Wait, Microsoft's Project Natal will be $80? That can't be right

natalThere is a rumor swirling around the tubes this morning that Microsoft’s motion controller Project Natal will be $80 when it comes out next November. First off, there is no way that the Wii-killer be $80 based on precedents set by the current crop of Xbox add-ons. But more importantly, if the controller system is only $80, it will suck.

Project Natal won E3 this past year. It came out of nowhere and surprised everyone. What was most shocking is how far along the system was developed. It looked almost ready for prime time, but yet the release date is seemingly far away. That’s fine but as time passes, the Wii gets a bit more stale and expectations rise.

The system has so much potential. Think about how it could change sports games, FPS, and general puzzle games. Suddenly you’re actually in the game as never before. It’s almost like Nintendo opened the door for next-gen gaming, but Microsoft could bust down the damn wall with Natal.

But not if the system is only between $50-$80 and 14 games are included like the rumor states. That’s right at the impulse buy price point – which is what MS is reportedly targeting – but also where all the novelty add-ons live. That price range shows that Microsoft wants to sell a crapton of Natals to the Wii crowd, but also doesn’t view the controller as a game changer.

It might have some sweet games that will give the Wii a run for it’s money, but unless Microsoft is taking a huge loss on each Natal sold, it’s probably nothing special. I’m not saying that an item has to expensive to be successful, but an $80 price tag on a controller that supposed to “next-gen” doesn’t exactly scream a premium product.

At $80, I expect Project Natal to be like the PowerPad: a fine accessory with a few good games, but not a must-have add-on. Now if the system were, say, $150 or more, I would have more faith in the system. The higher price shows that Microsoft stands behind the years of research and development and believes that the system is a worthy add-on to the Xbox 360.

At that price point Microsoft would have no chance in hell selling it unless there was at least one killer, mainstream game. The add-on would need the support of 3rd party companies and developers to get going, which would result in a wider variety of games. If the rumor is right, and the system is bundled with games, you can bet that, they are simple Wii Sport-ish games, which were cool about 3 years ago.

Let’s hope that Microsoft believes enough in the system to price it above the impulse buy price point. Let’s hope that the system lives up to its potential and not forced into parlor tricks but rather utilized for serious gaming too.

Also, don’t forget the prices of the Xbox 360’s current accessories. It costs $100 for a wireless adapter, $50 for a wireless controller, and $160 for a 120GB hard drive. I’m just saying, $80 doesn’t fit the pattern.