Microsoft to sell Xbox One Without Kinect… and…
Microsoft announced via their Xbox Wire blog a number of changes to its Xbox One Console and related services. A new package without the Kinect camera and motion control accessory will be available starting June 9th for $399, putting the system on par with the better-selling PS4.
The Kinect allows users to play a small number of games,as well as enable many of the interactive features that Microsoft hoped people would find exciting and useful, but many have instead found superfluous and creepy. Users without the Kinect will lose the ability to use voice and motion-related commands to power on the system and perform functions like changing programs and display options. They will also lose the ability for the unit to recognize the users face as they long, as well as many of the potential “Big Brothery” features like being able to count people in the room (and charge accordingly), being able to deliver targeted advertisements based on response data the device picks up, and the fact that the peripheral is “always on,” ready to pick up your voice commands, features that many users feared could be used in the future for more monetized strategies.
For those who change their mind after the fact, the Kinect peripheral will become available separately this fall, but no details on exact date or price have been revealed.
This is the latest in a series of reversals in the Xbox One’s marketing. Before its release, gamers railed at what they saw as prohibitive and restrictive requirements to loan a game to a friend. A requirement that the system be always connected to the internet vanished shortly after when people took them to task for assuming that every player had full-time internet access – many pointed out that soldiers in other countries were frequent gamers but their limited web access effectively excluded them from playing the new system.
The general PR boondoggle around the launch resulted in Don Mattrick, Microsoft’s President of Interactive Entertainment, leaving the company after some extremely short-sighted comments about the console’s potential users. Many have continued to complain about the console’s higher price, based mainly on a peripheral that some find unnecessary, a complaint this change finally addresses.
In other Xbox news, Microsoft announced that many Internet services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Skype would no longer require the Xbox Live Gold (paid) membership, but would be available for people with the unpaid Silver accounts. Gold is still required for online play of multiplayer-equipped games, something also required on the PS4 via the PlayStation Plus service. Following the lead of the Plus service, Microsoft has offered free games for Gold members for some time, and would soon offer “Deals with Gold,” offering discounts on games, a service also already part of PlayStation Plus.
In their blog post, Microsoft states:
We’ve heard that you want more choices from Xbox One. You want a wide variety of options in your games and entertainment experiences and you also want options in your hardware selection.
While it’s good that Microsoft has heard these wishes, one would not be out of line in wishing that they had responded more quickly after processing what they had heard.