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Microsoft backflips on Kinect for Xbox One

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Gadgets on the go

Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian freelance technology journalist with a passion for gadgets and the "digital lounge room".

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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.

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

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 – 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 – 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 – 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's Gadgets on the Go blog.

9 comments

  • The Xbox one is great in theory, but as they have been doing a lot lately, Microsoft over-reached and seemed like they weren't really interested in feedback from ordinary consumers.

    In Australia, it's even worse given that most of the real ease of use stuff for basic home entertainment is not available or has been cobbled. And why on earth ship a region-coded dvd player in their consoles.

    The result is that my family spend more time on the XBox 360 than on the XBox One.

    Given that Australians get almost none of the expanded home entertainment benefits from US one and given the STILL incredibly poor selection of games out there, I wouldn't recommend anyone buy an XBox One until Microsoft pull their finger out.... just dropping the Kinnect isn't enough... in fact I think it's foolish and a sign of real desperation.

    Commenter
    Oz
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    May 14, 2014, 1:53PM
    • 360 is pretty good the way it is and i am still very happy with my 360. I don't see any advantages in upgrading at the moment. Xbox one would probably be good in 2 years time when everything is sorted out..

      Commenter
      ZZZzzz
      Date and time
      May 15, 2014, 3:12AM
  • Do any games actually make use of the Kinect yet?

    Seems a good move by Microsoft really.

    Commenter
    John
    Date and time
    May 14, 2014, 2:15PM
    • Kinect Sports Rivals make great use of the Kinect. If it had been available earlier, it would have made an awesome game to bundle. (I would take Kinect Sports Rivals over the FIFA 2013 game we got).

      Xbox Fitness uses Kinect - it watches that you are actually doing the exercises and will "encourage" you to go lower.

      Several other games use Kinect but not essential.

      Outside of games, the Twitch streaming and Skype for Xbox One both use the Kinect - Skype for Xbox One has very clear view of the room (since Kinect 2 has a high resolution camera) and will zoom in and out of the person speaking.

      Commenter
      Another John
      Date and time
      May 14, 2014, 6:46PM
  • The Kinect doesn't live up to the hype. It doesn't work if you have any furniture (for example a coffee table or lounge suite) in your lounge. Give me the Wii control any day.

    Commenter
    jezza99
    Date and time
    May 14, 2014, 3:58PM
    • It is truly amazing how giving consumers a choice can always be cast in a bad light when Microsoft is involved. OTOH, regardless of how many users get trashed by some whimsical decision made by Apple to boost their revenue, tech journos will always a positive aspect of whatever comes out of Cupertino to focus upon. It's quite sad, really.

      Commenter
      MotorMouth
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 14, 2014, 4:41PM
      • The lower price means more to me.

        Commenter
        Mal
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        May 15, 2014, 7:56AM
        • Don't forget that Xbox One runs on a lower resolution as well. The snap to function is completely useless as I refuse to run my Foxtel through my Xbox as it is only spitting out 720p vs the 1080p I get if I run it straight from my box to my tv.

          Well done Microsoft.

          Commenter
          Fyre
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          May 15, 2014, 8:50AM
          • If the Xbone was dropped to $425 without kinnect in Australia I think they would sell a lot of consoles by the end of June. $499 is still to expensive considering our American neighbours will paying $399 USD ($425 AUD) for the same console package from June 1st.

            Commenter
            Noumenon
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            May 15, 2014, 9:35AM
            Comments are now closed
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