In what to us at least was a shocking move, Microsoft have sent out a press release explaining that they are to release a Kinectless bundle for the Xbox One at the £349 price point from June 9th. Given that we’ve already been seeing heavily discounted Xbox One packages from some retailers, expect to see a £299 Xbox One in a store near you sometime soon.
For some readers this might be a boon, the Xbox One is an expensive console and this makes it just that more affordable. There’s never really been a ‘killer app’ for Kinect, even on the 360 so few gamers are really going to feel that they are missing out, but we can’t help but feel that they really are. By making the Kinect mandatory on the Xbox One they created a huge userbase making development for the platform actually viable. We have yet to see great uses of the technology in games (with the exception of great last-gen title Dance Central) for the mainstream audience, with Rare seemingly leading the charge on the only AAA titles in the Kinect Sports series that has recently made its first appearance on Xbox One. As long as games like Kinect Sports and Dance Central are the keystone for Kinect, it will always been seen as something for parties, not ‘for’ the average gamer, but it could have been so much more.
On the dashboard, the Kinect 2.0 has become one of our favourite things about the Xbox One. From signing in whoever sits in front of it and keeping track of their controllers to the widespread use of voice commands (seriously being able to boot up the Xbox and load an episode of House of Cards in a few steps just using your voice is amazing), the Kinect has easily proved its worth, but now a whole new generation of Xbox One owners are going to miss out on that, and they won’t mind because they never knew. It seems like this decision is the beginning of the end for the peripheral, as an optional expensive camera I can’t imagine many are going to be persuaded to pick one up, and it seems a shame that this came before any developers had a proper go at making a mainstream game that uses it well.
Potentially this is a shrewd move by Microsoft before E3. Next month Microsoft will be announcing all of the big guns that are coming out over the next year and if there’s no Kinect titles (as the rumours suggest) eyebrows will be raised. Maybe they’ve admitted that they can’t make a compelling game experience for it and this a way of avoiding those awkward questions, by admitting defeat before the show, the focus will be back onto the games that they do show, but it still feels like a real shame. We would have loved to have seen attempts at using Kinect in innovative ways, particularly the head tracking and gesture recognition in collaboration with standard controller use, but splitting your audience is never a good thing for publishers so it’s becoming less and less likely.
After the u-turns on digital content, licences, sharing and now Kinect, it seems like Microsoft have finally given the internet trolls exactly what they want, a slightly more powerful Xbox 360 instead of something new and exciting. We know the PS4 is more powerful but we’ve made no secret of the fact we preferred the Xbox One, mostly because it actually seemed like it was an attempt to make progress, to change things up, this is another nail in the coffin of that idea, we’re almost resigned to the idea of having another whole generation almost exactly like the last one, and the rumours around E3 of games like Halo 5, Gears of War 4, Uncharted 4, Forza Horizon 2 and so on don’t exactly fill us with confidence that the gaming industry is going to have anything new and exciting to show us for a long while to come yet.
Let’s hope Facebook doesn’t ruin VR.
The full press release is attached below:
Delivering More Choices for Fans
A blog post by Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox
LONDON, May 13th, 2014 – Since the beginning, we have focused on delivering great games and entertainment experiences for you. Your feedback matters to us and it shapes the products and services we build. Your feedback showed up in the Xbox One console we launched back in November and in the monthly updates we’ve delivered since.
Today, we’re excited to share more ways your feedback is impacting the products we build.
First, beginning on June 9th, in all markets where Xbox One is sold, we will offer Xbox One starting at £3491. This is a new console option that does not include Kinect. For £349, our new Xbox One offering will continue to deliver access to the best blockbuster games like “Titanfall,” “Call of Duty: Ghosts,” “Forza Motorsport 5,” “Dead Rising 3,” and the upcoming “Watch Dogs,” “Destiny” and“Sunset Overdrive”.
You will also be able to access popular entertainment apps, such as Twitch, YouTube, and Netflix, as well as watch live TV and use OneGuide. Finally, you will continue to be able to use 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.
Next, we’re bringing more value to Xbox Live Gold members and offering all Xbox 360 and Xbox One owners access to entertainment apps whether or not you have an Xbox Live Gold membership. In early June, here is what you can expect from the new generation of Xbox Live:
· Free games with Games with Gold2. Since Games with Gold launched on Xbox 360 a year ago, over 12 million people have enjoyed great free games, resulting in nearly 200 million hours of free fun playing Games with Gold titles. We’ve been learning from your feedback and have focused on making improvements each month to the selection of titles. To celebrate the one-year anniversary of Games with Gold for Xbox 360 and as a thank you for helping shape this program, members will receive an additional free Xbox 360 game in June. The Games with Gold titles for Xbox 360 in June are “Dark Souls,” “Charlie Murder” and a bonus game of “Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition”.
We’re pleased to bring Games with Gold to Xbox Live Gold members on Xbox One in June. Members will have subscription-based access to free games ranging from top hits to breaking indie stars. The program will launch on Xbox One with “Max: The Curse of Brotherhood” and “Halo: Spartan Assault”. A single Gold membership will get you access to the free games for both Xbox One and Xbox 360.
· Exclusive Discounts. Deals with Gold will also launch for Xbox One in June, delivering discounts for great games each month, with significant savings for Xbox Live Gold members. The first titles offered in June will include “Forza Motorsport 5,” “Ryse: Son of Rome,” and a few other surprises. In the coming months, we will offer significant savings of up to 50 – 75 percent off certain titles. This program will continue to be available for Xbox Live Gold members on Xbox 360. And new on Xbox One, we will launch a virtual VIP room exclusive to Xbox Live Gold members where we will feature free games, monthly deals, and other great benefits.
· Popular entertainment apps will be available for all Xbox 360 and Xbox One owners. Xbox 360 has been a leader in delivering entertainment experiences for years, with over 170 global entertainment apps and experiences available today. We’re constantly adding new partners and experiences to the growing catalog on Xbox One. Coming in June, anyone with an Xbox will be able to access popular entertainment experiences – whether or not you have an Xbox Live Gold membership. This includes great gaming apps like Machinima, Twitch and Upload, popular video services like Netflix, Univision Deportes, GoPro, Redbull and HBO Go, sports experiences like the NFL app for Xbox One, MLB.tv, NBA Game Time, NHL Game Center and more3. Microsoft experiences including Internet Explorer, Skype, OneDrive and OneGuide will also be available to all Xbox customers4. You can find a full list of apps and features here.
We’ve heard that you want more choices from Xbox One. You want a wide variety of options in your games and entertainment experiences and you also want options in your hardware selection.
To be clear, as we introduce this new Xbox One console option, Kinect remains an important part of our vision. 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. Some of the most popular voice commands include “Xbox On,” “Xbox Broadcast” and “Xbox Record That.”
We will continue to offer a premium Xbox One with Kinect bundle to deliver voice and gesture controls, biometric sign-in, instant personalisation, instant scanning of QR codes, and enhanced features only available with Kinect in games such as “Kinect Sports Rivals,” “Just Dance 2014,” “Project Spark” and more.
If you buy Xbox One for £349 and later decide you want to have all the experiences Kinect enables, we will also offer a standalone sensor for Xbox One later this fall.
We’ll share more details about the standalone Kinect for Xbox One in the coming months.
You can learn more about both Xbox One options here.
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