Seems those tales of deep Xbox One/Kinect integration were just a bit exaggerated: Bowing to pressure from the Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft today announced that it would sell a less expensive version of its Xbox One console that matches the PS4 price by dropping the Kinect motion sensor. This new Xbox One will become available in June and will cost $400.
Pundits and video game enthusiasts have been calling on Microsoft to make this move ever since last year's E3 conference, where the $100 price differential between the Xbox One ($500) and the PS4 ($400) was laid bare. That price difference was clearly triggered by Microsoft's decision to make the Kinect a required, bundled part of its Xbox One, despite the fact that many users don't need or want it.
Well, soon they'll have a choice.
"Our fans have been telling us for some time that they'd like to have more options to get an Xbox One," a contrite-looking Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi said in a video message announcing the new product. "Today we're introducing a new Xbox One without Kinect for $399."
The new Xbox One will be sold starting on June 9. It will be 100 percent compatible with all existing Xbox One games and entertainment apps, and will support many of "the unique features of Xbox One including the ability to get game invites while you watch TV, switch between games and entertainment apps, enjoy Twitch broadcasts, and upload your favorite gaming moments."
Of course, this raises questions about Microsoft's dedication to Kinect, but the firm says it hasn't wavered on its original vision.
"To be clear, as we introduce this new Xbox One console option, Kinect remains an important part of our vision," Microsoft's Phil Spencer claims. "Many of you are using Kinect for Xbox One every day. In fact, more than 80 percent of you are actively using Kinect, with an average of 120 voice commands per month on each console. We will continue to offer a premium Xbox One with Kinect bundle to deliver voice and gesture controls, biometric sign-in, instant personalization, instant scanning of QR codes, and enhanced features only available with Kinect in games and more."
I look at this like Microsoft's decision to decouple the touch-centricity in Windows 8 through subsequent releases like Windows 8.1, Windows 8.1 Update 1 and the coming update that will bring back the Start menu and allow for floating Modern app windows. And while many will rail against such appeasements, two steps forward and one step back is still one step forward. This isn't just the right decision, it's overdue.
And speaking of overdue, Microsoft is also removing the Xbox Live Gold requirement from most entertainment experiences on Xbox One and Xbox 360, and is finally bringing its "Games with Gold" and "Deals with Gold" promotions to Xbox One starting in June.
Games with Gold requires an Xbox Live Gold subscription and provides two free games per console per month. The program launches on Xbox One in June with "Max: The Curse of Brotherhood" and "Halo: Spartan Assault."
Deals with Gold also requires an Xbox Live Gold subscription and provides special deals on games and other content each month. In June, Xbox One users with a Gold subscription will be able to purchase games like "Forza Motorsport 5," "Ryse: Son of Rome," "and some other surprises," at steep discounts of 50 to 75 percent. And new to Xbox One, Microsoft will also launch a "virtual VIP room" for Xbox Live Gold members that will feature free games, monthly deals, and other great benefits.