Microsoft to unbundle Xbox One & Kinect in another u-turn

Despite what UK marketing chief Harvey Eagle told us all in February about “[A Kinect-less Xbox One] is not in our plans at all,” and “As we’ve said from the very beginning, we believe Kinect is an absolutely integral part of the Xbox One experience.” I guess we all knew this was coming.

Ever since the self-destructive reveal around this time last year, Xbox One has been tripping up all over itself. Reversals here, back-tracking there. It has been a comedy horror show and today’s announcement was the icing on a bitterly tasting cake.

From June, Xbox One will be available without the ‘formerly essential’ Kinect 2.0 accessory and retail for the same price as its closest rival, Playstation 4, for £349. What’s more, all entertainment apps that were formerly behind the Xbox Gold paywall have been released and can now be used for free.

From a marketing perspective, this is as far back as Microsoft can go. They have admitted defeat on every major decision, made themselves look inept and foolish at every hurdle and pushed their backs right up against the wall. It has been difficult to watch and a brutal comedown to earth after the meteoric rise of the Xbox 360. Though despite the false starts, the One has still managed to shift an impressive 5 million units globally. It’s not all tears for Microsoft’s gaming division.

That said, this once forward-thinking machine for the future has been reduced to a quivering mess. With tech analyses continuing to prove that Playstation 4 runs games at a higher frame-rate and better resolution than Xbox One and the system making its innovative voice activation and cutting-edge menu navigation hardware tool optional, what is actually left in the box?

Is Kinect Sports, soooo 2010?

Is Kinect Sports soooo 2010?

The Xbox One is becoming nothing more than a high-definition upgrade of the Xbox 360 with only a handful of mediocre exclusives to its name. In actuality, from a marketing perspective, the system has never looked less attractive to a potential consumer. Sure, E3 is just weeks away, and is sure to reinvigorate our opinions on the hardware. We’re expecting new details on next-gen Halo, Gears of War, Sunset Overdrive, Quantum Break and a bunch of other new IP, as well as future ID@Xbox prospects and further details on the new Games for Gold service on Xbox One.

Right now, as a platform, it looks vacant and bare, and the biggest complaint that I hear from fellow gamers is the lack of games available. Even quirky, yet highly-rated indie titles that are in their abundance on Steam – and even PS4 – are sadly absent.

This reversal may actually be more harmful to Microsoft than not, as the former concept of this next-generation system is far removed from the reality. The much-loved recording features that the Playstation 4 can continue to do out of the box, with or without the camera, isn’t currently possible without Kinect being plugged in. We’re certain Microsoft will patch all this to make it work, but who knows how long that will take?

Meanwhile, PS4 has been able to Stream and Share since day one and the service has improved ten-fold with a recent update that enables you to record longer game footage and pop it on an External Drive.

We ask ourselves, did Microsoft put far too much pressure on Rare to sell their sensor? Would the company be in this position had Kinect Sports Rivals shipped at launch? And now the Sensor has been removed, no longer making it a mandatory requirement for the system, what does that mean for teams who have been working on Kinect?

Sadly, we’re expecting the worst. Rare was a huge acquisition for Microsoft way-back when, but since 2010 the company has been forced to work on major first-party Kinect products. But with yet another release failing to deliver, there will, almost certainly, be harsh repercussions. God forbid, this once beloved studio could feasibly lose a chunk of its staff. Worst case, Rare may even permanently close.

This time last year, Microsoft were sure we’d finally get onboard with Kinect. They were certain that Kinect 2.0 would hook us in and it would become an essential stay in every home.

365 days later, we’re less enamored with the sensor than ever. In fact, this announcement could be the straw that broke Kinect’s back and the permanent burial we’ve all expected for the last four years.

Unless Microsoft come out at E3 and assure Kinect owners that it’s worth them having a sensor, unless they can convince early adopters that support will continue to be strong, we genuinely fear for any future development. And if that’s the case, if  you’re an Xbox 360 owner yet to upgrade, we fail to see any reason for you to part with your money. You’ve got Titanfall already and you’ve got a much bigger online community to play it with.

Bill Gates recently started a few sell-off rumours...

Bill Gates recently started a few sell-off rumours…

As Microsoft complete yet another desperate move to play catch-up, you cannot help but wonder if Sony will be cheeky enough to announce a slight decrease in price for PS4, once again leaving Microsoft to lick their wounds.

Meanwhile the speculation surrounding the demise of the Xbox One and tales of support for separating the Xbox division from Microsoft will only strengthen as the months go by.

But tis the season to celebrate being a gamer and we should all forget these fanboy wars, arguments and one-upmanships battles for a while. No matter what console you own, we can all unite in wanting E3 to be about the games.

However, in light of recent events, we fear the next few weeks may turn into more of a price war.

About the author

Neil Hughes

My gaming journey began as an infant playing Pong, followed by an Atari 2600 with a beautiful wooden finish. Over the years, I progressed onto a Commodore 64, BBC B and my beloved Amiga 600 before entering the golden console years. It seems that if you write with an opinion criticising any platform you are now instantly labelled a fan-boy but this ageing gamer loves the PS4, Xbox One and Steam all for different reasons but if I see something I don't like, I might write about it...