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At first glance, Microsoft looks like the software behemoth that most of us have grown accustomed to just love hating. Look a little deeper and you’ll discover that not only has Microsoft changed the dynamics of the gaming world, its actively shaping the future of the industry as whole.
The story of how Microsoft was able to enter an industry dominated by Nintendo and Sony is quite a long and interesting one.
At first it was Bill Gates announcing the coming of the first Microsoft gaming console. On November 15, 2001, the original Xbox is launched along with their online platform Xbox Live, offering a vision of online gaming that was then unrivaled by its competitors.
To its credit, Microsoft realized the looming potential that home gaming consoles had vis-à-vis the online gaming world. What they did with Xbox Live was nothing short of banging open a truly fresh market for both large game developing companies as well as their smaller indie counterparts. The floodgates were then open. Today, Nintendo is scrambling to find a way into online gaming while the former generations’ market leader Sony plays catch up with its own PlayStation Network. The growth of the Xbox Live service is also showing no signs of abating, recording a 16% increase in revenue in 2010.
Microsoft is now upping its game (quite literally) in a big way with its newest entrant, Kinect.
Kinect is basically a very smart device that detects your motion and allows you to interact with your Xbox 360 without a controller. Although the peripheral received a wave of initial criticism –due to issues of lag and appeal to solely casual gamers – the numbers spoke of a different story. Kinect went on to sell 8 million units in just its first 60 days on the market. What is really mind blowing is the interest that the peripheral is generating amongst hackers wanting to manipulate the technology behind it. A team at MIT’s Media Lab fine-tuning a hologram video marks one of the more recent hacks involving Kinect. Check the top 12 Kinect hacks here.
Microsoft of course is probably reveling in on all the seemingly newfound popularity. So much in fact that they have been able to work it in their favor. Instead of pursuing litigation against individuals hacking its hugely successful new product, Microsoft is instead supporting them. In fact they are working on launching a developers kit to assist those hackers with their endeavors.
The reason why Kinect will continue to be a huge success revolves around the software used to operate the device, the “brain”. This allows Microsoft to remotely update Kinect’s mental prowess and adapt it to more complicated commands and environments.
In short, Nintendo might have introduced the first instance of motion control gaming to the mainstream, however the future seems to holding its fruits in Microsoft’s favor. If Microsoft’s achievements to date in the gaming world hints at anything, it is that they will continue to expand the market as whole, and may I dare to say yes, even dominate it.