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A eulogy for Kinect: Why Xbox pulled the plug

Kinect had a good run. No one will ever forget the big award – the Guinness World Record for the fastest-selling consumer electronics device in history. Microsoft moved more than 10 million of the original units in the first four months. That’s more than the iPhone or iPad. Very impressive.


Ah, Kinect. We barely knew you, and now you're gone. We had such good times.

Well, not really. Actually, most of our time together was frustrating, sometimes exasperating. Whether it was your frequent misinterpretations of things I said or your continuing refusal to recognize me when I walked into the room – you seemed to have no problems with my wife, you sly dog – you often made me feel like an invisible person. And to think I made you a permanent guest in my home.

On Tuesday, Microsoft decided to pull the plug on you – literally – with an announcement that, come June 9, its Xbox One console will be available without you. Oh, and for $399, or $100 less than with you. That must hurt, huh?

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But, as the company probably told you, it's necessary. See, Sony has been cleaning up with its PlayStation 4, which has sold more than seven million units since its launch in November. Microsoft has shipped about five million consoles, but it could have sold so many more had it not bundled you in.

The problem is, you just don't work. Or, at least, you just don't work well enough. When you first moved in, back in 2010, I had to realign my living room to your tastes. You didn't like the couches close together, the coffee table was always in the way, it was never bright enough for you and the cats often confused you when they walked by. It was like living with a diva and a frat boy binge drinker, all rolled into one.

I kicked you out some time after that, but you sobered up and came back last fall, pleading that you'd turned your life around. For a while, I believed in this "new and improved" you. You listened and you did your chores better. I didn't even mind that you'd flip TV channels for your Americans friends, but not us Canadians.

Eventually, you fell back into your old ways, or maybe I just realized you hadn't really gotten better.

Your cousin the controller, on the other hand (you got me, pun intended), now there's a hard worker. He never drops the ball. He pays very close attention to both me and my wife, by the way. Controllers go out there every day, do their jobs perfectly while your creators just weren't fast enough to think up interesting, new things for you to do. So the new you has turned out to be a lot like the old you.

Still, you had a good run. No one will ever forget your big award – the Guinness World Record for the fastest-selling consumer electronics device in history. Microsoft moved more than 10 million units of you in your first four months on this Earth. That's more than the iPhone or iPad. Very impressive.

But alas, years later people still use those other devices in productive ways. Your boss, Xbox head Phil Spencer, insists that's still the case with you too, with more than 80 per cent of Xbox One owners "actively using Kinect." I can't help but wonder what he means by that, since as long as you're plugged in and haven't been purposely shut off by your user, you're technically "actively" working.

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Could it simply mean that only 20 per cent of users have "actively" unplugged you and thrown you in the closet? We gamers are a lazy bunch, so I'd be surprised if the number was even that high.

Spencer also says you'll still be available separately come the fall, but without interesting things for you to do – Kinect Sports Rivals scored a pretty miserable 61 on Metacritic – I wonder if anyone will truly want you anymore now that you're not a necessity.

Sure, little kids love you, but kids aren't the ones who made Xbox a success. It was core gamers who did – the people who play Halo and Gears of War – and it looks like Microsoft is getting back to catering to that audience.

No one can fault Microsoft for bringing you into this world, even if it was to piggyback on the motion-gaming phenomenon started by one of its Japanese rivals. Indeed, the company should be commended for trying something new and innovative. You are, if you don't mind me saying, still pretty damn impressive and you have a bright future ahead of you. Perhaps the experiments with you in the medical profession, military or heck, even adult entertainment might yield some happy results down the road.

But for games, for right now, you were simply technology for technology's sake. And that never turns out well for anyone. Rest well, Kinect. You've earned it, sort of.

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About the Author

Peter Nowak has been writing about technology for 20 years, with a focus on trends and how they affect the world. He worked at The Globe and Mail between 1997 and 2004 before moving to China and then New Zealand, where he won the award for best technology reporter at the New Zealand Herald. More


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