units across the U.S. and sales beginning in Europe November 10 and in Asia a week later. Microsoft announced the new system last year under the project name Natal, and is selling the Kinect for $150 or as part of a package that includes a 4 gigabyte Xbox for a total of $300.

The thin black Kinect box has three camera sensors, plugs into the back of the Xbox, and comes packaged with a set of games called ‘Kinect Adventures’. Those games run the gamut from navigating water rapids to adventuring in space. Microsoft promises sixteen additional games will be available in time for the holidays and will include fitness games as well as dancing and racing titles.

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Photo by Axel Bührmann

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