Call it a stunning case of dis-Kinect.
Beginning June 9, Microsoft will begin selling a version of its Xbox One video game console for $399, $100 less than the current offering, and which does not include the Kinect sensor in the box.
It’s a surprising reversal for Microsoft, who had maintained from the get-go that the motion- and voice-sensing Kinect device was an integral, inseparable part of the Xbox One console, which launched last November.
But the $100 price gap between the Xbox One and Sony’s $399 PlayStation 4 appears to have forced Microsoft’s hand. In Canada, a recent PS4 price increase will actually make the Kinect-less Xbox One $50 cheaper than its rival.
“What’s changed really is just the feedback from our gaming customers that said, ‘Hey I want a more affordable way to get there, and then buy a Kinect accessory later,’ ” said Yusuf Mehdi, Xbox’s chief marketing and strategy officer, adding that a separately sold Kinect sensor will go on sale this fall at a yet-to-be-announced price.
“We remain deeply committed to Kinect as an integral part of the Xbox One premium experience,” said Mehdi, adding a $499 version of Xbox One bundled with Kinect will still be available.
The Kinect sensor is an array of cameras and microphones, used to detect player movements in games like Kinect Sports Rivals, and to issue voice commands to the Xbox One console.
While the previous generation of Kinect was a separately sold add-on for the Xbox 360, Microsoft made the contentious decision to bundle it with the Xbox One, despite some game fans saying they didn’t want or intend to use the sensor.
Mehdi said 80% of Xbox One owners user their Kinect sensors regularly, but admits that figuring out the best ways to include Kinect in games has been “a learning experience. It’s kind of like in the early days of touch – how do you redesign a game for touch?”
And while the decision to make Kinect optional might hurt developers such as Harmonix, whose upcoming Fantasia: Music Evolved game is designed around Kinect, Mehdi said game developers as a whole support the move to separate Kinect from the Xbox One.
“We made this decision in part with our developer partners, talking to a lot of them, and they all kind of see the balance of, ‘Hey, we love having Kinect, but we also love having the largest installed base possible for our games.’ So in the end, I think it was the right decision to have an option to get it without.”