Microsoft's goal with the Kinect is simple: It needs to get this machine into as many houses as possible. Microsoft needs to market its Kinect so that it's perceived as the one thing to get this holiday season. If it succeeds in this goal, the company gains a nice profit for its shareholders, developers find a new way to design games for a massive audience, marketers can use a unique way to push people to interact with their products and gamers to get a cool piece of technology that could add immersible elements to the games they enjoy playing. But, it all must start with Microsoft selling a lot of Kinects-and the way it's doing it is by not marketing it to core gamers. It's marketing the Kinect to moms, kids and casual players.
There's an important difference between "gamers" and "people who play games." Gamers keep up with gaming news, make time in their day to play games and, from a marketing perspective, choose to self-identify as a part of the gaming subculture, familiar with its language, references, memes and history. The group "people who play games" tend to not search for gaming news, but when they run across something of interest, they will scan it. They frequently play genres across the spectrum and sometimes go weeks or months without getting a new game. Lastly, they don't call themselves "gamers."
In the year after the announcement of "Project Natal," there's been a lot of speculation and a little bit of information delivered on the product. We, as core gamers, wondered about the technical specifications. We imagined the integration of Natal into our favorite games, genres and activities on our Xbox 360. As a group, we experienced and expressed every range of emotion about what was then called Project Natal.
Then E3 2010 happened. Layers of mystery and speculation were pulled away and we, the gamers who've been talking about this for a year, saw Microsoft unveil the Natal, renamed "Kinect." We were expecting the Microsoft reps to look at us directly, with pride in their faces and tell us about this thing we were curious about; this object that so many of us desired was here and they wanted us to play with it. Instead, before E3 even started, Microsoft threw a party for the media that included a surreal, nearly ritualistic display from Cirque du Soleil. Yet, it started to feel like Microsoft wasn't talking to us. It was the first time Microsoft had built a device for games and wasn't paying most of its attention to us. The non-gaming media lapped it up. They wrote about it on their blogs, news aggregate gobbled up pictures and it became a yummy spectacle for the non-gaming media. Within days, business executives and families were treated to soft-news in hotels, airplanes and other infotainment venues about this thing ... it is called Kinect ... and you are the controller.