Kinect director kicks off sixth annual game marketing conference

MI6 2011: Microsoft's Kudo Tsunoda extols the benefits of having designers collaborate with marketers to create the Xbox 360's family-friendly add-on.


Kinect Joy Ride
Kinect Sports

Who was there: Kudo Tsunoda, creative director for the Kinect project, delivered a talk titled "Marketing's Critical Role in the Development of Kinect."

What they talked about: To herald the start of the sixth annual MI6 Game Marketing Conference in San Francisco, Kudo Tsunoda delivered a keynote address focused on one of the most successful marketing campaigns of 2010, that of Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing camera peripheral.

Marketing and design worked hand in hand to refine the Kinect.
Marketing and design worked hand in hand to refine the Kinect.

Tsunoda began by talking about the "inherent weird tension" that arises whenever developers work with marketing people. But with the Kinect, Tsunoda said the marketing team was instrumental in crafting the experience and defining what the product was going to be, more so than with any other project he has worked on. He said he was especially happy to talk at MI6 because it gave him a chance to give credit to the marketing team for their role in making the peripheral. He asked the team to stand up and receive a round of applause, which they reluctantly did.

Noting their begrudging compliance, Tsunoda quipped, "That's the last time we ever try to give you credit for anything."

Tsunoda talked about the history between marketing and development teams, sarcastically noting that they're always on the same page with their goals and how to achieve them. After an extended riff on that note, Tsunoda said when the Kinect project first started, the concept was to simply get new customers beyond the core gamer crowd, which made up the Xbox's user base. He said the goal was to get people who didn't have any experience with games to have fun with the system right away, though he noted that his prior work experience consisted of about 16 years of solving problems like having digital blood shoot out of a character's face in just the right way.

Tsunoda then offered a designer concept video to show off some of their first (misguided) ideas, including having the machine personified by a sinister red eye in the screen looking at the player constantly, or making a game that would see a player in New York and a player in Seattle skipping a virtual jump rope, trying to get as many people as possible to engage in "the world's longest jump rope." It was clear that the developers needed to go after the problem from a different angle.

Tsunoda talked about a "method acting" approach to game design. Instead of just brainstorming, he said it was time to do research and learn about what the customers wanted. For example, they had moms come in and share their ideas with the team about how people could use it. He also said he spent his weekends in a park videotaping kids at play, although that initiative had to be cut short due to parental concerns.

The creativity that went into the Kinect was in finding new ways to do research, Tsunoda said. With the Kinect, there wasn't some inherent skill walling off designers from everybody else, he said. Anyone who could figure out a good way to use the interface was essentially a designer, which made the end result a more inclusive process.

He also talked about the importance of the first concept video the marketing team put together. It was one thing for the developers to understand they were going after a new audience, but the data on demographics they got from marketing was key in providing a direction to head in. It was marketers that underscored the need to make the play particularly physical, approachable, and intuitive. And it wasn't just that the marketers unloaded data on the developers and told them how to use it, Tsunoda said. It was that they used the data to help tell them where to go with their existing ideas to make them better.

Tsunoda talked about a few key principles for the Kinect. It needed to be approachable so players could get started in under 30 seconds. It also needed to be social, and not in a sitting-in-the-basement-shooting-other-people-in-the-head kind of way. It also had to be as fun to watch as it was to play so that everyone in the room could enjoy the experience, even if they're not the ones in control. Finally, the Kinect had to let people play how they wanted to play.

He pointed to the Breakout-inspired game Rallyball 3D, which was used to demo the system as an example. They had the Manchester soccer team come in to try it, and they would use only their heads and feet to hit the balls.

Tsunoda talked about previous attempts Microsoft had made to expand the user base, saying that in the past, they suffered from a lack of collaboration between designers and marketers. One example he gave was pink and baby blue Xbox 360 controllers, mocking the idea that the only thing keeping women from embracing the system was the color of the controller.

The collaboration between marketing and design extended throughout the entire development process, Tsunoda said. Marketing was sharing ideas and playing builds, and the department was never out of step with the development team because they all did everything together, "fused at every step from the beginning in every way."

Tsunoda also noted the marketing team's contributions at milestone reviews. The first time the developers sat in a milestone meeting with the marketers, they found the marketers giving unprompted support for everything the developers were saying, "jumping on top of one another to say the same thing."

Tsunoda stressed that because of design and marketing's collaboration, it was possible to meld ideas from both fields into the end product. Though Tsunoda said he's a bit of a micromanager, Kinect marketing videos were the first time where he was essentially hands-off and had no worries about how they'd turn out due to the solid ties between the development and marketing teams.

Quote: "Suddenly design was not this thing that was exclusive to designers."--Tsunoda, on the early development process.

Takeaway: Tsunoda wrapped up his presentation with a Jerry Springer-like "final thoughts," dimming the lights and taking a seat on a stool to talk about the marketing-development team partnership that was critical to the success of the Kinect. In the end, he offered not only a takeaway for the presentation, but also his own takeaway from the entire development cycle in a single question: "Why the heck wouldn't we do this with all products?"

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Avatar image for blackace

@fps_d0minat0 i havent seen kinect ads because i dont watch childrens tv. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- I haven't seen as many ads this year as during the holidays, but that's normal. Still, I've see ads on ESPN, WWE, Oprah, Tonight Show, as well as childrens channels like Cartoon Network and Nickelodean. So it's not just during childrens shows. You must not be watching many mature shows either. ************************************************************* @DrMatta Gotta love the Kinect buyer's remorse in here. It's not like nobody told you it was a waste of money. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- I have no remorse at all. I'm patiently waiting for the next batch of games to come out. Specifically the Star Wars game and Steel Battalion. Also looking forward to Virtual Tennis 4, Child of Eden., Rise of Nightmare, Project Draco and Haunt. I want the Move as well, but I'm not getting it until Sorcery comes out and that game got pushed back.

Avatar image for phoenix729

@yzedgamer I'm not saying kinect is bad and I agree that to a 3 year old, its like pure fairy dust, but it just seems like microsoft have dropped this like a stone. The adverts for it used to be on every ad break every night. Now I haven't seen one in months

Avatar image for fps_d0minat0r

i havent seen kinect ads because i dont watch childrens tv.

Avatar image for hannify

MI6 - what a wierd name to call a gaming conference.

Avatar image for swamptick

Kinect is awesome. It is far and away THE superior motion gaming technology on the planet. I love how many people are here talking about it. You have the people who pretend to hate it but are really just jealous, and the people who bought one and LOVE it.

Avatar image for shopsD

I bought kinect. I enjoy it every once in a while. Cant wait to try it out on Forza 4, then I'll judge it properly. I use it more for voice commands in than gaming.

Avatar image for DrMatta

Gotta love the Kinect buyer's remorse in here. It's not like nobody told you it was a waste of money.

Avatar image for Johny_47

I want Kinect to come to PC so that it doesn't cost a ridiculous amount, I just want to play a couple of games and paying at least £100(in the UK) just to play one or two games is just dumb and wrong.

Avatar image for phoenix729

haven't seen a single advert or review of any kinect games since its launch. Microsoft were all over this 6 months ago, touting it as a roaring success, 400,000 units sold by christmas etc etc. Now nothing. At all. Not a single scrap of information about upcoming releases, it makes me angry as they promised so much and have delivered absolutley nothing. Like it was one big marketing scam

Avatar image for mariokart64fan

i only used kenict one time ,, and for one game only lol , biggest waste of money in my history of gaming which goes back to the nes days , so ya with the wii ,, being the funnest form of motion , and the cheapest and having core games , where as kenict lacks alot of those fundimentals , why did i pay 150 for wii ports lol , shame on you microsoft and lame 3rd party support , with kenict adventures being the only worthwhile title while it lasts , other games are ports or games that just slap different names on ones already on the market , eg kenictimals -ya its called nintendogs /pets dogz 2 ya like i said shame on you microsoft

Avatar image for LOXO7

Being a hero in a game was never a good idea. Do you know how much moving that is? I like in games where you have the option of walking. But you never do. It's always, thumb stick all the way forward.

Avatar image for darkdemonlord69

Got the kinect for the kids. This Xmas. They may have played it 4 or 5 times. Biggest waste of money ever. Bought it for our 7 and 10 year old. To give you a idea of the age group. Got them 3 games with it. They were on their controllers again. Before Xmas Break was over. Sorry just saying. My experience with it. Wasn't exactly mind blowing.

Avatar image for noturfangirl

Considering this article has been on for 2 days, and has barely broke 50 comments shows the real popularity of kinect. Which is yawn. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Avatar image for beardrewz

I laugh at all the gamespot members who assume! that kinect will replace FPS..OMG! open your mind and think! Kinect can be used WITH controllers and without in SO many different ways! Kinect is selling more than the Move because Move has no games! there all tech demos. Michael Jackson the experience....Sony can only watch and WISH that what Kinect can technically do...As i was saying..Michael Jackson the experience is on Kinect soon and you can not only dance and have your body tracked with a cool image/blue projection..but you can hold a microphone! and SING! worlds first..good luck Sony with your copy of the Michael Jackson game. I sure dont want to hold the move and dance.

Avatar image for deactivated-5a5f623fa2551

How will they do first-person shooters on Kinect?!?!?! Personally, I hope they never do. The fact that we might never see an FPS on Kinect is one of Kinect's best attributes. To be honest, I wouldn't mind seeing a two-year moratorium on first-person shooter development. Period. Give me a rail shooter any day.

Avatar image for rasterror

I can see a bright future for Kinect. Once MS releases the SDK then developers will truly be able to show what it can do. It definitely needs games but every console has had a slow start.

Avatar image for PixelAddict

@SteveOwl You can't see it from where you're at, because we're not on XBL and not on Video Kinect..... but I'm nodding. Totally agree. I'll never play a game like Crysis 2 or Gears 3 FULLY on Kinect. Maybe there is a solution where i use the controller AND can use Kinect to make a random command (by voice) or something (but please, PLEASE don't make it reload like the arcade shooters where you shoot off the screen). Maybe there's a solution for core gaming, but i'd be happy with the Forza deal where you use a controller or wheel, and then it tracks your head to move the "camera" slightly left or right (a la Need For Speed Shift).

Avatar image for Phatjam98

LOL ahh you kids and your negative comments about a new technology. Guess what, this article shows that they didn't develop the Kinect for FPS! It seems some of you still dont get it. Oh well, in another year or two when the PC versions come out maybe you'll still be the one guy on your block still using a mouse.

Avatar image for riariases

Kinect needs some games. I bought it right when it came out and the only game I've seen worth buying is Kinect Sports. Its actually really good but boxing, the one game I wanted to play the most, worked a lot differently than I expected and its hard as f***.

Avatar image for sonofabear17

How about he does the speech "Good Games A Critical Role in the Development of Kinect." seriously I've had Kinect from the day it launched and still haven't felt the need to buy ANY Kinect game. Come on

Avatar image for JimmyJimJim

@paynee Women are frivolous creatures. What are you expecting

Avatar image for Stonecutters908

Game controls were perfected in 1985 with the NES gamepad and anything you use today is just an evolution of that design. If I wanted to hop around my living room to play completely mediocre or just plain awful games with imprecise controls I guess I would get a Kinect, but until then it is nothing but a cool way to flip through my Netflix queue by waving my hand. BFD.

Avatar image for SteveOwl

@PixelAddict...ty The main problem is that the hard core gamers are upset that the kinect doesn't cater for them (I actually consider myself one of them) and they're worried that this is a watering down, family endearing move, cashing in on the success on the wii and totally alienating them...and they have a point, however I'm not so sure how the kinect is ever going to work for games like Crysis 2, I mean what are you going to do, slap yourself on the forehead to go into stealth mode and then hide behind your bed to get in to ain't ever gonna work, and do we want it for, leave it for the dance central games and the work-out exercises and fun for the kids....but at least developers are going to go balls-out trying to come up with the next big thing and that leads to a win-win situation to those who are playing the games...

Avatar image for PixelAddict

@Paynee Um... seems like there's an easy, obvious solution here. I think you need to set your protections up so the kiddies aren't able to use chat/video without you or another adult there (to unlock it). Easy peasy.

Avatar image for Merex760

I think I threw up in my mouth reading that. Marketers getting involved in the creative process is wrong, and bad for gaming.

Avatar image for PixelAddict

@SteveOwl You hit the nail right on the head. Most people think that if you own the Kinect, you are ONLY a casual gamer. That is ridiculous logic. My Kinect gets a workout (literally) every day when I use Fitness Evolved at noon, otherwise it's the rest of the family using it for silly fun. As for me, I play Crysis 2, Borderlands, Black Ops, Hot Pursuit, etc etc my Xbox. Kinect just adds to the options and capabilities. As far as games, I'll be picking up Rise of Nightmares and Child of Eden. I have TONS of other gaming to play in the meantime. There's no rush here for more games. I've already got my hands full with a full backlog (and I play 25+ hours a week!).

Avatar image for SteveOwl

I got a kinect at christmas for my 11 yr old and my 8 yr old, they love playing adventures, kinectimals & dance central,sports and all the other games.... I enjoy watching them enjoy it...and sometimes I join in,...when they go to bed I play COD Black Ops, Crysis and such, that makes it a family experience which to me makes total sense... so why all the negativity, it's never going to be a "hard-core" gamer peripheral, just an add on, that increases market share which leads to developers and MS investing more money into the platform. A win, if you like gaming!

Avatar image for DarkGamerkill

@moistsandwich and you continue to argue.. hmm i wonder MOISTsandwhich how was your childhood? was grandpa rough?

Avatar image for moistsandwich

@ DarkGamerkill Yeah... because its a proven scientific fact that if you see boobs before you go through puberty, you WILL become a creepy pervert. FACT! Hey... btw, whats the weather like in your bubble this time of year?

Avatar image for DarkGamerkill

@moistsandwich and you obvoisly dont get what paynee was saying his nephew was playing kinect as far as im concerned 90% of kinects games are rated e for everyone and nothing like CoD so thus your argument is invalid please leave this news forum before you cause more shame to your self.

Avatar image for Thisisstupid

I have yet to see a Kinect commercial that isn't for a dancing game or a fitness game. Real games please? And anything on rails doesn't count.

Avatar image for DarkGamerkill

@moistsandwich yea im pretty sure i would want my 9 year old nephew to become a perv when he grows up you have such a good argument moistsandwich.

Avatar image for ChaosDynasty

Wonder what is going to be has been a couple of months already and there is still NOT a single hardcore kinect title that blows my mind :(

Avatar image for moistsandwich

@Paynee .... YEAH! for sure! Your nephew should be playing Mortal Kombat or Dead Space... wholesome activities. Not being exposed to mother nature in the form of a humans torsoe... I mean, MY GOD! what has this world come to, when young kids are exposed to such terrible things, when they could be playing CoD and screaming explicities in the mic.

Avatar image for Paynee

Well my nephew who is 9 was there. So no, it was in bad taste. I'm not a happy camper about that.

Avatar image for daviwinn

@Paynee that was just a fat guy with man boobs.

Avatar image for PixelAddict

@Paynee Well... now you are just trying to drive sales! Seriously, though, I wonder how many single people will be using the Video Kinect "post-game" for interesting... interactions.

Avatar image for Kenshiro_Kenoh

@Paynee LOL really?

Avatar image for Paynee

I would just like to inform Microsoft that the other day when I was trying out the video kinect with some other live players, some women took her top off. Is that what they want young kids to see?

Avatar image for grey_fox1984

They really need to make some Core content for kinect- If the iphone can be used to make a shooter like NOVA or a hack and slash as good as Infinity Blade, is there seriously not a single developer that can make an innovative control scheme for a Kinect game that will at least APPEAL to core gamers, even if it isn't exclusive for them? (them being US i assume, do casual gamers ever post in gamespot forums?)

Avatar image for Aryanith

i have mine since crhistmas. i played adventures, dance central, sports and your fitness a couple of times at parties. these are the best of games for kinect. it's EMBARRASSING how few games are there for this 200usd accessory. as of now it was a complete waste of money and total dissappointment.

Avatar image for Kenshiro_Kenoh

microsoft you had better deliver some epic games for this thing to TRY to convince me to buy it

Avatar image for Marky360

so basically he's core gamers kinect is not for you it's for soccer moms and your younger siblings. great now I'm never getting a kinect I'll just buy a PS Move instead.

Avatar image for atopp399

All I see in the news is how Kinect is hacked to be used for pretty much anything other than playing games.

Avatar image for BranFlakes2423

" He also said he spent his weekends in a park videotaping kids at play, although that initiative had to be cut short due to parental concerns" Yeah thats not creepy at all...

Avatar image for xexis

I want to see how they refine FPSes. Was kinda funny to see Blizzard use it as an April Fools Joke.

Avatar image for inferno394

expect nothing but rail games and exercise games. Yawn.....snoooooore.............

Avatar image for sexyweapons

Im lookin forward to what games will be annouced this year fo kinect.I want a awsome fighting game!