Digital Life

Microsoft backflips on Kinect for Xbox One

After sticking to its guns for only six months, Microsoft has caved into pressure to sell the Xbox One without the Kinect camera.

Microsoft has given up on forcing the Kinect sensor on Xbox One buyers.
Microsoft has given up on forcing the Kinect sensor on Xbox One buyers. 

The next stage of the console wars kicked off with a bang last November when Microsoft and Sony launched their next-gen game consoles within days of each other. One of the key differentiators between them was Microsoft's decree that the Kinect motion detector be an essential part of the Xbox One. Meanwhile Sony left the PlayStation 4's camera as an optional extra.

Microsoft's determination to put a Kinect in every lounge room meant that the $599 Xbox One was $50 more expensive than the PS4 in Australia ā€“ with the price difference blowing out to $100 in the US. It was a huge gamble by Microsoft, convinced that the merits of the Kinect's advanced voice and motion controls would justify the extra expense ā€“ especially when every Xbox One developer could rely on these features to be available on every console.

Microsoft backflipped on several Xbox One decisions in the months leading up to the launch, such as requiring the console to be online continually, due to the outcry from end users. But it seemed determined to stick to its guns on the mandatory Kinect ruling, which was actually a benefit to end users in that it offered a more well-rounded platform than Sony's rather limited PS4.

Last year's console launches saw a role reversal for the two gaming giants. Previously Sony's PlayStation 3 was a jack-of-all-trades entertainment device, while the Xbox 360 began life as a games-focused device and expanded with time. This time around, Microsoft's Xbox One was aiming to be all things to all men, while Sony abandoned many non-core entertainment features in the PS4 in order to target hardcore gamers while keeping the price down.


Faced with such a solid competitor, Sony was under pressure to follow Microsoft's lead and make the PS4's camera mandatory. Sony Computer Entertainment executives such as senior vice-president Masayasu Ito and president/group chief executive Andy House were adamant that they were making the right decision, a decision which seems vindicated by Microsoft's capitulation.

As of June 9, Microsoft plans to sell the Xbox One in Australia for $499 without the Kinect sensor ā€“ slashing $100 off the entry-level price and undercutting the PlayStation 4. Microsoft intends to sell the Kinect as a standalone accessory, although there's no price on it yet.

If you're keen on the Xbox One's HDMI pass-through and other multimedia features then you should think twice before forgoing the Kinect. Apart from supporting games, the Kinect is also a central tenet of the console's home entertainment features, such as using IR blasters to change the channel on your television and control other AV gear. Unfortunately Australians are still waiting on some of this functionality, which is frustrating.

If this backflip isn't enough to claw back sales against Sony, Microsoft is also scrapping the need for an Xbox Gold Live subscription in order to watch video services such as Netflix and Hulu in the US or Quickflix and Foxtel Play in Australia. You'll still need the Live Gold subscription for online multiplayer gaming.

Is there room for a next-gen game console in your lounge room? Is Microsoft's decision to make the Kinect optional enough to win you over?

Read more posts from Adam Turner'sĀ Gadgets on the Go blog.


Comment are now closed