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What’s in a Name? Natal Officially “Kinect”

The rumors have been swirling all day, but with E3 officially kicking off tomorrow, Microsoft decided to get a head-start on announcements by unveiling that Project Natal will be marketed at retail as “Kinect for Xbox 360“.

So what’s up with the name change? Haven’t we all gotten accustomed to “Project Natal” by this point?

Well, perhaps not. Kinect is unashamedly trying to attract the Wii crowd– the vast majority of whom have likely never even heard of “Project Natal”. Hardcore gamers will have difficulty adapting to the change, but Microsoft will likely have five months to bombard us with marketing materials emblazoned with the new name.

Another thing to consider: on paper, “Natal” looks absolutely bizarre.  Audibly, Microsoft has taught us all to say “Nuh-tahl,” but on paper, it reads as “Nay-tle” (an adjective that refers to birth). Granted, it’s easy to see the connotations that “Natal” was meant to invoke, but quite frankly it always reminds me of that live birth video that they make you watch in high school sex-ed… bleh.

Kinect, meanwhile, is a unique play on words.  It sounds like “connect,” and implies a close relationship between gamers, their friends, and the games themselves.  At the same time, the spelling of “Kinect” is meant to reflect that of kinetic motion, a physics principle that involves work and acceleration.  Clever.

Ultimately, “Kinect” is a welcome change for Microsoft’s new control system.  It gets the point of motion control across while also perpetuating the impression that gaming is a social interaction.  Will it be able to topple the Wii? Probably not.  But it will offer a whole new level of graphical capabilities that Nintendo’s console will be unable to match… and that’s a good thing.

To see the video of Kinect’s official unveiling, tune into MTV on June 15th at 3:30 Eastern Time.

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