After spending tens of millions of dollars in research, development, and marketing and telling everyone everywhere that the Kinect is essential to the Xbox One experience, Microsoft has fired another shot in the console wars by offering a Kinect-less Xbox One package for $399 bringing the price point down to match the competing Sony PlayStation 4. Moreover, soon an Xbox Live Gold subscription will not be required to access entertainment apps such as Netflix on the device. Here's some of the announcement (I've cut out the unrelated PR hyperbole for your convenience):
First, 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.
Next, we’re bringing more value to Xbox Live Gold members and offering all Xbox 360 and Xbox One owners access to entertainment apps whether or not you have an Xbox Live Gold membership.
While it may seem like another major backpedal from the company to remove the Kinect from the Xbox One, anything that brings the price down is a welcome move (particularly if you're someone who doesn't care about the Kinect and had no plans to use it even if you did own it). Offering a Kinect as a separate purchase for those who wish to pick one up later is better for the consumer, too. On the other hand, by making the Kinect an optional accessory, developers can no longer assume that everyone with a Xbox One has one and can no longer require Kinect features. Requiring expensive add-ons can be a risky proposition (consider Nintendo's position with its Wii U GamePad), so Microsoft must have weighed the consequences of taking the Kinect out of the equation before making this move in favor of continuing to push the accessory as essential to the Kinect experience. The projected increased sales must have justified fragmenting the Kinect user base. I'm curious to see if this gives Xbox One sales a boost and how often developers will include Kinect features in their future games now that it's no longer a required accessory. Anything that gets quality video games into more hands is a good thing, and if the Kinect was holding the Xbox One back from its true potential, then it's understandable that it had to go.
We'll talk about this news on an upcoming episode of the Power Button podcast, so call our voicemail hotline right now at (720) 722-2781 and leave a message telling us your thoughts on removing Kinect from the Xbox One package. You may hear your call on a future episode of the show.