Its almost comical to think about this happening because Microsoft’s rhetoric over the past has always been that the Xbox One cannot, will not and should not be sold without the new Kinect sensor. But today, that’s exactly what Microsoft itself announced. On 9 July 2014, coinciding with their E3 2014 presentation, the company will be releasing a Kinect-less model of the Xbox One for the absolutely unexpected price of US $399. In short, Microsoft has done another 180.
The plans were revealed in a blog post by Xbox boss Phil Spencer, who recently became the head of the Xbox department and all things gamey for Microsoft. Spencer, previously the boss of Microsoft Studios and the main man overseeing their games that appear on the Xbox 360 and One as well as on Xbox Live, is now the only person to hold the fate of the Xbox brand in his hands. Before Marc Whitten’s resignation from the company, nothing inside the Xbox department was unified in any way.
“Since the beginning, we have focused on delivering great games and entertainment experiences for you,” writes Spencer in the blog post. “Your feedback matters to us and it shapes the products and services we build. Your feedback showed up in the Xbox One console we launched back in November and in the monthly updates we’ve delivered since.”
“Beginning on June 9th, in all markets where Xbox One is sold, we will offer Xbox One starting at $399. This is a new console option that does not include Kinect. For $399, our new Xbox One offering will continue to deliver access to the best blockbuster games … You will also be able to access popular entertainment apps, such as Twitch, YouTube, and Netflix, as well as watch live TV and use OneGuide.”
Its worth noting that without Kinect, a lot of things change in terms of how you’d use the Xbox One. Voice commands, for instance, no longer work and you’ll have to resort to using on-screen menus and the Xbox Guide button along with the controls to navigate to any app or snap an app while you’re gaming. Issuing commands to the console while you’re playing something sounds like a silly idea at first, but there are legitimate uses for it.
This reduces the need for gamers who don’t want Kinect to buy into the console now. I foresee a drop in sales for the console until 9 June because why would anyone who doesn’t want Kinect spend $100 on the console now only to never use it? The existing Xbox One consoles in the channel, then, will either have to get repackaged, marked down, or sold in a slower trickle.
Spencer goes on to reveal that more than 80% of Xbox One owners make use of Kinect voice commands. The popular ones are “Xbox On”, “Xbox record that” and “Xbox broadcast.” There’s also a dearth of users who bought the One for its media capabilities and streaming and the fact that you can ditch the remote altogether and navigate your TV channels, streaming services and others like Skype hands-free is quite nifty.
Still, this doesn’t mask the other fact that people will now see more clearly – to Microsoft, the Kinect module is worth $100 and the console is worth $400. Even when it’s at the same price as the PS4, it’s still the weaker console and once Sony ramps up production drops their price to $350 their already massive lead will become almost insurmountable.