John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

From the Branding Geniuses Who Brought You Zune, Bing and Kin: Kinect for Xbox 360

Microsoft’s Project Natal motion-control gaming system has a new name, Kinect for Xbox 360, and an official release date: November 4, 2010.

Announced along with a new, slimmer Xbox 360 on the eve of the Electronic Entertainment Expo during a special Cirque du Soleil performance said to be inspired by its technology, Kinect uses a 3-D camera and an array of motion sensors to track 48 points on the human body and translate them into in-game actions. Its official name, an amalgam of “kinetic” and “connection,” is intended to reflect that.

But like many brandings, “Kinect” is being met with criticism by some observers, prompting the inevitable “Kinect 4,” “you spelled connect wrong” and “should have called it the ‘Mii Too'” jokes. But as Stephen Tolouse, director of Xbox Live policy and enforcement at Microsoft (MSFT), noted in a blog post last night, Nintendo was widely mocked for choosing the name Wii, too.

“It’s interesting to me how much is put into a technology’s name,” Tolouse wrote. “I, like many others, decried Nintendo naming their new console the Wii. And yet look at how many units it’s sold. The trick is in the magic of the experience….”

Explaining his preference, Tolouse says, “I really like the name Kinect….Sure, it’s a made up word, and others have used it (try and find any pronounceable combination of six letters using the English alphabet that the Internet hasn’t combined). But I like that it isn’t something more common or mundane. The experience of using Kinect is deserving of its own descriptor.”

Expounding, Toulouse dissects the challenge of naming a new product, especially one already known by a code name: “It’s really hard when you have a cool ‘code name’ that lasts for so long to replace it with its true name, a name that it really deserves to communicate why it’s desirable. Code names are meant to be cool, as code names. True product and technology names are far more difficult. Marketing people get a really bad rap when they face a challenge like that and there’s often a lot of eye rolling and ‘what were they thinking’ that goes on. Coming up with these things is a high wire act with no net.”

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