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Xbox One drops price, Kinect, and the main reason to buy it over PS4

What a difference a year makes. On May 21, 2013, Microsoft’s top executives revealed the Xbox One: a machine with always-online DRM, inscrutable used game policies, and an upgraded Kinect camera that was integral to actually using the system. Today that DRM is gone, the used game market remains unchanged, and (as Microsoft has just announced) the Xbox One will now be sold without Kinect in the box. Ok, this puts Xbox One on price-parity with PS4... but at what cost to Microsoft's vision and strategy?

Microsoft’s sales pitch for the Xbox One centered on Kinect 2.0 being an integral component of the new hardware. In August of last year, MS executive Phil Harrison responded to a question about possibly selling a Kinect-free bundle by saying, “Xbox One is Kinect” (a quote that I’m sure he’ll enjoy being reminded of during dozens of future interviews). Even after the reversal on DRM, Microsoft held onto its plans for Kinect, which makes today’s news seem like a final admission that the experiment has failed. Which is a shame--Kinect 2.0 is the one thing that truly separates the Xbox One from the PS4 (even if it's something most people didn't ask for in the first place).

So, why hasn't Kinect 2.0 been a success story for Xbox One? As history has shown again and again, it all comes down to software... and Kinect doesn't have nearly enough of it. Yes, gimmicky gesture controls have been added to early Xbox One games like Ryse and Dead Rising 3, but what is the killer app? Kinect Sports Rivals, which came six months after launch? Voice-controlling your TV with impressive, but not-quite-perfect accuracy? Having it sign you in when it sees your face? Though Microsoft has tried to spin Kinect as a crucial part of Xbox One, reality doesn't back up the narrative.

Consumers worldwide have shown their disinterest in the Kinect via their buying habits. PS4 has outsold the Xbox One by millions of units, despite the marketing blitz for exclusives like Titanfall. There are many factors at play here, price chief among them. Thanks to Kinect, Microsoft had to charge $100 more than the price of the PS4 at launch: a cost that isn't reflected by Kinect's meagre role in the overall Xbox One experience. Now the camera-free Xbox One package is only $399 / £349, finally gaining price-parity with Sony’s more powerful machine. If you're a 360 owner sitting on the sidelines, perhaps this is enough to entice you to buy Microsoft’s newest machine. Or maybe you've already gone PS4 because of the price?

During the last six months PS4 has been winning the sale and PR war against Xbox One, and while Sony’s bosses will likely want to keep that momentum going, they won't feel any real pressure to do so. Microsoft is only achieving parity on price, after all. Expect some strong, exclusive announcements at E3, and maybe a tempting bundle at GamesCom in August, to once again make PS4 a more attractive product than Xbox One. 

This move by Microsoft goes deeper than its rivalry with Sony, and its relationship with players. What about the unlucky developers already invested heavily in making Kinect 2.0 games? They began crafting titles with the promise of every system having the device; a promise that’s now gone. Games like Harmonix's Fantasia: Music Evolved are left hanging with this vote of no confidence from Microsoft. Selling an already leftfield game like Fantasia just got a little bit tougher. Could this move erode the trust third-party publishers and developers have in Microsoft? Possibly, and that's a shaky position to be in when you’re currently in second place.

Doubtless, everyone will be keenly watching the consumer. Trust can be regained, and if Microsoft can significantly increase the number of Xbox One owners (expanding the number of potential customers who can buy games) then the inconvenience of dropping Kinect will be swiftly forgotten. Will a $399 / £349 price spike sales? Will players now view Xbox One as equal value to PS4? Does cutting the Kinect make the system more attractive to consumers worried about having a camera in their living room? And does removing Kinect make Microsoft’s customer-message even more muddled? The next six months will be an interesting time for stat-watchers. 

All considered, this is sound financial move for Microsoft: it will boost sales. For me personally, it’s a little disappointing to see Kinect being sidelined before reaching its full potential. It really can be a killer-app, if treated properly. In a world where console power is very similar, and the crop of system exclusives is ever-shrinking, a bundled Kinect does at least make Xbox One stand separate from the PlayStation 4. Had Microsoft immediately made Kinect essential for more than just voice control, and supported it with some genuinely interesting games, I think Xbox and PS4 would be on equal terms right now. With Kinect, Xbox One isn’t all that different from PS4. All things being equal, I’d bet on consumers sticking with the system that already has plenty of momentum. How can Xbox One catch-up when all it offers is 'more of the same'?

93 comments

  • djtrakmass - July 10, 2014 6:21 a.m.

    Just stop bitching folks. PS4 is a great system for games. Xbox One is great for all out entertainment(including the same damn games) in one box. People on here talking about MS is money hungry and pissed that they don't lick your balls like you assume sony does. CHILD PLEASE!!!! Sony is money hungry too. They want the system to sell and continue to profit just like MS does. BOTH COMPANIES ARE ON A GREAT HISTORIC PACE IN SALES. MS is selling better now that the kinect is gone(I personally love my kinect for record that feature). Bottom line, if you're a real gamer, GET BOTH. I promise you, something will come out for one of the big 3(MS, SONY, NINTENDO) that will make you buy that system. Heck, I just got a wii u simply for Mario Kart 8 & soon to come SSB. So just stop the damn fanboyism and game on. That is all!!!!!
  • joeyd243 - June 13, 2014 5:30 a.m.

    Xbox can't work out why the ps4 is outselling them? 80 million xbox users still have not upgraded. Perhaps they are waiting to see if the new console gets the red-ring-of-death or some other embarrassing failure? Most people will play it safe and just stick with the reliable ps4.
  • Caliweatha - June 1, 2014 12:18 p.m.

    Should have made the kinect optional in the first place. I brought the Xbox 360 E for TFall & PS4 because I'm like 85% Playstation& 15% Xbox. But I will pick up an used Xbox1 eventually in the future.
  • Funnychicano - May 19, 2014 1:43 p.m.

    Lucky I payed $250 for mine and I do use my Kinect!
  • alejandro-quintero - May 18, 2014 8:28 p.m.

    Talking about the great news thta microsoft have with the Xbox one kinect, here I find a nice article, here it is ! http://bestgamesreviews.org/blog/2014/04/14/xbox-360-kinect/
  • jahcriado - May 18, 2014 6:35 p.m.

    To me the Kinect was THE reason not to get the xb1, I don't want one, don't use one, don't want to be forced to buy one. And I don't think should affect the Deva too much, except to get them a bigger xb1 install base for the majority of their games. If the game is a killer app, people will buy the peripheral. Remember guitar hero? Killer app, tons of otherwise useless peripherals sold. No one was forced to have them though. Same here. If there ever comes a good game that requires the Kinect (I have not seen one yet) people can buy one. I am sure more Deva are rejoicing that they no longer have to shoehorn kinect crap into their cross platform titles & can focus on gameplay & graphics.
  • Eightboll812 - May 17, 2014 8:56 p.m.

    "What about the unlucky developers already invested heavily in making Kinect 2.0 games? They began crafting titles with the promise of every system having the device; a promise that’s now gone." Henry, please stop and evaluate the logic behind this argument. The logic actually doesn't work. You have to ask, is this going to ultimately result in more or less game sales, and you really can't come up with a solid argument for that. - If the game is not exclusive, then a developer ALREADY has to deal with PC/PS4/Wii U gamers not having Kinect. - If the game is exclusive, and truly depends on Kinect, then those who don't like Kinect, won't be buying the game anyway because they already determined they didn't want Kinect. If the game turns out to be a "Kinect seller" people can still go get the device. - If the game is exclusive and doesn't truly depend on Kinect, then those not having Kinect won't impact anything.
  • Danomeon - May 15, 2014 2:29 p.m.

    I'm really happy Microsoft made this decision, but I'm still not quite sold on the console. The Playstation 4 still has better hardware (the higher performance on multiplatforms isn't going to change anytime soon) and a much larger install base than the Xbox One. Not to mention that (in my opinion) Sony has a much better history of exclusive games. Naughty Dog is one of the most consistently creative AAA teams in the business, and they've only improved with age. (The Last of Us being the best example). If The Last Guardian and Project Beast do turn out to be cards Sony will play, this point will be hammered home even more so. Microsoft leaned on the Halo and Gears-of-War crutch a bit too much last generation for my taste. I'll be a little more convinced if Sunset Overdrive turns out to be as great as it looks, and if Microsoft announces more new IPs at this year's E3. I'm just not interested in Halo or Gears anymore, I need something new. I'm on the verge of caving for the Xbox, but I just need MS to show their creative side a bit more before I drop the dollars. More stuff like Sunset Overdrive and Project Spark and less Kinect and TV emphasizing and I'll be sold.
  • darkliriel - May 15, 2014 10:30 a.m.

    Still wont buy an xbox one... I'm sorry, but forcing customers to pay for a used game that they already paid for is downright greedy and, quite frankly, should be illegal. Most of the good games for this system will be on the PS4, and they have no such restrictions, so why bother? Burn in hell, where you belong, xbox.
  • Eightboll812 - May 17, 2014 8:45 p.m.

    It actually is illegal, and in every other industry that tried similar things, when taken to court, courts sided against the company trying to control the second hand market. There was even a recent decision regarding gray market goods that sided with those selling in the gray market. MS would almost certainly have lost if it ever went to court. They were taking a gamble that gamers wouldn't come together to file a class action suit, and just live with a crappy system.
  • Funnychicano - May 19, 2014 1:30 p.m.

    Umm... what used game are you paying for?
  • zakaweb - May 14, 2014 6:54 p.m.

    Headline is stupid. If someone wants the Kinect they can by the bundled version or eventually the Kinect separately.
  • Pruman - May 14, 2014 4:19 p.m.

    It's funny...every time Microsoft backpedals from one of their stupid anti-consumer decisions, articles like this come out of the woodwork lamenting how great the dog food M$ gave us was, before our incessant bleating forced them to stop. If having Kinect force-bundled with the XBONE was so great, why wasn't that being shouted from the rooftops by the gaming press? If M$'s dream of a digital future where you didn't own your purchases and could share them under extremely limited terms was amazing, why did the gaming press wait until the XBOX-180 to tell us so? Let's not forget that MS got into specifics of how that sharing aspect would work, leave game journalists free to imagine a fanciful sharing Utopia that we supposedly missed out on, which would have in no way resembled the reality of whatever half-assed nonsense MS would have eventually farted out. This is the standard MS strategy though - vomit out FUD stating that whatever you have coming is greater than anything actually out there now, and then deliver crap into the market years later. The fact that GR isn't the only gaming outlet taking this angle smacks of a coordinated PR damage control operation headed by M$. Let's face it, Kinect's focus, like the entire XBOX brand itself, was never gaming. The whole point of Kinect was to track who was using the system so as to offer targeted ads, as well as that patent they filed which would give it the ability to charge for each person watching a movie instead of paying one fee. Also, since every XBONE had one force-bundled, it made it a lot easier to sell services to advertising clients. They only touted its gaming features so that gamers would be tricked into buying it, so as to unleash the ad blitz once it reached a critical mass. Looks like the master plan failed, based on their latest 180. The suits have clearly taken over at XBOX central. With the original black brick XBOX and the 360, the focus was squarely on enabling an environment for making and playing great games. Since the latter half of the 360, the focus is on adding as much non-gaming crap as possible while doing just enough on the gaming front to prevent a mass exodus from the brand. They've managed to push 5 million out to stores, but for many gamers, myself included, their half-assedness on the gaming front is too blatant to ignore. The bottom line for me is, if Microsoft were giving away XBONEs, I would not take one. Their insanity this gen has effectively ruined any brand cachet they might have had with me.
  • Pruman - May 14, 2014 4:21 p.m.

    I meant to say MS never got into the specifics of how sharing would work...D'OH!
  • FoxdenRacing - May 14, 2014 3:05 p.m.

    Agreed, Henry...if they're doing it, then things are worse in Redmond than they're letting on. The ugly truth is that Kinect is a solution in search of a problem. Voice is not faster, less frustrating, or more accurate than a well-designed hotkey, and the same can be said for motion. As long as devs try to replace controllers, rather than make them more convenient, motion control is dead in the water. For games where motion is inseparable from the concept [such as dancing games], where pinpoint accuracy isn't important, and motion makes it more immersive than a controller could ever be, it's great. For games where it isn't...you may as well be using a Rock Band drum kit to play Street Fighter. Amusing to watch, frustrating to do, and you're gonna get whipped by the guy with enough common sense to use a controller. It's also great if you're so lazy you can't be bothered to sit up and grab the remote...assuming you don't have an accent, ear/nose/throat illness, or state of inebriation to take it from 'Works, sorta, most of the time' to 'you could have changed the channel 10 minutes ago if you'd stopped screaming at the stupid Xbox and just grabbed the remote'. The big problem with Kinect, above and beyond adding $100 to the base price of the system, is that technologies which don't immediately make customers think 'How did we ever put up with the old way, it's so clunky by comparison' are very slow on the uptake, generally only seeing adoption once customer choice goes away (see: Blu-ray movies, Windows 8). Until a developer finds a way to make it add significantly to gameplay, it's going to languish. Price parity is going to help their chances a bit, and I bet we'll see at least a temporary spike in sales...but MS' initial strategy is biting them in the backside, and hard. Until they address that, they're still going to be kind of adrift. By trying to tell customers what they want (the 'we are gaming' gambit that's never gone [Atari 2600's lack of quality control crashing the industry] poorly [N64 taking Nintendo from market definer to perennial also-ran] before [state of PS3 at launch causing it to have half the PS2's install base even after a phenomenal recovery]), doubling down on the US market at the expense of the rest of the world, and doubling down a second time on the 18-24 male demographic, they've more or less painted themselves into a corner when it comes to the pool of likely customers. Sure, they'll own the market for the triumvirate of testosterone [Sports, FPS, and 3rd-person action] on their own soil...but that's not enough to carry them to a higher number of units sold than a broader-appeal system such as PC or PS4 any more than 'diehard fans of 30-year-old first-party franchises' is enough to carry the Wii U to the same.
  • robert-mcdaniel - May 14, 2014 2:25 p.m.

    OMG!!!! 1st it was xbox is going to lose cause of the price n Kinect watching people lol.... Now MS drop the Kinect offer a cheaper system for gamers, that I think is great,... Now it's the system is slower then the ps4, lmbo!!!!! I have both system and neither one has anything better then the other,...when I buy a game that's out for both it comes down to what controller I rather use for that game,.... Most time x1 wins cause I love the 1 controller over ps4,... I don't think x1 is that far behind ps4, cause most ppl that's got a 360 just has a lot more games to be still playing, I think when the 360 gamers upgrade x1 will be right there with ps4, got to remember most ps3 owners not been happy from day one!!!! So sony fans come to the dark side!!! Lol
  • RebornKusabi - May 14, 2014 11:48 a.m.

    I know it's a sensationalist headline on purpose, but now that the console, which has been shown to be weaker in every way than the PS4 and PC is at a more competitive price rather than a PS3-style retard price it was previously, I will be picking it up. After PS3, I learned not to buy overhyped clunkers and wait for a price drop that brings them down to normal. But I could care less for the Kinect, I have no room for it and I prefer using my hands because I feel lazy as fuck using my voice to watch Netflix. I am buying the system now for Killer Instinct, Halo 5, Gears of War 5 and because I hate having just one console- different games are different on different consoles.
  • Nikku7 - May 14, 2014 10:03 a.m.

    I'm loving the commentaries guys. Keep them coming please!
  • lordcheese - May 14, 2014 9:54 a.m.

    I bought an xbox one with kinect on day one. I had the choice of either, and I went for the xbox because the launch games just seemed that tiny bit more interesting to me. I dont resent ms for what they've done, they are a profit making company and have to do what they believe is in the best interests of protecting their shareholders. The shame of it is that they are pandering to a lot of consumers who've already bought PS4s. The fanboys are always those that seem to shout the loudest - and in this case thats proven. I wouldnt say I use the Kinect, and truth be told if a non-Kinect box was available on day one I probably would have bought it. But im not going to go and bitch to MS about it. If you bought a car with a child seat adapter in it that cost an extra $500 but you didnt want it, would you demand a change of car if a few months later they released the same car without one? Hell no. A lot of gamers should wake up and stop acting over-entitled. MS and Sony do not owe you for being early adopters. You paid money for a product and you got it. Just because they change the product later doesnt mean a thing. You chose to buy when you did, and you should have known that a change to the package or offering might happen in the future. My view is that what has happened to the xbox with all the backtracking ms have had to do is detrimental to the progress of games consoles as a whole. People shouldn;t decry attempts at innovation and that;s whats happened since the day the xbox one was unveiled. Like it or not, MS is right about the future of consoles - they need to be capable of more than just playing games. Sony has embraced that too, but have played it very safe (and congrats to them, its worked so far) but i think its a genuine shame that MS has to take action such as this (and the other things theyve been forced in to) to appease fanboys when it comes at the cost of potentially good advancement in what consoles are capable of. I'm not saying that everything MS tried was great or without flaws. But they tried - and were beaten down by rampant fanboyism, scaremongering and people that didn't really understand what they were trying to do. The thing that none of us know at this point is what the projections were for xbox one sales, and where MS sits in relation to them. Obviously they wanted to have a good lead in terms of installed users vs the PS4, and that clearly has not happened. But we dont know if this is a sign their own metrics are way above the reality, or if its just a way of infusing interest in the console to claw back a bit of lost sales momentum.
  • jh4911 - May 14, 2014 6:36 a.m.

    I think that Kinect will only begin to show true potential when MS announce some kind of VR. It would pair really well with VR allowing a much greater level of immersion without the "throwing your arms around like a madman" problem. For example in a VR strategy game one could imagine super easy selection of units etc etc with hands while the head tracking deals with zooming and map panning.

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