May 15, 2014
Microsoft Expects Performance Boost In Xbox One By Removing Kinect
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The ongoing video game war between Sony and Microsoft took an interesting turn this week when the latter announced that it will begin selling its Xbox One console without the Kinect motion and voice control system built-in for $100 less. That move would bring the Xbox One to price parity with Sony's PlayStation 4, which is also offered for $399.
Both systems debuted last November, and while each has seen strong sales Sony has been a clear cut sales leader in most markets. Microsoft's decision is thus not entirely surprising, but goes against what had been part of its bedrock strategy with the Xbox One.
This news has been seen already as a paradigm shift for Microsoft, which last year had denoted that the Kinect was an "essential" and even "integrated" part of the platform. While the Kinect is getting disconnected, Microsoft has said that the company's support for the motion control system hasn't changed.
"We remain deeply committed to the Kinect as a core component of a next-generation console," Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president for devices and studios at Microsoft, told Polygon this week. "We think that the bio-metric sign-in, voice controls of the menu, ability to say 'record that' and capture a moment of gameplay are all critical to the experience."
"We have never wavered from that since the launch," he added.
The apparent change of mind however was made to make the Xbox One a little more affordable to gamers.
"The decision we're announcing today is offering a choice to people that would allow people to buy an Xbox One and then ramp up to Kinect when they can afford to," Mehdi said. "We have over 80 million people who have yet to buy Xbox One."
What this means for game developers is now the bigger question being asked, and Forbes noted, "Any developers looking to make Kinect-centric games have a very different idea of the Xbox One market, and any developers making normal games have exactly zero incentive to add in Kinect features."
Forbes added that this could however have an added benefit for game developers.
"Those developers, however, might soon have a little more horsepower to play with. It’s the same Xbox One, after all, and the lack of a Kinect frees up some processing capacity."
The other part of this could be that by offering the system "ala carte" it actually provides would-be buyers with some added choice – something Sony opted to do with its PS4.
"Microsoft has framed the decision to sell a standalone SKU of its new console as a response to feedback from its existing and potential users - its fans - to drop the requirement of the Kinect motion and voice sensing accessory and to offer more choice," Piers Harding-Rolls, director of games research at IHS, noted in market insight report. "The fact is that while the Kinect functionality is nice to have, for many its value proposition does not match up to the price increment of the Xbox One over the PS4 at this point of the cycle.
"This has been clear to see, with PS4 outselling Xbox One in Europe strongly and to a lesser degree in its home market of USA as well," Harding-Rolls added. "As such, the move is primarily about removing friction from the buying process for the Xbox One."
While the disconnection of the Kinect has been the most notable Xbox One news, IHS also noted that Microsoft also tweaked the placement of apps on the system.
"The decision to shift entertainment apps outside the paywall will also help its positioning against Sony's console: online video remains a hugely important feature in terms of device usage and consumer engagement, so having this behind a paywall is counter-productive," said Harding-Rolls.
This week Microsoft confirmed that Xbox Live Gold refunds will be available next month when various entertainment apps like Netflix and Hulu become free.
"Once the Xbox One and Xbox 360 system updates become available in June, Xbox Live Gold members who purchased a paid membership before that day can cancel and receive a pro-rata refund of any unused remaining days between the date of cancellation and the date their paid Gold membership ends," Microsoft posted on the official Xbox site. "Cancellation and pro-rata refund requests must be made by August 31, 2014 and require six to eight weeks for processing."