Kinect, the accessory that pairs with an Xbox and allows for input via physical movements, is one of Microsoft’s biggest product failures as a company but it was the fault of Rare, a company Microsoft acquired, not management.
The accessory, which costs $99 (£199), sold well to begin with but developers never bought into the platform, according to Business Insider’s Matt Weinberger. Customers soon became discontent with the platform and it now revels in the history books as an also-ran product.
The launch of the Xbox One was also fraught (the company flip-flopped on several key aspects of the Xbox, giving the PlayStation 4 an early lead) which did not help Kinect’s chances of survival.
However, the focus on Kinect by Microsoft was not, as it turns out, the idea of Microsoft.
In an interview with Eurogamer, an ex-Microsoft employee who worked at Rare, a game studio the company acquired for $375 million (£250 million) in 2002, says that it was the management at Rare that pushed the product, not Microsoft.
“Everybody likes to create this narrative that Microsoft [is] evil, but that’s not the case,” said Gavin Price, a designer at Rare. “[Xbox boss] Phil Spencer taking the mantle of Xbox is one of the best things that could have happened for Rare, because he’s always [told people] at Rare ‘Do what you want to do and we’ll back you.'”
This lead to Kinect.
“It was people in Rare’s management at the time who said: ‘Well, Kinect is a great opportunity for the studio — go all in on it,'” said Price. “So when executives at Microsoft see that the management team are passionate about doing that, they back them. Microsoft to their credit did that, and perhaps the story online isn’t quite reflective of the truth.”
Microsoft has moved on from Kinect and is pushing HoloLens, the augmented reality headset, as its next big thing in gaming.