Retrospective: Microsoft in 2010

Microsoft has done a much better job of selling the Xbox 360 throughout 2010, with sales now close to rivalling the Nintendo Wii. The redesign has reinvigorated the console, heaping on a new set of features and adding some much needed aesthetics.

A significant percentage of sales are from existing owners that have chosen to upgrade. The built in wireless network adaptor, improved storage and quieter internal fan has made the Xbox redesign very desirable. Microsoft is trying to attract a family audience with the launch of Kinect, but their marketing strategy has also been very successful for ‘hardcore’ gamers. By improving each iteration’s functionality (in a similar sense to the iPhone) I think consumers see each purchase as a piece of cutting edge technology.

Kinect has surpassed all sales expectations, throwing the traditional controller out in favour of full body input. The current selection of games is hardly imaginative though, taking reference from Nintendo with a heavy influence on sport titles and party games. It’s been a big risk for Microsoft, but they’ve backed it with an appropriately strong marketing campaign. However, I’d like to see the technology integrated into existing titles in a similar manner to the PlayStation Move, or with full retail games that encourage an adult audience.

Kinect has fantastic potential, but is currently struggling to persuade ‘hardcore’ gamers with its steep price point. Until it steps away from the experiences we already own on the Nintendo Wii, I suspect its sales spike will begin to slow down in the spring of 2011.

Call of Duty: Black Ops and Halo Reach were big titles throughout autumn, but it’s left Microsoft exposed for the Christmas period. Favourable, but not great ratings from Fable 3 will likely leave them scrapping for multiplatform sales on titles such as Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.

In 2011, I predict that third party support for Kinect will improve and recognition will grow for original XBLA titles such as Limbo and Plants Vs Zombies. Gears Of War 3 and Batman: Arkham City are my most anticipated full retail titles.

Final Grade: A-

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