Microsoft's Xbox 360 motion sensor Kinect hits stores

Microsoft launched its Xbox 360 motion-sensing controller Kinect on Thursday with a Times Square extravaganza and high hopes for the device that lets people play videogames using body movements.

Market tracker International Data Corp. predicted US sales of 2.5 million to 3.0 million Kinects over the holiday season but Microsoft is setting its sights even higher.

The Redmond, Washington-based software giant this week boosted its forecast for Kinect sales this quarter to five million units from three million and said it expects it to be the biggest Xbox accessory debut ever.

Kinect, which went on sale at more than 30,000 US stores on Thursday, uses a 3D camera and motion recognition software to let people play videogames using natural body movements and voice commands instead of hand-held controllers.

Driving games are played by simply moving the hands as if turning a steering wheel while on-screen figures in dance or sports games mimic body movements.

The Kinect hits the market on the heels of Sony PlayStation 3 Move motion controllers which IDC estimates will sell between 2.0 million and 2.25 million units by the end of the year.

Both Microsoft and Sony are hoping to cash in on the success of Japan's Nintendo, which pioneered motion controls with its hit Wii consoles in 2006.

"Millions of additional US households will be enjoying motion-based gaming this holiday season," Lewis Ward, research manager of IDC's videogame industry advisory service, said.

"Nintendo's Wii MotionPlus controller has an installed base over 10 million units right now but the new interfaces and associated games from Sony and Microsoft are going to give many shoppers pause moving forward," Ward said.

The standalone Kinect, which works with the 45 million Xbox 360s already sold worldwide, costs 150 dollars. It comes with the videogame "Kinect Adventures," which features a river raft ride through an obstacle course.

A four-gigabyte Xbox 360 console that includes the Kinect and "Kinect Adventures" sells for 299 dollars.

Seventeen Kinect games are currently available ranging from dance, exercise and sports titles to "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," which lets people portray the fictional young wizard.

A "Kinectimals" videogame tailored for children lets players befriend and train wild on-screen animals with words and gestures.

Among the studios which have developed Kinect titles are Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, MTV Games/Harmonix, Microsoft Games, and Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment.

For the launch, Microsoft filled New York's Times Square with hundreds of dancers and put on a concert by recording artists Ne-Yo and Lady Sovereign.

The Kinect is to go on sale in Europe on November 20 and in Japan on November 20.

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