Microsoft has sold 1m of its Kinect motion-gaming devices in the 10 days since the Xbox 360 accessory launched, providing a much-needed boost to the games hardware market ahead of the Christmas trading season.
Kinect is crucial for Microsoft if it is to reduce Nintendo’s lead in the sagging games console market and lure more casual gamers away from the internet and smartphones.
The $150 device allows people to play games using physical movement, gestures and voice commands, without the hand-held controller normally used with games consoles.
“This is a great start to the holiday season, and we will continue to work with our retailer partners to keep pace with high demand and deliver against our plan to sell more than 5m Kinect sensors worldwide by the end of this year,” said Don Mattrick, president of the interactive entertainment business at Microsoft.
Microsoft did not say how many of the 1m devices were sold individually or as part of a $300 or $400 console bundle.
Best Buy, the US electronics retailer, said it expected Kinect to be a Christmas best-seller. By Christmas, Kinect will be available in 38 countries, with 17 supporting games, selling to an installed base of 45m Xbox 360 consoles.
The huge success of Nintendo’s Wii since its 2006 launch has been attributed to its pioneering motion-sensitive controller, which makes it easier for non-gamers to play. Microsoft and Sony have released their responses to the Wii in the past two months, with the PlayStation Move and Xbox’s Kinect.
But the Wii has seen a rapid drop in sales this year, and some observers have questioned whether stretched consumers would pay for more hardware this year, especially with the simultaneous release of Activision’s blockbuster game, Call of Duty: Black Ops, which set sales records last week.
Sony’s Move, which launched in October, sold 1m devices in its first 30 days in the US, with more than 1.5m sold in Europe over the same period.
Apple sold 1m units of its iPad tablet computer, a more expensive device, in the four weeks after launch.
Ukie, the trade body representing games publishers in Britain, said that last week’s software sales reached a record £113.8m, due to the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops and Kinect.
Piers Harding-Rolls, games analyst at Screen Digest, a research group, said Kinect sales so far were “in line with expectations”. He forecasts sales to consumers of 4.5m – Microsoft’s 5m estimate is based on shipments to retailers – with a similar number of homes also likely to buy Sony’s Move controllers.
“The big challenge for Microsoft is matching up stock and bundling options with the right consumers in different territories,” Mr Harding-Rolls said, with early adopters who already own an Xbox likely to make up the bulk of the first 1m Kinects sold.
The launch software line-up is a balance of Wii-style sports games, music and dancing titles, he added. “They’ve played relatively safe in terms of the software,” he said. “There are 17 launch titles, which is pretty substantial.”
However, Mr Harding-Rolls still expects Nintendo to top both Move and Kinect this year. “I think Wii will be the biggest seller over Christmas globally, even with a significantly reduced performance over last year,” he said. Screen Digest forecasts Wii sales of 7m-8m, down from 11.5m in 2009.