Microsoft Sells Eight Million Kinects–Well, Not Really, but Close Enough

We were hoping Steve Ballmer would spill the beans on how many Kinects the company has sold to date, and he didn’t disappoint.

During the Microsoft chief’s traditional appearance on the eve of CES, there was really no better consumer electronic to talk about.

The Xbox add-on has been a blockbuster hit for the company.

It sold 2.5 million in the first 25 days at market, and has garnered extended interest in the platform beyond hard-core gaming enthusiasts. It works similarly to the Nintendo Wii by allowing gamers to play beach volleyball or ping-pong or take dance lessons using motion, but this version doesn’t require a controller at all.

Tonight, Ballmer provided an update on just how well it’s selling. In its first 60 days on the market, he said, eight million Kinect sensors were sold, outpacing the five million units the company had forecasted in 2010.

But those figures require a little more explanation than was given:

The 2.5 million sold in 25 days counted the number of devices consumers purchased, whereas the eight million figure reported today represents the number of devices shipped to retailers.

The discrepancy between those two is likely fairly slim. Up until recently, inventories have been really low, and retailers have been sold out in some circumstances. For instance, the Xbox 360 with 250GB, bundled with the Kinect, remains sold out at Walmart.com, but is available at Amazon.com.

A Microsoft spokesperson had a fairly simple explanation for the different reporting methods:

To develop the sell-through numbers when it announced 2.5 million in sales, Microsoft conducted manual checks among retailers to gauge interest during the holidays. Those are very labor intensive, “and are not something we do throughout the year,” the spokesman explained.

“The change back to sell-in reporting aligns our Kinect disclosures to our ongoing worldwide console and financial disclosures, and is what you should expect from us going forward.”

Either way, the spokesperson assures us that Kinect sales far surpassed the five-million unit forecast.

It doesn’t hurt that the Xbox 360 has been the best-selling console in North America for six months running. Another figure revealed tonight was that console sales for the Xbox 360 hit 50 million over the holiday season.

That’s a lot. Nintendo said this week that the Wii system to date has sold more than 34 million consoles in the U.S., and that it sold more than seven million in 2010.

Other milestones:

–8 million: Number of Kinects sold in first 60 days

–50 million: Xbox 360s sold to date

–30 million: Number of Xbox LIVE members


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