Microsoft is dropping the price on the Xbox One to $399, equivalent to a PlayStation 4, in an attempt to spur sales. In the process however, they are splintering their community and possibly doing more harm than good. They achieve this cost savings by stripping the new model of the Kinect, which is one of the dumber yet predictable decisions I’ve seen in quite some time.
It seemed just a matter of time before Microsoft sold a Kinect-less version of the Xbox One, but it is not a smart decision in my eyes. When the Kinect was part of ever sale, developers could count on it, and incorporate it into their game designs with confidence. Now that it is no longer a given, devs have to make up their minds; do they spend time and resources adding features for a peripheral that only part of the community has, or do they pass on it and skip one of the Xbox One’s defining features and probably save a ton of headaches? It’s an age-old issue with aftermarket peripherals, from the old-school light guns through the PlayStation Move, when they can’t count on it, developers aren’t likely to go out of their way to make use of it.
Microsoft of all people should know this. Last generation they included a hard drive with only one of their initial two models, making even that basic feature unreliable for developers, and of course the original Kinect was a late-life addition to the Xbox 360, and its adoption rate was nowhere near high enough for it to be assumed by developers that a given player would have one. Imagine the Wii, but they sold the Wii remote separately, or the Wii U without the gamepad. Instead of being part of every game, they would get often get ignored or underutilized (ok, maybe the Wii U gamepad was a bad example). Basically, when you take a peripheral from a given to an unknown, that’s never a good thing.
Time will tell how this goes. Microsoft has touted that dropping the Kinect frees up processing power so it can compete better with the PlayStation 4, and some people are still leery of the Kinect as a security issue, so there could be some good to come from this, but it could also be the death knell of the Kinect itself. I have never been a huge Kinect fan but for all the prerelease hype that Microsoft did about the Kinect’s integral nature to the Xbox One, this comes off rather poorly. Perhaps this will clear the way for something like Microsoft’s proposed Illumiroom augmented reality technology, or maybe this is just a knee-jerk response to sales. We will have to wait and see.