Today, less than six months after Microsoft released the $499 Xbox One with a bundled Kinect camera as “an essential and integrated part of the platform”, the company announced they would sell the console without the added device for $399. That is the same price as the PlayStation 4.
The announcement represents a surprising and sudden reversal by Microsoft, which had touted the Kinect as crucial to their vision for the Xbox One as a comprehensive multimedia device. Going back to its first generation for the Xbox 360, the Kinect has never been well-served by compatible games, and the much-touted motion controls for the current-generation Kinect are barely functional.
The decision by Microsoft, announced a year ago, to include the Kinect with every Xbox One, was met with a barrage of privacy concerns, which makes the timing of this decision, mere months after the console’s launch and the weathering of bad press, curious.
In a statement, Microsoft corporate vice president Phil Harrison promised continued support for the now optional Kinect:
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.”
But after this quick retrenchment from the living room battleground that Microsoft seemed so keen to enter, it’s worth wondering if Kinect will truly be part of the future of Xbox.