Seriously, I’m surprised Microsoft didn’t call their new console the Xbox 180, because that’s what they’ve been doing since their next console’s big reveal. Which is both good and bad really. Good in the sense that they’re actually listening to their customers when it comes to what makes a deal breaker for them. Bad in the sense that this is where Microsoft’s game plan is always going to go on the gaming front, until outside forces (i.e. angry customers threatening sales) stop them and force a course correction.
First came the always-on DRM which outraged consumers – including America’s fighting men and women – causing Microsoft to turn an about face, dropping the always-on and check in once a day requirements. And now yesterday in their latest policy change, the Kinect sensor no longer has to be plugged in for the console to function.
The news came from Chief Xbox One Platform Architect Marc Whitten in an ongoing “Ask Microsoft Anything” segment on IGN, where he addressed users’ Kinect questions yesterday. When asked how “off” the sensor would be when plugged in, Whitten responded that it can be set to “totally” off in the console settings. He went on to state that the Kinect sensor will be optional in games where supplemental content calls for it, but naturally would be required for games that focus on Kinect functionality as the primary mode of gameplay:
"You have the ability to completely turn the sensor off in your settings. When in this mode, the sensor is not collecting any information. Any functionality that relies on voice, video, gesture or more won’t work. We still support using it for IR blasting in this mode. You can turn the sensor back on at any time through settings, and if you enter into a required Kinect experience (like Kinect Sports Rivals for instance), you’ll get a message asking if you want to turn the sensor back on in order to continue."
Right – if the word “Kinect” is in the title of the game, you’re going to still need it to play. And this information is all thanks to a user that asked about the always plugged in requirement and what would happen if their sensor broke. Thanks, random user.
According to Whitten and the others who have spoken on Microsoft’s behalf in the past, the Xbox One is still designed to work with the Kinect, not only for gameplay of certain games but for SmartGlass, search, and UI navigation in general. So if you were planning on buying an Xbox One as your new “one” all-serving console, there’s still that stuff you can use it for.
So who knows what’s going on? Maybe they’re feeling threatened by the PS4 and are dropping restrictions to pull in those on the fence outside of the Microsoft die-hards. Maybe they’ve survived a crisis of conscience. Maybe their PR doesn’t want any perception issues after all the recent news and events about digital spying. Either way, this is another 180 from their former draconian policies that console gamers should be able to get behind. That’s not changing their sales strategy though. Even though we now know that the Kinect won’t be required to fire up a game on Xbox One, Microsoft still has no plans of selling the console without it at their $500 price point because of that UI design integration they described. Personally I think selling a non-Kinect version at maybe $400 would get them more sales, because I don’t care how much money you’ve got – $100 is $100. But that’s just me.
I said before publicly that I wouldn’t buy an Xbox One and would go the Sony PS4 route if those old policies from Microsoft remained in place. Now that they’re gone, it’s something I might actually consider.
You know, if I buy a new console at all.