SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft's long-awaited Kinect product, which could revolutionise the way in which people play games, went on sale in North America today.

The new motion-sensor controller, which will retail at $150 (€107; £93), includes a camera, microphone and an infrared depth sensor that can detect the movements of a players' entire body.

By contrast, the handset of the Nintendo Wii responds to a player's hand movements only.

"Kinect is what the future of gaming looks like," said Tony Key, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Ubisoft Entertainment.

Ubisoft has already announced that it is to put five games using Kinect, including a fitness title and a fighting game, on sale this week.

"This motion-sensing controller technology that they've created is absolutely a breakthrough," Key added.

But Microsoft faces mounting pressure to show a bigger payoff for its R&D investments.

In the year to June, Microsoft spent $8.7 billion (€6.20bn; £5.40bn) on R&D, bigger than the development budget of any other tech company.

It has devoted a large slice of that money to improvements in the Bing search engine, as well as more traditional franchises such as Windows and Office.

Craig Mundie, the chief research and strategy officer at Microsoft, said he believes the company's R&D investments have paid off well for the tech company.

"We kind of view ourselves as almost a pure intellectual property business, and as such one that requires a sustained investment to stay ahead and remain competitive," he said.

To be successful, Microsoft needs Kinect to help it sell additional game systems as well as reach existing Xbox 360 users.

Some 44.6 million of the consoles have been shipped so far.

By way of comparison, Sony has shipped 41.6 million PlayStation 3s, while Nintendo has shipped 75.9 million Wiis.

Microsoft executives said they expect to sell about three million Kinect systems over the holiday season.

"There are high stakes for them to get this right," says Sandeep Aggarwal, an analyst at Caris & Co.

Microsoft, has faced criticism from analysts for copying the innovations of its rivals, came close to apeing Nintendo with the planned launch some years ago of a Wii-like 'me-too' controller. 

But the company's games group eventually decided it needed to do something more original.

"We said: 'We're not going to have a Wii-derivative,'" Matt Barlow, a general manager in Microsoft's interactive-entertainment group, said.

The idea was eventually dropped.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff