Microsoft has officially stopped manufacturing the Kinect. The news was exclusively revealed to Co.Design in an interview with Alex Kipman, creator of the Kinect, and Matthew Lapsen, GM of Xbox Devices Marketing.
Originally launching in the 2010 holiday season for the Xbox 360 — where it promptly sold out across the world — the Kinect later entered darker times. At the start of the next console generation, Microsoft was criticized for its move of making the Kinect a mandatory inclusion with every Xbox One. The decision was intended to inspire developers to utilize the hardware because every Xbox One owner would be guaranteed to have one, creating a mass market of Kinect owners, but gamers pushed back and let Microsoft know they weren't interested in that prospect, especially with the higher price tag it created for the Xbox One. Microsoft is still paying the price for these early mistakes; it's estimated that in total, the PlayStation 4 has outsold the Xbox One 2:1.
Xbox One's Kinect accessory
As a standalone accessory for the Xbox One, Kinect slipped into obscurity. Developer interest in releasing games for it was waning, and Microsoft was even criticized for its own lack of support for Kinect: along with first-party Kinect games being far and few between, there is no dedicated Kinect jack on the Xbox One S or the Xbox One X. Kinect owners upgrading to either console have to use an adapter to hook it up. Perhaps there were other writings on the wall, like the re-releasing of formerly Kinect-exclusive titles without the Kinect requirement, allowing them to reach a wider audience.
Despite being viewed by consumers in recent times as something of a failure, Kinect has reportedly sold 35 million units. Outside of sales alone, its influence on the tech world cannot be overstated; Co.Design's Mark Wilson writes, "In the years since, I don’t believe it an exaggeration to say that Kinect has been the single most influential, or at least prescient, piece of hardware outside of the iPhone." He continued:
Technologically, it was the first consumer-grade device to ship with machine learning at its core, according to Microsoft. Functionally, it’s been mimicked, too. Since 2010, Apple introduced the Siri voice assistant copying the speak-to-control functions of Kinect, and Google started its own 3D tracking system, called Project Tango (which was founded and continues to be led by Johnny Lee, who helped on the original Kinect). Vision and voice systems have become nearly ubiquitous in smartphones, and they’re gradually taking over homes, too. Take Amazon Echo bringing voice assistants to our grandparents’ living rooms–or the newer, Echo Show upping the ante by adding a camera to Alexa. Even the networked Nest Cam owes a debt to the Kinect being first through the gate, and taking the brunt of criticism on a whole new era of privacy concerns.
Fruit Ninja Kinect, a 2011 Xbox 360 Kinect title
In the meantime, Kinects can still be bought new and used on the cheap through various gaming outlets. Once stores' stocks are gone, they will not be replaced now that production has ceased. If it's an accessory you're interested in trying out, now may be the right time to add one to your collection.