Is Microsoft trying to make the Xbox 360 more like the Wii?

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Microsoft has been putting a lot of effort into marketing their Kinect motion-sensing add-on for the Xbox 360. The company has made a lot of changes to the Xbox image in preparation for the November 4th launch, but are they alienating their loyal hardcore gamer fan base in exchange for gaining market share from the Nintendo Wii crowd?

Is Microsoft trying to make the Xbox 360 more like the Wii?

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With Kinect Microsoft seems to want to take the Xbox 360 in a more family-oriented direction, but the more they change the more they seem to be trying to mimic Nintendo.

Take for example the updates to the Xbox.com website, announced this week by Xbox live Director of Programming, Larry Hryb (AKA Major Nelson). Remember a time when the website was mostly promoting first-person shooters and sports like football and baseball? The preview screenshots released by Hyrb paint a much different picture for today’s Xbox user.

The website is now full of happy family lifestyle marketing images and banners promoting the customizable Mii-like avatars. Even this preview page featuring Halo: Reach has a cartoony female avatar with pigtails down in the corner. And everything is much brighter and lighter than it used to be, another Wii-like trait.

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Then there are the 17 games that Microsoft has announced for the Kinect launch, which fall under the categories Dancing, Sports, Fitness, Racing, and Miscellaneous. All of them, except maybe Fighters Uncaged and Adrenalin Misfits sound like they’re geared toward kids and the not-so-manly crowd. Dance Masters or Zumba Fitness anyone? I didn’t think so.

Okay, so maybe I’m being overly harsh here. It is good that Microsoft is trying to diversify the Xbox 360 for a wider audience, but I think they might be taking the image makeover a bit too far. It’s as if they’re trying really hard to win over all the moms who have a preconceived notion that playing an Xbox 360 game automatically means Grand Theft Auto-like subject matter.

So where does this leave the hardcore gamers? Will they willingly go along with all of the changes with the happy families and avatars pasted everywhere or will they begin migrating to Sony’s PS3, where PSN.com shows a lot of pictures of pretty woman? I’m assuming that Microsoft doesn’t care just as long as they get enough of Nintendo’s market share to help sustain the 360 for the next five years.

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