Microsoft had plenty to crow about during its Consumer Electronics Show 2011 keynote. The company continued to push its Xbox LIVE Avatar system by introducing new facial gesture recognition powered by Kinect and available to Gold (paying) members through a spring 2011 update. Also this spring, Xbox 360 owners will be able to use Kinect within the Netflix and Hulu Plus applications.
Microsoft also revealed new games for its Windows Phone 7 mobile platform and announced House Party, another seasonal game promotion (a la Summer of Arcade), headlined by the HD release of Ubisoft’s Beyond Good and Evil. Check out aggregator gaming blog Joystiq for more House Party details.
On the numbers side, Microsoft brought big hardware and XBL user stats: eight million Kinect sensors sold worldwide, 50 million Xbox 360s shipped worldwide and 30 million XBL accounts. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer neither specified whether Kinect numbers represented sell-through to customers or units shipped to retailers, nor did he reveal the total number of XBL Gold accounts. This past November, though, Joystiq reported that premium accounts had surpassed 12 million.
“The XBL community continues to grow everyday,” Ballmer said during the keynote. “In fact, a new member joins XBL every two seconds.”
Update: Microsoft confirmed to Gamasutra that the eight million Kinect sales thus far represent shipped units to retailers; however sell-through to consumers is above 5 million units.
Ballmer stressed that the growth of XBL, as well as demand for Kinect, has helped push sales of the Xbox 360.
“Xbox 360 was the no. 1 selling console every month for the last six months here in the United States,” he said.
Unless Ballmer included December numbers, he must have been referring exclusively to home consoles; the Nintendo DS handheld was the top seller for NPD’s June report, obtained by video game news site Gamasutra.
With the recent $10 increase to an annual Gold subscription, more than 12 million people pay Microsoft at least $60 to play over XBL annually. Microsoft offers one-month and three-month plans, but it’s cheaper to pay for an entire year.
In addition to significant subscription revenue, Microsoft earns money from advertisements and content, which includes games, movies, Avatar clothes and add-on DLC. Last July, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported that XBL probably generated over $1 million in revenue during fiscal year 2010 (ended July 7, 2010) – not including subscription revenue.
Kinect, Microsoft’s camera-based motion sensor, is off to a hot start. Sales thus far have shattered even company expectations, which Microsoft revised once already amid higher-than-anticipated consumer demand. Top sellers for Kinect include Harmonix’s Dance Central and Kinect Sports. Microsoft offers numerous pricing options for Kinect, including a $149.99 standalone package that comes with a copy of Kinect Adventures.